Category Archives: Commitments

India court recognises transgender people as third gender.

India women AIDS Accountability International Transgender

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.

'Proud Indian'

"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.


UN AIDS Accountability InternationalNEW YORK, April 11, 2014 ( – 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


African Leaders Challenged to Address Key Populations

AIDS Accountability Chissano ICPD

JOHANNESBURG, (SAfAIDS Media Desk) – Former Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano has challenged African Leaders to ensure that their citizens access information and services that reflect  their sexual and reproductive health needs. He said this while giving a Keynote Address at aTweet@able Regional Policy Dialogue on Integrated  Sexual and Reproductive Health and HIV Services for Key Populations in East and Southern Africa in Johannesburg today.


In his opening address Former President Chissano emphasised the importance of guaranteeing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights for key populations in the post 2015 development agenda. He highlighted the need for leaders in various spectrums to join him in championing the rights of minority groups across the continent to access SRHR services.


President Chissano said that strategic plans of multiple countries in Africa include prioritizing key populations in the fight against HIV and AIDS and ensuring equal and easy access to SRHR services. The involvement of leaders, the community and individuals in policy suggestions will ensure that 2015 development goals are met.


The dialogue is providing  a platform for discussions on the increasing numbers of contraction and transmission of HIV within minority groups and key populations. The leaders explored how they can work together with organisations and individuals to reduce negative attitudes and encourage those in power to take charge of the protection of the rights of minority groups.


Participants to the dialogues include representatives from the South African Health ministry, MP’s from Malawi, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe,  the AU, UNAIDS, SADC, funding partners among others.


The key message being advocated for is Leadership is Protecting All. President Chissano ended his address with the words ‘’Leadership is Protecting All. Protecting All is Leadership”.


The tweetable dialogue offered a chance for participants outside the venue to join in the panel discussions on SRHR and interact with policy makers. The dialogues also provided an opportunity for minority persons to get connected with organisations and leaders; they could also learn how the others across the continent are dealing with healing, HIV/AIDS and sexual health.


Join the conversations on twitter by following us @SAfAIDS and tag us on #SRHR4kepops. Have your say.


Contact SAfAIDS Media Desk


Kenyan women unite to increase access to maternal and child health.

AAI Kenyan women

More than 100 leaders and representatives of women’s rights organizations from across Kenya came together on 24 March in Nairobi to discuss ways to stop new HIV infections among children by 2015 and improve the health of mothers in the country.  

The women’s rights leaders meeting was co-organized by UNAIDS, UNDP, the National AIDS Control Council, the National AIDS and STI Control Programme and  the Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust. The event aimed to accelerate the momentum started by the First Lady of Kenya Margaret Kenyatta through the Beyond Zero campaign—an initiative to end mother-to-child transmission and AIDS-related maternal deaths in Kenya.

Speaking at the meeting, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle applauded the First Lady’s personal commitment and stressed that for UNAIDS, gender equality and human rights—including sexual and reproductive health rights—are non-negotiable elements to ensure effective HIV and health responses.

Government figures show that in Kenya AIDS-related illnesses account for one in five maternal deaths and 100 000 children under the age of 5 years died from preventable causes in 2012. According to WHO figures, Kenya currently dedicates 6% of its national budget—less than half of the 15% Abuja Declaration target—to the health sector. 


“We need to leverage synergies across movements, bringing together the capacity and innovation of the AIDS response with movements to advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls."
Jan Beagle, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director

“Our involvement as the women’s movement is a game changer and will catalyse actions needed to bring the necessary changes and accelerate the achievement of the Beyond Zero campaign goals.”
Daisy Amdany, CRAWN Trust Executive Director

26 March 2014 

Collective message from feminists on Post 2015 proposes alternative models of development

newsletter march

Feminists from around the world have released a vision of the world that millions of us seek, it proposes an alternative model of development that upholds peace, security, equality and human rights for all and for the wellbeing of nature and of the planet in the coming decades.


To date more than 340 international, regional and national organizations in 143 countries have endorsed the Feminist Declaration for Post 2015, which calls for economic, social and ecological justice with a strong focus on gender. This collective message sends a clear message to all bodies, especially the United Nations to commit to a truly transformative new development agenda.


More than sixty women's, young people´s, indigenous, development, human rights, and LGBT networks contributed to the drafting of this statement and it is of use to civil society in our advocacy in the coming years.


Organised by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN), the International Planned Parenthood Federation – Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), the Realizing Sexual and Reproductive Justice Alliance (RESURJ), and Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), a Feminist Strategy Meeting on Post 2015 took place in Tarrytown, NYC in February 2014.


Just after the 8th session of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the meeting brought together over 60 representatives of feminists and women’s rights organisations from around the world. Networks, sexual and reproductive health and rights, human rights, governance, gender, violence, peacekeeping, environment, agriculture, economic and education groups were all represented.


For more information, to view the endorsements and read the full text of the declaration, click here.


If you have not done so already, please write to to endorse.


Namibia: Sex Workers Denounce Apartheid Era Laws

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SEX workers in Namibia have urged the government to repeal laws that criminalise their trade to help fight against HIV-AIDS.


Speaking during the commemoration of the International Sex Workers Day, which was celebrated under the theme "Sex Workers' Rights are Human Rights" in Windhoek on Monday, Nicodemus Aoxamub, the executive director of Rights not Rescue organisation said some apartheid era laws of 1959 and 1980 make the fight against HIV-AIDS among sex workers very difficult.


"Sex workers plan to work towards zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths which UNAIDS calls for but despite global partnership, such goals will not be achieved due to discriminatory apartheid laws," Aoxamub said at the commemoration attended by dozens of sex workers from all over Namibia.


"How can our government still have such barbaric apartheid era laws in an independent Namibia?" Aoxamub asked. Aoxamub praised Namibia's founding president Sam Nujoma for his call on implementation of programmes to eradicate HIV-AIDS during his tenure.


Aoxamub said programmes have been implemented where sex workers serve on the technical committees and key population working groups which are headed by the Ministry of Health and Social Services.


"These are the programmes that Nujoma spoke about and sex-workers are happy to be part of them," he said.


Beside the government initiatives, national and international organisations such as UNAIDS, UNFPA and donors' involvement in the fight against HIV-AIDS was also praised.


Rachel Gawises, the director of Voice of Hope Trust (VHT), said disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbaric acts which have outraged mankind. VHT is an organisation for sex workers based at the coast.


Gawises said sex workers do not have the right to equal protection under the law because authorities are preoccupied with criminalising the "world's oldest trade", and that this is a violation of the rights of all Namibians.


Gawises, who says sex work is a profession that feeds thousands of families, revealed that she started when she was 12 years old when growing up in a plastic shack at a rubbish dump at Walvis Bay.


The International Sex Workers Rights Day started in 2001 when 25 000 sex workers gathered in Calcutta, India for a sex workers' festival.


"It was their dream that sex workers own the day and celebrate it in their respective countries as their own," Deyonce Naris, director of Khaibasen Community Project from Keetmanshoop said.


Naris, a sex worker herself, said her community is also involved in the fight against HIV-AIDS contrary to beliefs that sex workers are only there to spread it.


All the sex workers' organisations said they give out free lubricants and condoms to sex workers as well as advice on HIV-AIDS-related issues and the importance of protection.


Beside the challenges of HIV, sex workers also face police brutality, transphobia, sexism, poverty and discrimination.


During the commemoration, sex workers shared personal experiences and also lit candles in honour of their colleagues who were brutally murdered in Namibia.


By Clemans Miyanicwe

4 March 2014

Ethiopian Minister Slams Uganda for Passing Anti-Gay Law.


Addis Ababa, Ethiopia — Zenebu Tadesse, Ethiopia's Minister of Women, Children and Youth Affairs has taken to twitter criticizing the passing of Uganda's anti-gay law, on Monday.

Tadesse tweeted: "There is no place for hate, discrimination in my beloved Africa. It's not Governments' business to make dress code or anti-gay laws #Uganda."

The tweet came shortly after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a harsh anti-gay law that punishes gay sex with up to life in prison.

Tadesse's African voice joins a worldwide condemnation of Uganda's new anti-gay law.

On Sunday, the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Nobel Peace Prize winning Desmond Tutu has compared Uganda's new anti-gay law to Nazi and Apartheid discrimination.

Reacting to the news, Ugandan LGBT rights advocate, Frank Mugisha, told me that he very much welcomed Tadesse's statement.

He said: "this will help. We need as many possible African voices speaking against this law."

While activist Melanie Nathan, a native of South African commented: "This is hugely significant statement coming from an accomplished and respected African Minister.

"I believe that many more Africans of noble esteem probably believe that which she has had the courage to speak," asking others to show equal courage and follow her lead.

Nathan added that she is "especially disappointed that we have yet to hear officially from South Africa's President Zuma, from the only country in Africa where there is a fully equal constitution."

She said he should follow Nelson Mandela's legacy and Tadesse's lead.

Ethiopia has already a harsh anti-gay law which punish same-sex acts with up to 15 years imprisonment.

In addition, under its anti-terrorism law anyone who states what the government deems terrorism (which can include human rights criticism) can be imprisoned for 20 years, without a warrant.

Ethiopia's anti-advocacy law bars charities and nongovernmental organizations that receive more than 10 percent of their funding from abroad from participating in activities that advance human rights and the promotion of equality.

Essentially these three laws taken in total make it impossible for any health-services, charity, advocacy or even clubs or bars to openly support or cater for Ethiopia's LGBT population.

Like in Uganda a strong Evangelical lobby along with other religious leaders have been campaigning for an even tougher capital punishment against LGBT Ethiopians.

Mercy (pseudonym to protect his identity), director of the underground Rainbow Ethiopia, a health and support group for Ethiopian LGBT people, told me he welcomed Tadesse's statement, which he called "progressive."

He also stated: "But I'd like to ask her thought about the draconian anti-homosexuality law, the lack/denial of health and social services and harassment/torture of LGBT Human rights defenders in Ethiopia."

By Dan Littauer

25 February 2014


Open Letter to African Leaders: one question for you, why do you choose to hate?


Dear African Leaders,


I hope this letter finds you in good health.


I want to just say I am deeply disappointed, hurt and scared of you. I wake up every morning and I question my thoughts and views of african renaissance, I question my birth right, my ability to decide to build a family, I question relations to my family, relatives, friends, I question my ability to contribute to transformation, I question my contribution to economy, to empowerment, I question my freedom, I question my feelings and my life.


After spending so much time questioning myself, I have come to one conclusion-I chose to LOVE, love myself, love my neighbour, love my parents, love my education, love my God, love my community, love my country, love Africa, love the world, love my past, love my people, love my partner,  love my children, yes my children……I said it my children.


Do you know how I feel? Do you think you have the right to speak and decide about what I want?well till you speak to me, I will say you have no idea, all you do is hurt, hurt and hurt, and take away my freedom, let me also remind you, your take on homosexuality, on gender equality, and human rights has and continues to cost lives.

I have asked myself why? Why do you continue to hurt an African child? Why do you continue to hurt sons and daughters of the soil?is this self interest, is this power dynamics, you gamble with my life, my brothers and sisters lives?


Let me say this ………


You need to remind yourself about what demonstarting love is and what it means. True and sincere love does not insist on its rights. In the final analysis, there are two kinds of people in this world: those who lay claim to their rights and those who think about their duties; those who lay claim to their privileges and those who always think about their responsibilities; those who think that life owes them something and those who thinks that they owe life something.


People can be divided to into "grabbers" and "givers". The grabbers are those who, with clenched fists and white knuckles, constantly cling to what they regard as theirs, they are dirt poor, bankrupt in love. Mercifully, we also get givers. Those who are like the myrtle-tree on the plains that gives its lovely fragrance to the heavens, without expecting something in return.


If you were to think less about yourself interest political agenda and power, stop using me as your entry point to gaining and maintaining your power, and think more about your obligations to all in our diversity, you will be serving the world, your people, shaping the future, you will be revealing what love is, you will be revealing a revelation of true love.


All I see in you is self driven agenda of power, you have drifted from the people, from the interest of Africans. Your reluctant to reveal the true leadership qualities. You appear to be cold and introverted, you are afraid of being misunderstood, you rather make others be and feel misunderstood. This is really sad, because so many unexpressed emotions, dialogues and quality leadership views -could have enriched the world-however we remain slumbering in personalities and your personal views.


One of the characteristics of love is expressing appreciation and acknowledging others through love. It takes so little to say it loud, and yet, it brings so much joy to both giver and grabber(receiver). Love can be demostrated in a variety of practical ways. It can rise above mere sentimental emotions and enable you to make a way of life out of it, that can enrich the lives of your loved ones.


It is my experience and experiences of  others, men and women including gays, lesbians and transgender people that is filled with declared love can be fulfilling and practical. Love not hate.

African Leaders why don't you start today?


Demonstrate love for your nations that you are tasked to protect, promote and uphold, demonstrate love for your people, demostrate love for Africa, demostrate love for the world.

I stand!



Mmapaseka Steve Letsike


This letter is written in my personal capacity. Inspired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu,  Solly Ozrovech and my mother the late Johanna K Letsike (anti-apartheid activist).


Mmapaseka Steve Letsike is with Anova Health Institute, South African National AIDS Council, National Council against Gender Based Violence and with Chapter ll.

Keep Calm: African CSO Post 2015 Coalition Advocacy Strategy Meeting.

AIDS Accountability International Africa CSO Coalition Post 2015 10AIDS Accountability International Africa CSO Coalition Post 2015 6


The International Conference on Population and Development, Commission on the Status of Women and the Post 2015 Development Agenda review processes are all important opportunities for African civil society to influence the future development agenda.


In the Africa review process of the ICPD, SDGs and CSW (that resulted in several continental positions on the post 2015 development agenda) it became clear that is civil society requires better collective organization and strategizing to perform effective advocacy. This needs to happen both at country and regional level so as to ensure the greater inclusion of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) in the outcomes of these processes.


Countries will be committing to their new positions in New York (NYC) this year and the sole remaining opportunity available to civil society is to affect the position of each African country prior to their vote.


As a means to affect these country positions AAI will be leading the African CSO Post 2015 Coalition which is intended to ensure that African civil society works strategically for the best outcomes. We will thus be holding a meeting in Johannesburg in March/April (date to be confirmed) that will map out the position of countries in Africa with regard to their position on SRHR, and we will plan as a group how we can affect the outcomes in NYC.


We are looking for a particular set of people at this meeting, so if think you fit the criteria, or know someone who does, nominate them to Read more about the meeting, and the criteria click here.

Zambia and Swaziland develop advocacy roadmap to promote behavior change as central to Global Fund proposals.

Two southern Africa countries with high generalized HIV prevlance have developed an advocacy roadmap to ensure that behavior change communication campaigns are central to their countries’ proposals for Global Fund grants.

Both Swaziland and Zambia developed Civil Society Charters in late 2013; their counterparts in South Africa, Malawi and Namibia are expected to do the same in early 2014 ahead of their planned submissions of concept notes to the Global Fund.

Behavior change activities will be critical priorities for HIV concept notes, civil society leaders in Swaziland and Zambia told Aidspan, a change from previous grant proposals that emphasized treatment and care over prevention activities.

Zambia has used cost-sensitive behavior change activities to great effect in its efforts towards reducing new HIV infections.

“At Treatment Advocacy and Literacy Campaign (TALC), we have been addressing these key social factors that contribute to high prevalence of HIV,” said Felix Mwanza, the Zambia-based organization’s director. “We have been doing this by sensitizing communities on the importance of having one partner and using condoms.”

Multiple and concurrent partnerships combined with low levels of condom use are driving the prevalence rate in Zambia, currently estimated at 12.7% among adults aged 15-49.

Programs envisioned by the CSOs will target schools, places of worship and mining areas and are likely to emphasize condom use.

For CSOs in Swaziland, community ownership and sustainability of programming beyond the life of externally funded projects is critical. By targeting the youth, especially girls, it is hoped that behavior change campaigns will be rooted in their communities, allowing for long-term sustainability beyond the life of any external funding.

Campaigns encouraging condom use will be rolled out from April in urban areas, with schools, popular night spots, soccer pitches and bus depots the primary targets.

Some 210,000 people in Swaziland, or 26.5% of adults aged 15 to 49, are infected with HIV.

AIDS Accountability International senior researcher, Dr. Gemma Oberth, said getting the health needs of key populations on the agenda is still a challenge in Southern Africa.

“It is encouraging to see Swazi civil society prioritizing access to services for LGBT fairly high on their list,” Dr. Oberth said. “It is also a good sign that Zambian civil society understands key populations to be a cross-cutting issue, prioritizing LGBT individuals as target populations under their priorities for condom promotion as well as treatment, care and support.”

By Owen Nyaka

6 February 2014