Standing together: Reproductive Rights and LGBTQ Rights
African Voices Celebrate LGBT equality
Calls on state to act as MDG’s deadline nears
Unemployment, maternal health and women inheritance are among challenges yet to be addressed as the deadline for attaining Millennium Development Goals lapses next year.
In a bid to address such issues, members of G77 Team, an alliance of civil society organisations in Kenya working on areas of population and sexual reproductive health has called on the Government to take necessary measures before the lapse. The lobby has urged the Government to prioritise key services such as family planning, pre and post natal care, treatment of sexually transmitted infections including HIV and provision of quality services for the management of complications arising from abortion.
The Commission on Population and Development has stressed the importance of integrating population and development into the Post 2015 Development Agenda.
The agenda was discussed during the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) that was adopted by consensus by the UN member states.
It pointed out that there was need of inclusion of certain fundamental issues like equitable and universal access to quality integrated and comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services by including the rights of young people to get comprehensive education on human sexuality.
Addressing journalists yesterday during a media briefing on the ICPD in Nairobi, programme officer at African Woman and Child Features Services Jane Godia said the media should play its role of creating awareness on population and development.
“We need to address issues such as sexual reproduction among the youth as most of them engage in sexual activities, putting them at risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. This impends on development as they fail to be reproductive in terms of economic growth”, said Godia.
She also emphasised on the need to assess if the MGD goals have been able to yield results.
By Maureen Abwao and Brigid Chemweno
14 May 2014
Health experts call for integrated approach to HIV and TB in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is facing challenges in eliminating tuberculosis (TB) say health experts, who are calling for much greater integration of HIV and TB programmes within the healthcare system.
Tremendous progress has been made in minimising the spread of HIV while TB programming is weak in comparison, according to Michael Bartos, UNAIDS country director for Zimbabwe.
Strengthening coordination systems
Bartos told a recent workshop for Zimbabwean civil society organisations that there was an urgent need to strengthen coordinating systems across HIV, TB and malaria. The workshop was run by AIDS Accountability International in partnership with Southern Africa AIDS Trust and Zimbabwe AIDS network.
“We need, as civil society, to enhance HIV mobilisation to support TB. There is weak mobilisation of communities where it matters. The issue of resources also needs to be addressed if we are to succeed in eliminating the spread of TB,” Bartos said.
Civil society priorities
At the workshop, representatives from various HIV groups created a priorities charter as an ‘advocacy road map’ for the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria. The top priority was the need for a coordinating mechanism for HIV and TB, according to Dr Gemma Oberth, senior researcher at AIDS Accountability International.
“This is because HIV coordinating structures are disproportionately strong, compared with TB civil society networks,” Dr Oberth said.
Some of the priorities identified include prevention, treatment, advocacy, care and support, mitigation and stigma reduction.
Increase in new TB cases
Zimbabwe is ranked 17 among the 22 countries in the world worst affected by TB, according to a research project commissioned by the World Health Organisation.
Victoria James, director of New Dimension Consulting, which carried out the research, said: “The estimated incidence of new TB cases was 633 per 100,000 in 2010 compared to 97 per 100,000 in 1990, reflecting a growing trend. Seventy-five per cent of adult TB cases are reported to be HIV co-infected, while HIV testing in TB is 97 per cent. The treatment rate is very low and civil society needs to focus more on playing a role to address the issues.”
She also highlighted some concerns involving new TB diagnoses, which are reported to have increased from 35,340 in 2013 to 38,725 in 2012.
Lack of resources
According to Dr Charles Sandy, deputy director of AIDS and TB programmes at the Ministry of Health and Child Care, TB is managed through the routine health system. The government is faced with the challenge of a lack of resources, although it collaborates with local and international partners.
“We are dependent on the health delivery system for success of the TB programme. Although we have made some progress in trying to address TB, we are facing challenges of a demotivated health workforce and lack of optimum work performance,” Dr Sandy said.
He added that community awareness in addressing TB was low and more resources were needed to address the challenges. Sandy said the government worked with civil society organisations through the Country Coordinating Mechanism and invited them to make suggestions on how they could be more involved.
Image: Emmanuel Gasa, a young HIV/AIDS activist working within the civil society and attending workshop, Zimbabwe
© Wallace Mawire
By Wallace Mawire
7 May 2014
South Africa: Minister of Justice launches new programme to help stop anti-gay violence
The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development in South Africa has launched a new programme to tackle violence against the country’s LGBT community.
According to News24, Jeff Radebe confirmed on Tuesday the introduction of the programme as part of an extension on South Africa’s equality clause, which he acknowledged had not stemmed anti-gay attacks.
He said: “Notwithstanding the comprehensive constitutional and legal framework and protection for LGBTI persons, we have sadly witnessed acts of discrimination and violent attacks being perpetrated against LGBTI persons.”
Over the past year, a national task team had developed an intervention strategy to deal with hate crime-related violence.
Mr Rabede said: “The purpose of the rapid response team is to urgently attend to the pending and reported cases in the criminal justice system where hate crimes have been committed against LGBTI persons.
“As a department we have finalised a policy framework with regards to the need for a specific legal framework for hate crimes.”
The Minister of Justice first confirmed his department had finalised the draft policy framework last year.
By Pink News
24 April 2014
India court recognises transgender people as third gender.
India's Supreme Court has recognised transgender people as a third gender, in a landmark ruling.
"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender," it said in granting rights to those who identify themselves as neither male nor female.
It ordered the government to provide transgender people with quotas in jobs and education in line with other minorities, as well as key amenities.
According to one estimate, India has about two million transgender people.
In India, a common term used to describe transgender people, transsexuals, cross-dressers, eunuchs and transvestites is hijra.
Campaigners say they live on the fringes of society, often in poverty, ostracised because of their gender identity. Most make a living by singing and dancing or by begging and prostitution.
Rights groups say they often face huge discrimination and that sometimes hospitals refuse to admit them.
They have been forced to choose either male or female as their gender in most public spheres.
"Recognition of transgenders as a third gender is not a social or medical issue but a human rights issue," Justice KS Radhakrishnan, who headed the two-judge Supreme Court bench, said in his ruling on Tuesday.
"Transgenders are also citizens of India" and they must be "provided equal opportunity to grow", the court said.
"The spirit of the Constitution is to provide equal opportunity to every citizen to grow and attain their potential, irrespective of caste, religion or gender."
The judges asked the government to treat them in line with other minorities officially categorised as "socially and economically backward", to enable them to get quotas in jobs and education.
"We are quite thrilled by the judgement," Anita Shenoy, lawyer for the petitioner National Legal Services Authority (Nalsa), told the BBC.
"The court order gives legal sanctity to the third gender. The judges said the government must make sure that they have access to medical care and other facilities like separate wards in hospitals and separate toilets," she said.
Prominent transgender activist Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, who was among the petitioners in the case, welcomed the judgement, saying the community had long suffered from discrimination and ignorance in the traditionally conservative country, reports the Agence France-Presse news agency.
"Today, for the first time I feel very proud to be an Indian," Ms Tripathi told reporters outside the court in Delhi.
In 2009, India's Election Commission took a first step by allowing transgenders to choose their gender as "other" on ballot forms.
But India is not the first country to recognise a third gender. Nepal recognised a third gender as early as in 2007 when the Supreme Court ordered the government to scrap all laws that discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. And last year, Bangladesh also recognised a third gender.
Tuesday's ruling comes after the Supreme Court's decision in December which criminalised gay sex by reversing a landmark 2009 Delhi High Court order which had decriminalised homosexual acts.
According to a 153-year-old colonial-era law – Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code – a same-sex relationship is an "unnatural offence" and punishable by a 10-year jail term.
Legal experts say Tuesday's judgement puts transgender people in a strange situation: on the one hand, they are now legally recognised and protected under the Constitution, but on the other hand they may be breaking the law if they have consensual gay sex.
By Yogita Limaye
15 April 2014
US and EU push Africans once more on abortion and homosexuality.
NEW YORK, April 11, 2014 (C-FAM.org) – Africans are crying foul after wealthy Western countries ambushed them with a draft resolution that re-opens the troublesome issues of abortion and homosexuality in UN negotiations.
“You have set a precedent here that will not be forgotten,” said a representative from Cameroon at a briefing three weeks ago. Western countries have proposed a resolution for the annual UN Commission on Population and Development that surreptitiously endorses abortion and homosexuality, even though Africans asked to avoid those controversies.
The U.S., European and some Latin countries are increasingly insistent on homosexuality and abortion ahead of negotiations over a new UN development agenda in September, desperate to include homosexuality and abortion in future development efforts.
Africans for their part don’t want to be pressured on these issues, and have repeatedly stated that these are matters best left to countries individually.
When powerful western governments made their intentions for the resolution known, the Africans on the commission were furious.
The resolution includes references to regional agreements that touch on abortion and sexual orientation and gender identity—contentious issues that do not enjoy universal support at the United Nations. It was prepared by Uruguay, which is chairing the commission this year.
During negotiations this week the Africans repeated their position.
They don’t want a resolution to touch on substantive issues. They would rather have a resolution that defers to the UN General Assembly with regards to abortion and homosexuality in UN development policies.
In 2010 the General Assembly re-committed countries to the development policies agreed to at the 1994 Cairo Conference on Population and Development, and clearly announced that it would not re-negotiate those policies. This year marks the 20thanniversary of the seminal development scheme that made sexual and reproductive health a UN development issue.
The Cairo conference dealt with sexual and reproductive health, but did not include homosexual rights or a right to abortion.
African countries and other developing nations are adamant, now as in 2010, that the Cairo policies should not be re-negotiated or re-interpreted to include abortion and homosexuality.
They are worried about re-opening sensitive issues like sexual rights, abortion and homosexuality. The Cairo policies could not have been adopted had they included such rights, and the issues are still controversial 20 years later.
In fact, no UN treaty or political document recognizes homosexuality or abortion as rights. The General Assembly has been conspicuously silent on these issues because so many countries still have laws that prohibit and restrict abortion as well as laws that punish sodomy.
Together with key allies in Asia and Latin America, Western countries insist that the UN framework must recognize homosexuality and abortion. It is a human rights issue to them.
The commission comes on the heels of another UN conference where Western countries had to twist arms in order to get their way with the Africans. It remains to be seen how far they are willing to go this time around.
All indications are that Western governments have invested heavily in this meeting. Several of the UN officials and government officials that negotiated the Cairo agreement 20 years ago are at UN headquarters. Abortion groups and UN agencies are also out in force raising the issue of abortion and homosexuality at every turn.
By Stefano Gennarini, J.D.
10 April 2014