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Kenyan advocacy organizations join fight against femicide

30 women have been murdered in the country this year

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Kenyan flag (Photo by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Some LGBTQ+ rights groups in Kenya have devised new security strategies to protect female community members from the risk of femicide that has been on the rise in the country in recent years. 

The strategies employed include hiring trained security response teams, emergency toll-free numbers for swift intervention and training queer women on safety as they go about their daily lives in homophobic societies.  

The LGBTQ+ rights organizations’ move to come up with their safety measures is driven by laxity by security agencies that they accuse of “personal bias, discrimination and victimization” of the complainants based on their sexual orientation whenever they seek help.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are outlawed in Kenya under Sections 162 and 165 of the Penal Code and the queer rights groups the Washington Blade interviewed said the authorities exploit this criminalization. 

“We have contracted two security response focal persons in our organization to respond to violations of LBQ womxn in Kenya,” noted Elly Doe, the executive director of KISLEB, a Kisumu-based organization that champions the rights of lesbian, bisexual and queer women.

Doe, whose organization also advocates against femicide, said KISLEB is part of a special security situation room formed to explore ways of tackling rising cases of insecurity among the LGBTQ+ community in the country. 

The Initiative for Equality and Non-Discrimination, an LGBTQ+ rights organization also contacted by the Blade, stated it has been conducting advocacy programs that include creating safer spaces forums to address femicide and violence against women both physical and online.   

One of the forums convened last September in Mombasa, for instance, explored how communities and institutions can work together to prevent violence against marginalized women, effective support for survivors, mentorship and awareness campaigns. The participants included lesbian, bisexual, queer and Transgender women, women in politics, sports, media, women living with disabilities and sex workers.    

INEND Communications Officer Melody Njuki, who expressed her organization’s concern over growing cases of femicide, oppression and violence against women, including those who identify as queer that go unchecked is caused by several social factors that include economic exclusion. 

“The intersectional issues faced by marginalized communities and structurally silenced women particularly sex workers and LBQT+ individuals adds complexity to the challenges experienced by victims of femicide due to discrimination, stigma and systemic inequalities exacerbating the vulnerability of women to violence,” Njuki said. 

Both INEND and KISLEB last month joined other LGBTQ+ rights groups, feminists and dozens of human rights organizations in Kenya in a nationwide street protest against rising cases of femicide and violence against women. 

The Jan. 27 protests were in response to the brutal killing of 16 women across the country since the beginning of the year. Hundreds of women, including those who identify as queer, during a Valentine’s Day vigil donned black outfits and held lit candles and red roses in honor of this year’s femicide victims, whose number had risen to more than 30.

“KISLEB as an organization that champions the rights of the LBQ womxn could not sit back and watch as women are being intentionally violated and killed yet in recent years the number has been rising rapidly and so many culprits go unpunished,” Doe said over her organization’s participation in the protest. “Participating in the protest was our way of expressing our solidarity with other women’s rights organizations in condemning femicide.”

Doe raised a concern over a rise in the number of homophobic threats against queer women, particularly on social media and residential areas, and called for police officers to be sensitized on LGBTQ+ issues to deal with this menace without discrimination. 

“We have also seen the cases of the murders of the LGBTQ community rising such as a trans woman activist Erica Chandra in August in Nairobi and a nonbinary lesbian woman Sheila Lumumba in April 2022,” she said. 

INEND, together with the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, and Galck+ which participated in Lumumba’s murder case last December, were disappointed with the court after sentencing the suspect Billington Mwathi to 30 years in jail. The three LGBTQ+ rights groups described the sentence as “lenient” and said it didn’t meet the justice Lumumba deserved — the suspect raped her before killing her.

The organizations said they wanted Mwathi to receive a life sentence because Lumumba’s killing was not just an act of violence on an individual, but an attack on the dignity and safety of the LGBTQ+ community.  

INEND, nonetheless, attributes the rise in femicide to victim blaming on the part of the public and some leaders, which leads to a disconnect on the protection of the victims’ rights and its subsequent erosion as witnessed in the LGBTQ+ community.  

“The road to genocide starts with the dehumanization of the most marginalized, then continues to devour its way up the hierarchy of patriarchal systems,” Njuki said.  

She disclosed INEND was organizing a collective movement dubbed “#EndFemicideKe” to enlighten policymakers on the dire need to enforce strict measures on the killing of women. Njuki, however, commended jurists who are members of the Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association for their partnership with INEND and willingness to show a deeper understanding of human rights particularly the protection of LGBTQ+ rights.

She cited last year’s launch of a judicial guidebook to help judges better protect queer people’s rights and the High Court’s ruling that allowed the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission to register as a non-governmental organization in promoting freedom of association.

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Ruling that upheld Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act appealed

Country’s Constitutional Court refused to ‘nullify’ law

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Uganda’s Constitutional Court (Photo Credit: Amnesty International)

KAMPALA, Uganda — 22 LGBTQ+ activists in Uganda have appealed this month’s ruling that upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The Constitutional Court on April 3 refused to “nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality.”

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

Media reports indicate Sexual Minorities Uganda Executive Director Frank Mugisha and Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesara are among the activists who filed the appeal.

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Congolese bill would criminalize LGBTQ+ people

Constant Mutamba’s measure seen as distraction from country’s long-standing problems

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Congolese MP Constant Mutamba (Photo courtesy of Mutamba's X account)

KINSHASA, Congo — A member of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s National Assembly who is a leader of the country’s opposition party has introduced a bill that would criminalize LGBTQ+ people.

Part of the bill that Constant Mutamba, leader of the Dynamic Progressive Revolutionary Opposition platform, has put forth states anyone who “commits a homosexual act (including acts and gestures) will be liable to a 5- or 10-year prison sentence.”

The country in recent years has seen government leaders and civic society target the community with anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.

The Superior Council for Audiovisual and Communication, Media Regulatory Authority last June cautioned the media against showing LGBTQ+-specific conversations. Several activists have criticized Mutamba’s bill, saying it seeks to move attention away from governance, service delivery and other pertinent issues in the country.

Sirius Tekasala, a human rights activist, said a person’s sexual orientation does not impact issues of governance.

“The proposed bill does not go in the direction of improving the socio-economic life of the Congolese people,” said Tekasala. “It’s not homosexuals who prevent you from doing your job well or from breathing. This is a violation of human rights.”

Mbuela Mbadu Dieudonné, a social analyst and trade unionist, said the bill is just a way of deviating people from the pertinent issues.

“He should suggest how to get the Congolese people out of this precariousness of life which is growing on a daily basis,” said Dieudonné. “When we don’t know the real problems of the Congolese people, he sets himself up as the great director of scenes to distract the Congolese people.”

Many Congolese, however, seem to support the bill and have applauded Mutamba for drafting it.

This is not the first time that such kind of a bill has been drafted.

An anti-homosexuality bill introduced in 2010 would have sentenced people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual relations to between three and five years in prison. The measure, however, did not become law.

Mutamba’s bill, however, may pass with Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act in effect. The country’s Constitutional Court earlier this month upheld it. Burundi, Tanzania and other neighboring countries are also considering similar measures.

Many Congolese people view LGBTQ+ rights as a Western phenomenon that disregards their religious and cultural beliefs. LGBTQ+ Congolese are among those who have fled the country and sought refuge in the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya and other places.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations are not criminalized in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but Congolese law does not recognize same-sex marriages.

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Prominent Trans woman in Nigeria arrested, charged with defacing currency

Authorities say Idris Okuneye, known as Bobrisky, flaunted money

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Bobrisky's arrest has sparked concern among Nigerian activists. (Photos courtesy of Bobrisky's Facebook page)

LAGOS, Nigeria — Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s decision to arrest a well-known Transgender woman over the practice of flaunting money has sparked questions among several human rights activists.

Idris Okuneye, who is known as Bobrisky, was first arrested last Wednesday.

Justice Abimbola Awogboro of the Lagos Federal High Court on April 5 charged her with four counts of mutilating N490,000 (roughly $375.)

The EFCC alleges Bobrinsky between last July and August flaunted N50,000 (roughly $36) during a social event and N400,000 ($306) at another gathering last month. Bobrinsky has been charged with violating section 21(1) of the Central Bank Act of 2007.

“The Lagos Zonal EFCC, on Friday, April 5, 2024, secured the conviction of Idris Okuneye, (Bobrisky), before Justice Abimbola Awogboro sitting at the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos over mutilation of the Naira notes,” reads the EFCC complaint that misgenders Bobrisky. “He was arraigned on Friday on a four-count charge bordering on mutilation of the Naira notes to the tune of N490,000.”

“Justice Awogboro, thereafter, ruled, that upon the admission of guilt by the defendant, and following the evidence tendered, the defendant is declared guilty as charged,” adds the statement.

The EFCC said after listening to both parties, Awogboro delayed his ruling and also ordered that Bobrisky remain in EFCC custody. Activist Felix Abayomi said the EFCC was simply using Bobrisky as a scapegoat due to the fact that she is a vulnerable member of the society.

“Discrimination in the name of implementing a pick and choose law! Why go after someone that is a vulnerable member of our society? Someone that is clearly dealing and coping with stigmatization of her lifestyle choices which is innate. Using her as a scapegoat is uncalled for,” said Abayomi. “How does spraying the Naira that is cultural to us as a people ever even become a financial crime? People who commit economic and financial crimes against us as a people and against our nation state are sitting comfortably in the hollows of our legislative chambers and power.”

Chidi Odinkalu, the former chair of the National Human Rights Commission, said the arrest was not about the mutilation of the Naira notes, but about Bobrisky’s gender identity.

“The EFCC should be ashamed of themselves,” said Odinkalu. “The power of arrest and prosecution is a public trust that should not be weaponized for the persecution of those whom they don’t like. It is either the EFCC is evidently idle or this is a clear abuse of power.” 

EFCC spokesperson Dele Oyewale said Odinkalu’s statements were reckless.

“The commission views such commentaries from Odinkalu as unbecoming of a former head of a major government agency,” said Oyewale. “Okuneye was arrested and arraigned by the commission on the basis of clear cases of abuse of the Naira to which he has pleaded guilty.”

“Odinkalu has a right to free speech as a Nigerian, but such a right should be exercised with decorum and responsibility,” added Oyewale. “The commission would not hesitate to take appropriate legal actions against such uncouth commentaries against its lawful mandate by anyone. Odinkalu is warned and advised to ventilate his rascally opinions more responsibly in future situations.” 

Bobrisky is one of the few individuals on the African continent who has publicly discussed their gender transition.

Ever since she started to publicly show her transition, several Nigerian political pundits have been calling for her arrest. There are no laws that specifically target Trans Nigerians, but the Same-Sex Marriage Act criminalizes same-sex marriages and prohibits the public display of same-sex relationships with up to 14 years in prison.

In states where Sharia law is practiced, those found engaging in same-sex sexual activities can be sentenced to death by stoning. Even those who identify as trans can receive 50 lashes or more.

Update: Awogboro on Friday sentenced Bobrisky to six months in prison without the option of paying a fine. Reports indicate authorities will send her to a men’s prison.

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Anti-Homosexuality law upheld by Ugandan Constitutional Court

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality”

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The Ugandan Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act. (Screenshot/YouTube Africa News)

KAMPALA, Uganda – The Ugandan Constitutional Court on Wednesday upheld the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.

“We decline to nullify the Anti-Homosexuality Act in its totality,” said Deputy Chief Justice Richard Buteera as he read the decision.

President Yoweri Museveni last May signed the law, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The U.S. subsequently imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials and removed the country from a program that allows sub-Saharan African countries to trade duty-free with the U.S. The World Bank Group also announced the suspension of new loans to Uganda.

The court late last year heard the case against the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

A press release that a coalition of Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy groups issued on Wednesday notes the court said “some sections” of the law violate “the right to health, right to privacy and right to freedom of religion.” The decision, they noted, however, “failed to identify the numerous ways the law violates Ugandans’ substantive rights to equality, dignity, speech, association and health and freedom from discrimination.

“While we respect the court, we vehemently disagree with its findings and the basis on which it was reached,” said Nicholas Opiyo of Chapter Four Uganda. “We approached the court expecting it to apply the law in defense of human rights and not rely on public sentiments, and vague cultural values arguments.”

Human Rights Campaign President Kelley Robinson also condemned the decision.

“For the Constitutional Court of Uganda to uphold such a draconian law in any capacity is a horrific display of hatred that will mean further discrimination and physical harm for LGBTQ+ Ugandans,” she said.

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Eswatini police detain prominent human rights activist, LGBTQ+ ally

Tanele Maseko taken into custody on March 28 at border crossing

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Tanele Maseko (Photo courtesy of the World Liberty Congress)

MBABANE, Eswatini — Eswatini police on March 28 detained a prominent human rights activist as she tried to return to the country.

Tanele Maseko, the deputy chairperson of the Southern Africa Human Rights Defenders Network, was taken into custody at the Ngwenya Border Post between Eswatini and South Africa. Reports indicate she was returning to Eswatini with her two minor children and an aide when authorities told her she was wanted.

SAHRDN said Maseko’s detention stemmed from her husband’s gruesome murder in January 2023.

Thulani Maseko was a high-profile lawyer, human rights activist and LGBTQ+ rights ally who was highly outspoken against the country’s governance.

“Southern Defenders has previously strongly condemned recent public statements from the government of Eswatini seemingly threatening Tanele Maseko for demanding justice and accountability for her husband’s murder,” said SAHRDN Chair Adriano Nuvunga. “Tanele Maseko is our deputy chairperson and human rights defender in her own right. As a normal human being, she, together with her children are victims of the traumatic events of Jan. 21, 2023, and need to know the truth for closure and healing.”

The Pan African Human Rights Defenders Network said Tanele Maseko’s detention is embarrassing and something not expected from a country that claims to protect all of its citizens.

“We are deeply concerned by the continued harassment of Mrs. Tanele Maseko by the authorities in Eswatini,” said Hassan Shire, the group’s chair. “The treatment that Mrs. Tanele Maseko and her children are receiving amounts to torture, inhumane and degrading treatment, that is totally banned under international law.” 

The Southern Africa Litigation Center in a statement said Maseko and her family are now the target of unsolicited harassment.

“Instead of anyone being held accountable for Thulani Maseko’s death, Mrs. Maseko and her young children have been the target of unsolicited harassment, persecution and intimidation by the authorities in Eswatini, including facing constant and cruel defamatory threats from government spokespersons,” said SALC in a statement. “Accountability and moral consequences must not remain elusive, hanging beyond the grasp of grieving hearts and demanding voices.” 

Vongai Chikwanda, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director for East and Southern Africa, said Eswatini authorities should stop weaponing the criminal justice system to target and harass Tanele Maseko.

“The judicial harassment of Tanele Maseko and her family is a clear violation of her human rights including the rights to liberty, freedom of expression and freedom of movement,” said Chikwanda. “Instead of using the criminal justice system to target, intimidate and harass Tanele Maseko, Eswatini authorities should focus on promptly, thoroughly, independently, impartially, transparently and effectively investigating Thulani Maseko’s murder and bringing to justice those suspected to be responsible.”

Lydia Dlamini, the acting commissioner of the Royal Eswatini Police Service, dismissed claims around Tanele Maseko’s arrest.

“In the wake of Thulani Maseko’s murder, concerted investigations ensued which at the early stage included obtaining a preliminary statement from his wife who was the only adult present at the time of the incident,” said Dlamini. 

“As normal practice and a follow-up to the preliminary statement, repeated attempts were made to meet with Mrs. Tanele Maseko to shed on various issues concerning the murder of her husband. Despite repeated requests, Mrs. Maseko was not even cooperative as even in instances where agreements had been reached on her availing herself,” added Dlamini. “In addition to not cooperating on this aspect of the investigation into her husband’s death, Mrs. Maseko also failed or refused to surrender herself and her late husband’s mobile phones, which the police had requested as these could possibly contain crucial information which could assist on this investigation.”

Dlamini said police at the border asked Tanele Maseko to go to police headquarters in Mbabane, the country’s capital, with her lawyers for questioning about her husband’s murder.

“To ensure compliance and to mitigate against the risk of evasion as had been previously been the case, she was requested to surrender her travel documents together with her mobile phone to which she agreed. Thereafter, she drove herself to the police headquarters in the company of her children,” said Dlamini. 

Dlamini said the interview was postponed until Tuesday.

“The engagement with Mrs. Maseko is crucial in obtaining vital information needed for a breakthrough in the investigation and therefore, must avail herself unreservedly,” said Dlamini. “No amount of distraction will sway the focus on the investigation.” 

Maseko is no longer detained, but is still under police surveillance until authorities complete their investigation.

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Ugandan lawmaker introduces anti-gay surrogacy bill

Sarah Opendi’s measure mirrors attempt in Kenya

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Ugandan flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

KAMPALA, Uganda — Uganda has joined Kenya in seeking to ban same-sex couples who want to use a surrogate or in vitro fertilization to become parents.

MP Sarah Opendi on March 5 introduced the Human Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill 2023, which would limit access to these treatments to only people with infertility challenges. She notes there has been an increase in the number of Ugandans seeking to have children through human assisted reproductive technology over the years, but without a legal framework. 

“The increasing demand for the use of human assisted reproductive technology has been necessitated by the growing cases of primary and secondary infertility, and other health-related challenges among persons seeking to have children,” Opendi states in the bill. 

Legal gaps the law seeks to address include regulating access to the use of human assisted reproductive technology by a state’s medical body; designating medical units or facilities as fertility centers; setting up sperm, oocyte (a female egg) and embryo banks within fertility centers and a register of data collected from services rendered through the technology.  

The bill’s Clause 20 would block gay couples from having children via surrogacy and would give a registered medical practitioner the power to establish the infertility condition of an individual before accessing services. 

The medical professional would have to certify that the intending parent “suffers primary or secondary infertility” or “suffers health challenges which affect the ability to reproduce.” 

The bill would also bar same-sex couples from surrogacy services for parenthood, stating they apply to “a man and a woman” who jointly seek to use human assisted reproductive technology to obtain a child. The proposal would also apply to a man and a woman where “either the man or woman or both” suffer primary or secondary infertility or health-related challenges that affect the man or woman’s ability to reproduce.     

The proposed law, which a parliamentary health committee is considering for public input before its reintroduction in the House for debate, has been criticized by some Ugandan LGBTQ+ activists as “draconian.”

“The same sponsors of the anti-gay law are the same introducing this bill which is well influenced by American anti-gay and anti-gender groups,” Frank Mugisha told the Washington Blade.

His comments came three days after the U.S. denied Opendi a visa that would have allowed her to attend a Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N. meeting in New York.

Reports indicate the visa denial is because of anti-LGBTQ+ comments that include the castration of gay men that she made during the parliamentary debate on the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Mugisha applauded the U.S. decision, saying she should not be able to promote hate against LGBTQ+ people “anywhere else.”

“The bill is very draconian, has so many limitations for our men and families that do not conform to old draconian conservative ideologies,” said Mugisha in response to the surrogacy bill. “The bill would outlaw women who are not married from having IVF and we need to pay attention to this bull and stop it.” 

The Ugandan surrogacy bill limiting same-sex couples from parenthood adds to a list of recent anti-LGBTQ+ measures like Anti-Homosexuality Act that saw the country sanctioned.

The Court of Appeal on March 12 declared it is illegal for LGBTQ+ rights groups to register in Uganda. Parliament Speaker Anita Among, a strong anti-homosexuality crusader, during the parliamentary session two days after the ruling commended Chief Justice Alfonse Owiny and the Ugandan judiciary he leads for saving the country from “values that are alien and want to destroy our society.” 

Kenya’s proposed surrogacy law, dubbed the Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill 2022, is also before the parliamentary health committee. MP Millie Odhiambo last May reintroduced the bill, which would prohibit gay and lesbian couples from having children via surrogate.

The measure stalled in the Kenyan Senate in 2022. House rules rendered it “dead” when the parliamentary term ended because of that year’s general election. It could only be saved through a reintroduction in the new Parliament. 

The Kenyan surrogacy bill, just like the one that Opendi introduced, would only permit a man and a woman (intending parents) with certified infertility problems to have children via surrogate and IVF.

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Burundi’s president reiterates LGBTQ people should be stoned 

Ndayishimiye during the commemoration of the International Women’s Day reiterated his call for LGBTQ people to be stoned in a stadium

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Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye (Screen capture via Gentil Gedeon Official YouTube)

GITEGA, Burundi – Burundian President Évariste Ndayishimiye on March 8 reiterated his call for LGBTQ people to be stoned in a stadium.

Ndayishimiye made the remark during the commemoration of the International Women’s Day in Gitega, the country’s political capital. He first called for the public stoning of LGBTQ people last December during a public event.

LGBTQ activists sharply criticized the comments and some international diplomats even threatened to cut economic ties with Burundi. Ndayishimiye, however, seems unmoved by this pushback and maintained that if it meant if his nation would cut economic ties with the developed countries on the basis of his anti-LGBTQ stance then so be it, reaffirming that nothing will change his stance.  

Jésus Dior Kant, a gay man and LGBTQ activist from Burundi, said the president’s remarks are tantamount to publicly calling for the lynching of gay people.

“This violent and anti-LGBT+ rhetoric endangers the lives of many individuals in Burundi and stains the nation’s commitment to human rights,” said Kant. “Such discourse not only incites homophobia and violence but also violates international human rights laws and norms that protect individuals regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Kant also said what Ndayishimiye said now poses a real and immediate threat for LGBTQ people in the country.

“The impact of this statement is not merely rhetorical, it poses a real and immediate threat to the safety and well-being of the LGBT+ community in Burundi,” said Kant. “It encourages hate crimes, promotes discrimination and undermines progress made towards equality and justice. This is not just a problem for the LGBT+ community but a stain on the moral fabric of our global society, reflecting on us all.”

Kant called for Ndayishimiye to immediately withdraw his remarks and commit to protecting the rights of LGBTQ people in the country.

“Your call to stone gay individuals constitutes a blatant violation of human rights and an incitement to violence and discrimination,” said Kant. “We implore you to take the necessary measures to withdraw your statement advocating violence against the LGBT+ community, commit to protecting LGBT+ individuals in Burundi by enforcing laws that guarantee rights and well-being and respecting international human rights conventions, ensuring that Burundi is a nation that respects and values every human life.” 

Clémentine de Montjoye, a researcher at Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division, said the anti-LGBTQ crackdown in Burundi could become worse, including continued political repression and restrictions on freedom of expression to maintain the governing party’s control. 

“This type of fearmongering is not new in Burundi, where sexual relations between people of the same sex have been illegal since former President Pierre Nkurunziza signed a new criminal code into law in 2009,” noted de Montjove. “The law was a fierce blow to Burundi’s LGBT people, who had begun to come out and organize, albeit in small numbers, to demand their rights be respected.”

De Montjove further noted the National Assembly’s human rights commission added the anti-homosexuality provision in the 2009 criminal code at the last minute, apparently under pressure from Nkurunziza, who made statements on television that described homosexuality as a curse.

“Ndayishimiye, who presents himself as a progressive, rights-respecting leader, should be working to reverse this trend rather than stoking more fear and hatred,” said de Montjoye.

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Ugandan appeals court upholds ruling that blocked LGBTQ+ group from registering

Decision ‘doesn’t faze us’

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Ugandan flag (Image by rarrarorro/Bigstock)

KAMPALA, Uganda — A Ugandan appeals court on Tuesday upheld a ruling that prevented an LGBTQ+ rights group from legally registering in the country.

The Uganda Registration Services Bureau in 2012 refused to legally recognize Sexual Minorities Uganda. The Uganda High Court upheld the decision in 2018, and SMUG appealed it to the country’s Registrar Court of Appeal.

“The LGBTQ community views this ruling as a missed opportunity to address the suppression of their freedom of association, instead focusing on perceived societal norms,” said SMUG in a press release. “It underscores a recurring trend in Ugandan courts, wherein rights of LGBTQ persons are marginalized, further widening the gap between legal protections and lived realities and experiences.”

Katie Hultquist of Outright International in a post to her X account expressed her personal support for SMUG Executive Director Frank Mugisha, his organization and other activists in the country. Mugisha said SMUG is “fully committed to elevating this challenge to the next level.”  

“After thorough debriefing, we will communicate our next strategic steps,” said Mugisha. “This ruling doesn’t faze us.”

The appeals court issued its ruling less than a year after President Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which contains a death penalty provision for “aggravated homosexuality.”

The Constitutional Court in December heard arguments in a lawsuit that challenges the law. It is not clear when a ruling will be issued.

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Prominent Angolan activist found dead

Authorities say Carlos Fernandes showed signs he was strangled

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Carlos Fernandes (Photo courtesy of USAID Administrator Samantha Power's X account)

LUANDA, Angola — Authorities in Angola on Feb. 26 found a prominent activist dead in his home.

Associação Íris Angola in a Facebook post wrote Carlos Fernandes, the group’s executive director, “was found lifeless in his residence” in Luanda, the country’s capital. Angolan media reports indicate authorities continue to investigate his death, but they suspect he was strangled.

His funeral took place on March 1. Activists throughout the country have organized candlelight vigils and other events to honor Fernandes.

“His departure leaves a huge void in our community and a deep mourning in our hearts,” said Associação Íris Angola.

Angolan lawmakers in 2020 decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations and banned violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation in the former Portuguese colony. Fernandes was among the activists who championed these advances.

The State Department’s 2022 human rights report notes violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity remains commonplace in Angola. Angolan media reports indicate Fernandes is the second LGBTQ+ person found dead with signs of strangulation in recent weeks.  

“Carlos Fernandes led the first LGBTQI+ group in Angola, and tirelessly advocated for human rights and ending the threat of HIV/AIDS,” said U.S. Agency for International Development Samantha Power in a March 6 post to her X account.

U.S. Ambassador to Angola and São Tomé and Príncipe Tulinabo Mushingi in a statement noted his embassy “was proud to partner with Mr. Fernandes over the past decade.”

“We are grateful for his important contributions to our programs supporting human rights, fighting against stigma and discrimination, expanding access to health and education resources for LGBTQI+ communities, combatting human trafficking and more,” said Mushingi. “In particular, his contributions to our PEPFAR (President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) program expanded protection and treatment for HIV/AIDS to previously unreached communities.”

PEPFAR echoed these sentiments, noting Fernandes’ “contributions expanded protection and treatment for HIV/AIDS to previously unreached communities.”

“Carlos Fernandes is remembered as a resolute, strong, welcoming person,” said Mushingi. “As a true pioneer in the fight against discrimination, he created a family among the LGBTQI+ community in Angola, and his legacy as an activist will be carried on by generations of LGBTQI+ Angolans.”  

“We trust that the Angolan authorities will conduct a thorough investigation to ensure that any parties responsible are held accountable,” he added.

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Ethiopia’s largest church condemns LGBTQ+ community

Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church is one of world’s religious dominations

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Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the seat of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church (Photo by RudiErnst/Bigstock)

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Ethiopia’s largest church has condemned the LGBTQ+ community’s existence.

According to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which is one of the world’s oldest religious denominations, the LGBTQ+ community is synonymous with the West and not with Ethiopia or Africa. The church in a statement said the right to various gender identities, what it describes as gender conversion therapy and allowing same-sex relationships leads to complex religious, social and cultural problems.

“The Permanent Synod calls for the faith, culture and ethics that has been preserved with many sacrifices to continue to have its place of honor and by ensuring that sin and evilness is not exposed to this disgusting act,” reads the statement.

“Homosexuality is not at all equal to a normal natural phenomenon that can be expressed by gender rights and it is the spiritual mission of our church to oppose it knowing that this violates the religious, social and psychological assets of our country, the federal government should strongly oppose this,” it adds. “Actions that increase homosexuality, Transgender, bisexual sex and so on are all issues and practices that are not accepted in our country by religion, law, social values and ethical guidelines. So, the Permanent Synod calls for them to be clearly stated that we will not accept them in any official relations.”

The church in its statement “strongly warns those who promote homosexuality, spread and do hidden activities to refrain from their actions.” 

Activists condemned the statement.

“Maybe someday, homophobic individuals will understand that one’s sexual orientation can’t be prayed away,” said Mahdi Liima, founder of the Tigray Art Collective, an organization that works in the Tigray region and throughout Ethiopia. “Queer Ethiopians are present in all religions. Surprisingly, I have met many who are active members of their faith and embrace them as beautiful humans.”

Bahiru Shewaye, co-founder of House of Guramayle, said religious leaders have been focused on spreading public paranoia about queerness as a threatening factor for the nation.

“We call on all Ethiopians to really study the pattern here and wake up. The current fearmongering that is being galvanized by religious institutions and their affiliated death apparatus against Zega (an Amharic word that refers to LGBTQ+ people) or the queer community in Ethiopia is nothing but the usual destruction tactic,” said Shewaye.

The Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia last month issued a scathing statement particularly against the Samoa Agreement, 20-year partnership agreement between some EU and African Union countries that seeks to strength socio-economic and political ties. Ethiopia is among the nations that have signed it.

According to the Inter-Religious Council of Ethiopia, the federal government should withdraw from the agreement because of terms and conditions that seek to uphold LGBTQ+ rights. 

Religious leaders in recent months have called upon the federal government to ensure it does not consider LGBTQ+ rights on the basis they are not African and counter with the country’s religious beliefs. LGBTQ+ Ethiopians have faced increased online attacks and at times even arbitrary arrests.

Consensual same-sex sexual relations remain criminalized in Ethiopia and are punishable by up to a year in prison. This sentence can reach more than 10 years.

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