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Kenyan advocacy organization releases guidebook for young LGBTQ+ people

Homosexuality remains criminalized in the country

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The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in Kenya has released a guidebook for young LGBTQ+ people. (Image courtesy of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission)

NAIROBI, Kenya — An LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in Kenya has unveiled a sexual reproductive health and rights guidebook that targets young queer people in the country and provides them with information to help them come out.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which is behind the new guidebook, cites misinformation, stigma and homophobic discrimination among several obstacles that young LGBTQ+ people face when they publicly disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Thus, NGLHRC considers the 20-page booklet that also details the latest legal and policy frameworks on the topic an essential resource to help young queer people get knowledge and assistance in overcoming homophobia.    

“This resource is designed to support, educate and empower our diverse community in ensuring there is access to accurate and affirming information regarding sexual and reproductive health rights,” states the guidebook. 

The newly unveiled toolkit comes amid several government policy measures to protect school-age children from so-called same-sex practices that Section 162 of the penal code criminalizes.

The Education Ministry this year, for instance, plans to hire pastors and Imams in more than 32,000 public elementary and high schools to promote value-based education that includes fighting homosexuality and other practices deemed immoral. A working group that presented a report to President William Ruto last August made the recommendation. 

Education Minister Ezekiel Machogu in March 2023 confirmed to MPs the ministry’s decision to set up a Chaplains Committee led by Anglican Church Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit to stop what they have described as the infiltration of LGBTQ+ practices in schools. 

Machogu’s revelation followed the government’s crackdown on teenage books with gay content from abroad after an uproar from parents and religious leaders. 

The stiffer anti-homosexuality bill sponsored by an opposition MP Peter Kaluma, which awaits introduction in the National Assembly, would also prohibit the teaching of comprehensive sexuality education to school-age children in Kenya’s curriculum. The bill lists sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, Transgender identity, sex reassignment and homosexuality among the subjects to which students should not be exposed in school. 

“A teacher, an instructor or any other person who teaches, instructs or discusses with a learner the subjects set out commits any offense and shall upon conviction be liable to a fine not exceeding one million shillings ($6,163) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years, or both,” reads the bill.      

The NGLHRC guidebook, however, cites the Bill of Rights in Kenya’s constitution, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that Kenya has ratified as among the laws that protect people from any forms of discrimination. The advocacy organization instead calls for accessibility of queer-friendly educational materials, and family and community support to young people who identify as LGBTQ+.  

“Bodily autonomy means my body is for me; my body is my own. It is about power, and it is about agency,” reads the guidebook. “It is about choice, and it is about dignity.” 

“Bodily autonomy is the foundation for gender equality, and above all, it is a fundamental right,” it adds.  

NGLHRC urges young queer people to be “open and honest” about their sexual orientation instead of hiding it, but only after they seriously consider the situation in which they find themselves. Coming out, according to the guidebook, should only happen after they discover their sexuality through self-identity, acceptance and connecting with others for empowerment and growth.  

It asks, for example, a young person to trust their instincts without bowing to pressure from friends and situations to come out openly.  

“Coming out is your decision and your decision alone. It is a lifelong process,” reads the guidebook. “Even if other people you know have come out or if you have come out to some but not others, no one has a say in when, how, or who you come out to?”

It notes there is no right way to come out, and challenges young LGBTQ+ people to be mindful of their privacy while sharing information with friends after coming out since one might be at risk of harm when other people find out.

“If you choose to come out, that is important to remember — and not to be discouraged by,” states the guidebook. “You will make new friends and family, meet new partners and join new companies throughout your life. If you choose to come out, then you will have to do it countless times.” 

The guidebook further advises young queer people about the importance of consent between partners in same-sex relations, and cautions them the law forbids consent for underage persons under 18 years. It also debunks myths surrounding homosexuality: Same-sex couples cannot transmit sexually transmitted infections, do not need to practice safe sex or get tested for STIs and all queer people are promiscuous and engage in risky sexual behaviors. The guidebook also addresses puberty, menstruation, hygiene, sexual and reproductive health needs and challenges, such as access to contraceptives for young LGBTQ+ individuals, queer parenting and centers to seek queer-friendly services in Kenya. 

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Protesters vandalize Zimbabwean LGBTQ+ rights group’s offices

GALZ has reported the incident to the police

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Protesters vandalized GALZ's offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, with homophobic graffiti. (Photos courtesy of GALZ)

HARARE, Zimbabwe — A handful of protesters over this past weekend vandalized the offices of Zimbabwe’s largest LGBTQ+ rights organization.

Although they did not enter GALZ (an Association of LGBTI People in Zimbabwe)’s building in Harare, the country’s capital, they did gather at the gate and sang homophobic songs. The protesters also left anti-gay graffiti on the gate and walls.

Several people after the incident started to question the authenticity of the protesters, arguing GALZ itself organized the protest in order to get funding. They said some of the protesters “looked gay” and even argued the organization had yet to approach the police.

GALZ has sought to discredit some of the reports, while calling the protest disrespectful and uncalled for.

“We categorically condemn the acts of vandalism and intimidation that occurred on Sunday afternoon,” said GALZ in a statement. “A group of individuals claiming to represent various Christian churches descended at our offices. They proceeded to vandalize the property, painting hateful graffiti on the walls. While we respect differences in values, it is utterly unacceptable to deploy acts of vandalism and intimidation against communities who hold different values.”

GALZ said it has filed an official police report, and is “cooperating fully with the ongoing investigations.” 

“We call on the authorities to hold the perpetrators accountable for these criminal actions,” said the organization. 

GALZ also said it remains steadfast in its commitment to LGBTQ+ rights, and urged religious and political leaders to be at the forefront of fostering unity in Zimbabwe.

“This act of violence has not been committed in isolation, it is a stark reminder of the ongoing discrimination and hostility that our community faces,” said GALZ.

“We urge religious and political leaders to condemn such acts of hate and to uphold the  constitutional rights and freedoms for all citizens to be protected by law regardless of their diverse backgrounds including sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. We encourage Zimbabweans to resort to open and respectful dialogue to address indifferences,” added the organization.

Several United Methodist Church parishioners last month held a protest in Harare during which they protested the church’s recent decision to allow LGBTQ+ clergy and same-sex marriages. James Kawadza, one of the protest organizers, said it was un-African to engage in same-sex relations.

“Homosexuality is unlawful in Zimbabwe and marriage is between a man and a woman,” he said. “The church has aligned with the rainbow movement, and this is also a threat to our African traditions and human existence at large. Homosexuality is not contextual, it is an abomination where Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire.”

Section 73 of Zimbabwe’s Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act on sexual crimes and crimes against morality says any “male person who, with the consent of another male person, knowingly performs with that other person anal sexual intercourse, or any act involving physical contact other than anal sexual intercourse that would be regarded by a reasonable person to be an indecent act, shall be guilty of sodomy and liable to” a fine, up to a year in prison or both.

Cases of people being arrested under this provision are rare.

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What’s next for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa after the country’s elections?

African National Congress lost parliamentary majority on May 29

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Pretoria and Cape Town are the first cities in Africa to install Pride crosswalks. Activists are wondering what the outcome of South Africa's May 29 elections will mean for LGBTQ+ rights. (Photo courtesy of Bruce Walker/Pretoria Pride)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — More than 50 independent candidates and political parties participated in South Africa’s national and provincial elections that took place on May 29. The Electoral Commission of South Africa declared the results on June 2.

No independent candidate or political party managed to secure the outright parliamentary majority of more than 50 percent of the votes, which prompts the creation of a coalition government. None of the 18 political parties that managed to win at least one seat in the National Assembly wholly represented the LGBTQ+ community.

Although South Africa is the only African country that constitutionally recognizes the rights of the LGBTQ+ community, some of the political parties that managed to secure seats in the National Assembly had signaled they would reserve these gains.

Former President Jacob Zuma, who leads the uMkhonto weSizwe (MK) party, during a January debate said the thought of dating within the same gender was unpalatable and un-African. The MK is now the country’s third largest political party after it won 14.58 percent of the vote, making it a pivotal player in the formation of a coalition government.

Dawie Nel, the executive director of OUT LGBT Well-being, said undermining the constitution is “a dangerous, misguided, and populist strategy to avoid acknowledging the failures of governance and the lack of implementation of constitutional values that are meant to improve the lives of South Africans.”

“South Africa’s constitution is celebrated as one of the most significant achievements of our transition to democracy, ensuring that all citizens are treated with dignity and respect, and that their rights are protected in all aspects of life,” said Nell. 

There now seems to be an impasse on who becomes the government’s next leader because of some of the demands that political parties made before they entered into any negotiations.

Bruce Walker of Pretoria Pride said the best possible outcome for the preservation of LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa would be if the former governing political party, the African National Congress (ANC), which garnered the most support with 40.18 percent of the vote, partners with the Democratic Alliance (DA), which finished second with 21.81 percent of the votes, to form a coalition government.

“I think it will be a good outcome for the community if the DA has some power in a coalition government,” said Walker.

Rise Mzansi, which managed to secure 0.42 percent of the votes with two seats in the National Assembly, said it will continue protecting the rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Rise Mzansi reaffirms its commitment in protecting LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa, as outlined in Section 9 of our constitution,” said the party.

Zubenathi Daca, program coordinator for student employability and entrepreneurship development in Nelson Mandela University’s Department of Student Governance and Development said the fight for LGBTQ+ rights in South Africa will continue.

“The battle has not yet been won,” said Daca. “Queer people are still being killed and homophobic remarks are still being made towards us daily, and we need people who have found the confidence to voice out their dissatisfactions against how they are treated and also speak out for the voiceless.” 

“This society is ours just as it is everyone else’s,” added Daca. “We are in corporate spaces, leadership positions, and political spaces to show that we belong here, and that we are here to stay.” 

The constitution says National Assembly members should be sworn in within two weeks of the elections. They will then meet for the first time and elect a new speaker, deputy speaker and president.

Chief Justice Raymond Zondo who will preside over the entire process, on Monday said the National Assembly will meet for the first time since the elections on Friday.

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LGBTQ+ Nigerians still struggle with housing discrimination and homelessness

Transphobia forced Fola Francis to flee her Ibadan home

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Fola Francis (Photo via Instagram)

By Elvis Kachi | LAGOS, Nigeria — In Nigeria, the pursuit to secure a safe and comfortable home is often fraught with challenges for many, but for the LGBTQ+ community — especially those who are openly gay — these challenges are often insurmountable. 

Some two years ago, Fola Francis, a popular transgender woman who has since passed away, had to leave her home in Ibadan and fled to Lagos due to transphobia. A now deleted video of her had gone viral on TikTok, and it got to the hands of her transphobic landlord and neighbors. They held a rally to make her leave the house, breaking into it many times. 

“I got death threats from my neighbors due to them finding out I’m a trans woman on social media when my videos went viral,” she said to the BBC. 

Francis’s experience doesn’t exist in isolation. 

“For me, all I had to do was be visibly effeminate before my neighbors began to clamp down on and force me to move out,” Damian Okpara, a student at the University of Nigeria, told the Washington Blade. 

Despite the global movement towards acceptance and equality, Nigerian society remains deeply rooted in conservative values that stigmatize and marginalize queer people; and this systemic discrimination is starkly evident in the housing sector, where visibly queer people face significant barriers and prejudices that deny them the fundamental right to safe and secure housing.

“It is nowhere in the constitution that a person should be discriminated against housing of their choice due to their sexuality,” Chizelu Emejuju, a human rights lawyer, told the Blade.

Emejuju founded Minority Watch, which is an organization that focuses on fighting for the rights of minorities, including the queer community, in Nigeria. That said, Nigeria’s legal framework is one of the most hostile in the world towards the LGBTQ+ community. 

The Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act, passed in 2014, not only criminalizes same-sex relationships but also any public display of affection between same-sex couples. This law has legitimized widespread discrimination and has given rise to an environment where queer individuals are systematically marginalized and ostracized.

According to many, homosexuality is often viewed as a Western import, incompatible with the Nigerian values and traditions. Homophobia therefore translates into severe consequences for LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly in the realm of people. 

For Okpara, he’s had to leave his former home to live with a friend, even though it may mean putting both of them at risk of homelessness. 

“Although my friend’s place is more accepting of femme-boys like me, there is still the constant fear that they may switch up on us,” he said. “It’s so hard to be an effeminate man in Nigeria.” 

Okpara’s experience is a stark reminder that for many LGBTQ+ Nigerians, the search for housing is a journey marked by rejection and prejudice. Landlords and housing agents frequently deny rentals to openly queer people or those they suspect are queer. 

A common experience shared by many queer people is being evicted without notice once their sexual orientation or gender identity becomes known. Stories like that of Francis and Okpara are common — tenants, who after months of living peacefully, find themselves suddenly homeless, their belongings discarded, and their safety threatened. This precarious existence forces many into substandard living conditions, or in some cases, into homelessness.

The impact of housing discrimination on queer Nigerians is profound, extending far beyond the physical realm into deep psychological and emotional suffering. 

“Although I am introverted and need friends, I have decided to not even bring anyone into my space anymore,” Valentina Ikpazu, an entrepreneur in Lagos, told the Blade. “At this point, I would rather find other ways to be happy than be homeless.” 

The constant fear of eviction and the relentless search for a safe space create a state of perpetual anxiety and insecurity. This unstable housing situation often leads to chronic stress, depression, and other mental health issues.

The plight of LGBTQ+ people in Nigeria’s housing market exemplifies the broader struggles they face in a society that often rejects their very existence. 

“Queer people need to understand that they have a legal right to stay in a place of choice, especially if the landowners do not include clauses that are discriminatory in the earlier stages of apartment acquisition,” Emejuju said. “Even if they include clauses that are outrightly discriminatory to queer people, it can be challenged in court, as there’s no law [backing up the clauses.]”

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Elvis Kachi is a Nigerian fashion and culture journalist. He’s had in pieces featured across platforms like BBC, Thomson Reuters, Essence Magazine, Condé Nast’s Them, etc. website: www.elviskachi.com

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Kenyan Supreme Court orders MP to pay LGBTQ+ activist $5,000

Peter Kaluma challenged ruling that allowed NGO to register

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Kenyan MP Peter Kaluma (Photo courtesy of Kaluma's X account)

NAIROBI, Kenya — The Kenyan Supreme Court has ordered opposition MP Peter Kaluma to pay an LGBTQ+ activist around $5,000 (Ksh500,000) for challenging its ruling that allowed his former organization to register as a non-governmental organization.

The Supreme Court on Monday ordered Kaluma, who has sponsored the country’s anti-homosexuality bill, to pay former National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission Executive Director Eric Gitari the amount after it dismissed his appeal of its ruling last September.

Gitari was a defendant in the case after leading the push for NGLHRC’s registration as an NGO amid opposition by the government because it championing consensual same-sex sexual relations that Kenya outlaws.

Five of the court’s seven justices, led by Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu through a virtual hearing, ordered the lawmaker to pay Gitari $5,000 for time wasted and costs incurred in hearing his appeal and an additional $2,000 (Ksh200,000) for bringing the case.

The judges’ ruling comes after Kaluma in January approached the Supreme Court to dispute the Deputy Registrar’s decision to assess the appeal’s costs and the order to pay Gitari after he lost.

The MP argued the Deputy Registrar did not serve him with the ruling’s notice to pay and that he only learned about the court’s decision when Gitari’s lawyer texted him to demand the $5,000.  

Kaluma also argued the lawyer demanded that the court’s seven day timeline to challenge the payment had already expired on Nov. 14, 2023. Kaluma thus urged the Supreme Court to give him more time to challenge the Deputy Registrar’s decision. 

The Supreme Court, however, rejected Kaluma’s plea after establishing he did not tell the truth since legal filings show the Deputy Registrar served him the ruling he disputed through his official email address on Nov. 6, 2023. 

“We note that there have been numerous correspondences from the court through this court’s email address to MP Kaluma and vice versa. Notably, there was correspondence from the court on Sept. 12, 2023, and Nov. 6, 2023, to the MP via his email address,” Mwilu noted.    

The judges also noted that from the court’s records from March 9, 2023, after issuing the first ruling in the NGLHRC registration case and emailing the same to Kaluma, do not indicate his email changed

“Therefore, there is no doubt in our minds that the email address in question belongs to the applicant. We therefore come to the irresistible conclusion that Kaluma was indeed aware and was served with the impugned ruling,” Mwilu stated.  

The court further noted Kaluma did not provide a good reason for not challenging the Deputy Registrar’s decision within the statutory timelines.

“Further, the applicant has not met any of the conditions to convince this court to exercise its discretion in his favor,” Mwilu ruled.   

Her affirmation on behalf of the court to decline to hear Kaluma’s attempt to delay paying Gitari brought the matter to an end. Kaluma is now required to comply with the order without any delay or risk further legal action.   

Kaluma, who was not a party to the Supreme Court’s hearings in the NGLHRC case, lost his appeal last Sept. 12. The judges cited the MP’s filing his application beyond the stipulated timelines and for not being a party to the case during the initial hearings.

“In our view, the application is a disguised appeal from this court’s judgment and does not fall within the confines of the parameters prescribed for review by statute and applicable case law. Therefore, the application stands dismissed,” the court ruled. “On costs, the applicant is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya and a member of parliament. He ought to have known that his application was misconceived. He must consequently bear the costs thereof.”

The judges, while allowing NGLHRC to register as an NGO, stated it would be unconstitutional to limit the right to associate, through denial of registration of an association based on the applicants’ sexual orientation.

The Supreme Court’s ruling — which LGBTQ+ activists received with joy and anti-LGBTQ+ campaigners, clerics and politicians condemned — came 10 years later after Gitari challenged the Kenya NGOs Coordination Board in lower courts for refusing to register NGLHRC.   

He brought the case in 2013.

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South Sudan refugee camp is ‘not a safe haven’ for LGBTQ+ residents

Gorom Refugee Settlement is outside country’s capital of Juba

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Michael Adler visits the Gorom Refugee Settlement on Oct. 25, 2023. The camp's LGBTQ+ residents remain marginalized. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Embassy in South Sudan)

GOROM REFUGEE SETTLEMENT, South Sudan — LGBTQ+ people who live at a refugee camp in South Sudan say the mistreatment they are suffering because of their sexual orientation and gender identity has left them even more marginalized.

The U.N. Refugee Agency runs the Gorom Refugee Settlement, which is roughly 16 miles from Juba, the country’s capital, in partnership with ACROSS and other South Sudanese NGOs.

UNHCR says more than 20,000 refugees live at Gorom, with the Anyuak people from Ethiopia making up the largest group. They have been there since 2011 when South Sudan became its own country after it broke away from Sudan.

Although this is not the first time the plight of LGBTQ+ people has been raised; the challenges seem to continue unabatedly and grow worse as each year passes. They are denied employment opportunities, with some of their children unable to access education.

Yaga Piuson, an LGBTQ+ activist for Gorom, says the situation has become even more dire.

“The immediate challenges faced by LGBT persons within the camp are severe and pervasive,” said Piuson. “They endure daily attacks, lack of police assistance, death threats, stoning, abuses, discrimination, bullying, denial of medical care, and the inability for their children to access education. Many are also deprived of proper shelter, leading to health risks such as pneumonia.” 

Piuson added UNHCR and ACROSS have done little to address these challenges, while the South Sudanese government has turned a blind eye.

“As of now, both the UNHCR and ACROSS have not provided a durable solution,” said Piuson. “While they have initiated interviews with LGBTQIA+ individuals, the options presented, relocation to other camps within South Sudan or urban areas, pose significant risks due to the country’s stance against homosexuality.”

“Unfortunately, the South Sudanese government and civic organizations have yet to offer any substantial assistance in alleviating these challenges,” added Piuson.

Piuson added some of the refugees have fled Gorom because of the continued persecution they face. Piuson said the settlement was no longer safe for LGBTQ+ refugees who include Anyuak, Darfurians from Sudan, Congolese and Burundians.

“Many of these nationalities have fled because of wars,” noted Piuson. “However, LGBTQIA+ individuals have fled solely due to persecution based on their sexual orientation.”

“Resolving the plight of LGBTQIA+ persons within the settlement requires providing them with a safe environment to freely exercise their rights, including freedom of movement and access to basic needs such as shelter and education for their children,” added Piuson. “It’s crucial to emphasize that the Gorom Refugee Settlement is currently not a safe haven for LGBTQIA+ individuals.”

ACROSS Executive Director Elisama Daniel in response to the Washington Blade’s request for comment said the organization did not have the mandate or jurisdiction to answer questions on the plight of LGBTQ+ people at Gorom, and directed questions to UNHCR. The agency did not respond to a request for comment.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations in South Sudan remain criminalized with up to 10 years in prison, although there is little to no evidence that anyone has been charged with homosexuality. The South Sudanese government, however, is contemplating an anti-homosexuality bill that is similar to those pending in neighboring Kenya and other countries.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in May 2023 signed his country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act that prompted worldwide outrage.  

South Sudanese Minister of Information, Communication, Technology and Postal Services Michael Makuei Leuth ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to the country last year said marriage is between a man and a woman and added any form of same-sex marriage violates the constitution. The government spokesperson also emphasizes there would not be any discussions around LGBTQ+-specific issues. 

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Kenyan advocacy group offers safety tips to LGBTQ+ hookup app users

Blackmail, kidnappings and assaults are commonplace

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(Bigstock photo)

MOMBASA, Kenya — The growing cases of queer people in Africa becoming victims of blackmail, physical and sexual assault from online hook-ups have compelled a Kenyan LGBTQ+ rights group to work with the community to help it stay safe when using digital platforms.

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion held a 3-day training from May 11-14 to teach queer people about unsafe social media and dating app hook-up practices that suspected homophobes exploit.

The Mombasa-based group of which Lizzie Ngina is executive coordinator noted lesbian, bisexual and queer women, and gender non-conforming people are the most frequent targets online and on Grindr and other dating apps.

 “LBQ women and GNC persons confront major challenges in terms of digital security and data protection, freedom of expression, assembly, association, speech, privacy, protest and online organizing,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion stated.

Although the digital platforms were seen as convenient meet-up places for LGBTQ+ people in overcoming physical anti-gay attacks, Upinde Advocates for Inclusion said anti-gay discrimination, marginalization, gender-based violence, misinformation, and disinformation limits LGBTQ+ and gender non-conforming people from accessing the social media services.    

Queer people while using dating apps and social media for hookups were, however, urged to first trust their intuition before deciding to have a physical meeting with people with whom they chat online.

“If it does not seem like someone you are messaging is using their true identity, they probably are not. In this case, do not agree to meet them in person,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion warned. 

It asked LGBTQ+ users to ensure the first in-person meeting with someone they met online is in a public place that is queer-friendly and known to them. Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also advised queer people to inform their trusted friends or family about their meeting plans, the place, and how long they expect it will take place in order to ensure someone can intervene if something goes wrong.

“Organize your own means of transport to and from the meeting, and do not accept a free ride from a stranger,” the group warned. “Also, do not move to a secondary location if you feel unsure during the meeting.” 

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also warned queer app users to remain sober during the meeting and cautioned against leaving their food or drinks unattended in order to avoid any potential risks associated with spiking.

The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Ishtar-MSM and other Kenyan LGBTQ+ advocacy groups that offer legal aid to queer people last year reported about 100 cases of blackmail, extortion, physical and sexual assault against their members by suspected homophobes they met on dating apps and social media.

The two organizations this month noted 10 of the cases are expected before courts soon, although they said most victims of anti-gay attacks don’t report them to the authorities because they fear further stigmatization and discrimination. Consensual same-sex sexual relations also remain criminalized in Kenya. 

Targeting the LGBTQ+ community on digital platforms and dating apps is not unique to Kenya.

The Washington Blade last month reported it is still risky for queer Nigerians to search for a partner or to use gay dating apps infiltrated by homophobes who lure them to meet in-person and then rob or assault them. South African authorities last year arrested four men in connection with the targeting of Grindr users.

LGBTQ+ Kenyans urged to protect themselves at protests

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion in their workshop taught participants about the signs that suspected homophobes or their associates have compromised their devices. They include unusual activities on their cell phones that include calls with untraced history, disappearing blank messages, blinking screens, high data consumption, devices that overheat when not in use and echo when picking calls and quick battery depletion with minimal use.

“If you suspect your device is compromised, do not format or reset it, log out all the accounts, find an alternative device to use, change the password for the accounts on the device, and do not connect the gadget to any other devices,” Upinde Advocates for Inclusion warned. 

The group also taught queer people about how they should conduct themselves when taking part in street protests amid anti-gay attacks. Upinde Advocates for Inclusion advised them to always to identify safe alternative routes to and from the protests, wear comfortable running shoes, and always carry a spare outfit that is not LGBTQ+-specific.

“If you are in a group, always strategize on having a meeting point should there be any danger or should you get separated,” the group stated. “Also, try to split up responsibilities among the group so that one person can’t be targeted.”

Upinde Advocates for Inclusion also urged queer people to always leave a protest before it ends, to have an emergency contact on speed dial or memorize it for immediate help in case of danger and to always to keep in touch with a trusted contact who is familiar with the protest but not attending it. 

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Uganda’s president meets with US ambassador

Unclear whether William Popp raised Anti-Homosexuality Act

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Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni meets with U.S. Ambassador to Uganda William Popp on May 10, 2024. (Photo courtesy of Museveni's X account)

Editor’s note: This article has been updated.

ENTEBBE, Uganda — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni on May 10 met with U.S. Ambassador to Uganda William Popp.

Museveni in a post to his X account described the meeting, which took place at his official residence in Entebbe, as “productive.”

“We discussed key issues, such as the upcoming Census, regional peace, and socio-economic development. I emphasized the need for an inclusive census for informed decision-making,” said Museveni. “I also shared my views on fostering peace and security in the region. Additionally, we discussed opportunities in transitioning our population from a rural-based pre-capitalist society to industry and services.”

statement the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Ministry released noted Popp “conveyed his appreciation for the president’s valuable time and wise counsel.” 

“He also acknowledged President Museveni’s extensive knowledge and experience, underscoring the importance of their continued dialogue in fostering a strong and mutually beneficial relationship between the United States and Uganda,” said the statement.

The statement further notes Foreign Affairs Minister Jele Odongo; Defense and Veterans Affairs Minister Jacob Oboth-Oboth; Rosette Byengoma of the Defense Ministry; and Lt. Gen. Samuel Okiding, who is deputy chief of the Ugandan defense forces, attended the meeting.

The meeting took place nearly a year after Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act that, among other things, contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. has sanctioned Ugandan officials and removed the country from a duty-free trade program. The World Bank Group also suspended new loans to Uganda in response to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Ugandan Constitutional Court last month refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.” A group of Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists have appealed the ruling.

It is not clear whether Popp raised the Anti-Homosexuality Act with Museveni during their meeting.

“We do not discuss the details of private diplomatic engagements; however, we have regularly raised with the highest levels of Ugandan government U.S. government concerns about democratic space, rule of law, and respect for human rights for all Ugandans, including members of the LGBTQI+ community in relation to the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Act,” a State Department spokesperson told the Washington Blade on Wednesday.

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South African president signs hate crimes, hate speech law

Advocates largely welcome new statute

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South African President Cyril Ramaphosa during a campaign stop speaking with attendees at the ANC Party Rally on May 10, 2024 in Tshwane, Gauteng, SA (Office of President Cyril Ramaphosa/Facebook)

PRETORIA, South Africa — South African LGBTQ+ organizations have welcomed a new law that seeks to combat hate crimes and hate speech.

President Cyril Ramaphosa on May 9 signed the Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill that had been introduced in 2018.

According to the new law; the direct or indirect unfair discrimination against anyone on the grounds of age, albinism, culture, disability, ethnic or social origin, gender, HIV status, language, nationality, migrant, refugee status, asylum seekers, occupation, trade, political affiliation, conviction, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, sex characteristics or skin color is a criminal offense punishable by a fine or up to eight years in prison.

“A hate crime is committed if a person commits any recognized offense under any law that is motivated by prejudice or intolerance based on one or more characteristics or perceived characteristics of the victim, as listed in the legislation or a family member of the victim,” said the president’s office. “The law also makes it an offense when speech material is intentionally distributed or made available in electronic communication, and the said person knows that such electronic communication constitutes hate speech.”

Crimen injuria, the unlawful and intentional impairing of dignity or privacy of another person under common law, was in place before the new law. Crimen injuria, which to extent protected some forms of hate against the LGBTQ+ community, is still active.

The Preventing and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill, however, is more comprehensive in the sense that it particularly focuses on hate speech and hate crimes, and therefore makes it easier to seek legal recourse than under crimen injuria.

“As Out, we commend President Cyril Ramaphosa on the move that he has made in making sure that the rights of LGBTQ+ persons are protected. We, as Out, also hope that other African countries can learn from this historic milestone that all people are equal and that their rights should be protected,” said Out LGBT South Rights Human Rights Coordinator Sibonelo Ncanana. 

Ncanana specifically applauded Deputy Justice and Constitutional Development Minister John Jeffrey and the working group that helped secure the bill’s passage.

“We hope that all government departments will enforce the mandate of the act,” said Ncanana. “We also hope that it will help in decreasing the amount of hate crimes that are happening in South Africa, create safer communities, and that LGBTQ+ people will find themselves safe.”

Ruth Maseko of Umndeni LGBTI Group and the Triangle Project said the new law creates a precedent of what constitutes hate crime and the repercussions.

“We are delighted at the passing of the bill after so many years, as it creates a legal definition of hate crimes,” said Maseko. “This now puts in place mechanisms for authorities to collect and report details about these incidents of hate for the effective monitoring, analysis of trends, and appropriate interventions that are needed.”

Maseko added that although the new law will aid in giving the courts a framework to work in when handling cases of hate, it will not really deter people from committing those crimes.

“The new law will provide quantitative and qualitative data as currently we have no way of telling how many of these crimes are committed. The only way we know, is when they are reported to a civil society organization or are reported in the media,” said Maseko.

“Although it will do nothing to change the attitudes of people who act out in these ways, the law does send out a message that hate crimes will not be tolerated in South Africa and will provide additional tools to investigators and prosecutors to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions,” added Maseko.

The law, however, does not consider actions undertaken in good faith as part of hate speech. They include artistic creativity, performance or other form of expression, academic or scientific inquiry fair, and accurate reporting or commentary in the public interest. 

It also excludes interpretation and articulating or espousing of any religious conviction, tenet, belief, teaching, doctrine or writing that does not advocate hatred or constitutes incitement to cause harm. The law also contains directives on training and other measures to be undertaken by the South African Police Service and the National Prosecuting Authority to ensure effective processing of the newly defined crimes. 

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Senegalese NGO claims new president discussed LGBTQ+ rights with top EU official

Jamra Ong Islamique demands government expedite anti-LGBTQ+ law

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Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye (Screen capture via Reuters/YouTube)

DAKAR, Senegal — A Senegalese NGO has called on the government to expedite the process of enacting an anti-LGBTQ+ law after the country’s new president met with a top EU official.

Jamra Ong Islamique made the call during a press conference last Wednesday after newly elected Senegalese President Bassirou Diomaye Faye met with European Council President Charles Michel.

Mamae Makhtar Gueye of Jamra Ong Islamique claimed the meeting between the two dignitaries involved an acknowledgment of LGBTQ+ rights in Senegal. Gueye said Michel is an LGBTQ+ ally who wants to change Senegal’s cultural customs that do not condone LGBTQ+ rights.

“His ardent proselytism for the expansion of LGBT ideology could not leave Jamra indifferent,” said Gueye. “Countries including Gabon, Central African Republic, and Mauritius, amongst others, that underestimated the nuisance of these propagandists of homosexuality paid dearly for it because these global lobbyists ended up legalizing this abomination, so beware.” 

Gueye, however, has received a lot of backlash and has been accused of not raising the same sentiments during the tenure of former President Macky Sall, who also met with Michel.

“Did he come as a defender of the LGBT cause or as a European official? Did he come to talk about LGBT rights or partnership agreement between the European Union and Senegal?,” asked Ahmadou Diaw, a Senegalese academic. “Mr. Gueye should know when to alert and when to shut up.”

Cheikh Maï Niang, a social commentator, described Jamra as a “useless organization” that is focused on restricting the freedom of the Senegalese people.

“They are absolutely good for nothing apart from eating the taxpayer’s money,” said Niang. “Where is the democracy we cry about everyday? Seems like they are here to restrict the freedom of the Senegalese people.”

“Not everyone is interested in religion,” added Niang. “We wasted too much time with these useless things. Let’s talk about developing the country. People should live their lives in the manner they want.”

Jamra has previously made proclamations against the LGBTQ+ community.

The organization in February — before Senegal’s presidential election that took place on March 24 — accused the EU Electoral Observation Mission to Senegal of wanting to indoctrinate Senegalese people with their pro-LGBTQ+ narrative.

Senegal does not have a law that specifically criminalizes those who identify as LGBTQ+ or advocate for them. Article 319 of the country’s penal code criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations with a fine and between one and five years in prison.

Some Senegalese lawmakers have sought to increase the prison sentence to 10 years for anyone convicted of engaging in homosexuality. These efforts thus far have not been successful.

Samm Jikko Yi (Together for the Safeguarding of Values), an Islamic lobby group that includes many organizations, in 2022 organized an anti-LGBTQ+ demonstration in Dakar, the country’s capital. Protesters called for harsher penalties for Senegalese who identify as LGBTQ+ and/or advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.

The Washington Blade in 2022 noted LGBTQ+ people have suffered physical and sexual abuse while in prison.

Senegal’s deep religious roots, which are largely Islamic, have contributed to the lack of tolerance of LGBTQ+ people in the country. This reality has prompted LGBTQ+ Senegalese to either flee the country or remain in the closet.

Media reports indicate there are fewer bars, clubs and other places where LGBTQ+ people can freely socialize.

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Kenyan court bars anti-gay protests

Mombasa High Court to reconsider case on July 24

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Kenyan flag and court gavel (Image by Bigstock)

MOMBASA, Kenya — The queer community in Kenya can breathe a sigh of relief after a Mombasa court on Monday ruled clerics, politicians, and anti-LGBTQ+ groups cannot hold homophobic protests or engage in incitement.

The Mombasa High Court’s ruling, however, is temporary until July 24 when the court in Kenya’s second-largest city determines a petition on the issue.

Two petitioners — Mr. JM and the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation — last October sued Police Inspector General Japhet Koome for allowing religious leaders and lobby groups to hold homophobic protests whenever a court rules in favor of the LGBTQ+ community.

The petitioners’ effort to demand a ban on anti-LGBTQ+ protests in Kenya was in response to a series of homophobic demonstrations, particularly in Mombasa, after the Supreme Court last September affirmed an earlier decision that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Rights Commission to register as an NGO. 

Mombasa High Court Judge Olga Sewe in her Monday ruling also directed the petitioners and the respondents, who include Koome, two anti-LGBTQ+ activists and a national lobby group dubbed the “Anti-LGBTQ Movement” that organized protests, to file their witness lists and counter statements within 14 days of the July hearing. 

“Pending the hearing and determination of this petition, this Honorable Court (does) hereby issue a conservatory order restraining the 2nd and 5th Respondents from calling on or inciting members of the public to carry out extra-judicial killing, lynching, punishing, stoning, forcible conversion, or any other means of harming LGBTQ+ identifying persons and their homes,” Sewe stated. 

She also stopped the “Anti-LGBTQ movement,” Koome and any state agency from any attempted “expulsion from Kenya or any party of Kenya of LGBTQ+ identifying persons or closure of organizations serving LGBTQ+ identifying persons.” 

The court’s directives come after the Center for Minority Rights and Strategic Litigation led a protest on April 11 against the “anti-LGBTQ Movement”‘s invasion of Mvita Clinic in Mombasa that “hateful misinformation” reportedly sparked because the facility also serves queer people.  

“Mvita Clinic, like all healthcare providers, serves the entire community,” CMRSL stated. “Targeting them for LGBTQ+ inclusion is discriminatory and an attack on the basic right to health. Everyone deserves access to healthcare, and we urge an end to the spread of lies. Let’s promote inclusivity and ensure Mvita Clinic remains a safe space for all.”

CMRSL in response to Osewe’s ruling said it was a “major win for safety and equality in Kenya” because it allows the LGBTQ+ people to live with “greater peace of mind.” 

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination, an LGBTQ+ rights group, meanwhile lauded the court’s decision as a reprieve to homophobic attacks on the queer community. 

“There is some reprieve given the security incidents we witnessed during the protests on Sept. 15 last year,” INEND Communications Officer Melody Njuki told the Washington Blade.

“We had rescued LGBTQ+ folks in Mombasa, Kilifi, and Lamu, due to security incidents caused by the hatred the ‘Anti-LGBTQ movement’ mongered and the calling of violence towards people associated with the queer group and those identifying as members,” she added. 

PEMA Kenya, a Mombasa-based gender and sexual minority organization, also applauded the court’s temporary injunction, describing them as timely in protecting the LGBTQ+ community against all forms of homophobic attacks. 

“We welcome the ruling and we believe it will impact our members who for some time felt robbed of the freedom to express themselves,” PEMA Kenya director Ishmael Baraka told the Blade. 

The Nature Network, a rights organization for refugees living in Kenya, also welcomed the Monday ruling which it termed “a positive step showing the courts’ commitment to upholding human rights for all.”

“Anti-LGBTQ Movement” Chair Salim Karama, however, declined to respond to the Blade’s questions about the ruling until determination of the petition’s status. He noted the organization is waiting for their lawyer to speak with them about the decision and the filing of counter statements that Sewe ordered.

As LGBTQ+ rights groups seek the queer community’s protection in Kenyan courts, parliament, on the other hand in is set to consider a petition that notes what it describes as the proliferation of homosexuality in the country.

National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula on Feb. 27 referred the petition to the relevant parliamentary committee for inquiry after MP Ali Mohamed, a member of the ruling party and a vocal LGBTQ+ rights opponent, presented it in the National Assembly, the lower house of the Kenyan parliament, on behalf of a group of more than 70 Kenyans and religious organizations opposed to homosexuality.    

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