Category Archives: Transgender

South Africa, Which Once Led On Promoting LGBT Rights Abroad, Could Become A Roadblock

Advocates fear South Africa might turn against an LGBT rights resolution at the UN that it sponsored three years ago.

 

South Africa was once the essential nation to advancing LGBTI rights in international diplomacy. Now it has become a potential roadblock.

 

Back in 2011, South Africa sponsored a resolution before the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) that, for the first time, recognized LGBTI rights as human rights. Other nations, especially from Latin America, had been working to advance LGBTI rights in less high-profile ways for several years before, but South Africa’s leadership was critical to taking the effort to the level of a formal resolution. Such a proposal had to have at least one prominent African backer, its supporters believed. Otherwise, it would play into the hands of LGBTI rights opponents in Africa and other parts of the world that had once been colonized who argue that homosexuality was a Western perversion brought by colonial powers.

 

An updated version of the resolution was tabled Thursday at a Human Rights Council meeting underway in Geneva. It was sponsored by Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Uruguay. A vote is expected next week.

 

Not only is South Africa’s name not on it, but some LGBTI rights supporters tell BuzzFeed News that South Africa’s diplomats are behaving so strangely in negotiations that they worry the country could even turn against the resolution. A South African defection might not only help torpedo the proposal, it would also be a stunning symbolic reversal for a country that set the standard for protecting LGBTI rights. When South Africa adopted its first post-apartheid constitution in 1993, it became the world’s first nation to protect LGBTI rights in its fundamental rights declaration. This came out of a commitment to fighting a broad range of oppression, and it commanded even greater moral authority because it was rooted in the experience of fighting white supremacy.

 

So some LGBTI rights supporters are looking at South Africa’s reluctance to clearly support the new resolution as a fundamental betrayal.

 

“We currently have leadership that fails to represent the ethos of what the constitution says and the equality principles they have to uphold,” said Mmapeseka Steve Letsike, a lesbian activist who chairs the South African National AIDS Council’s Civil Society Forum. “We have leadership going out of this country putting their personal beliefs before its own people. We have leaders that fail to protect their own.”

 

South Africa’s pullback on LGBTI rights internationally comes as homophobia has become an increasingly common political tool across Africa, framed as a form of standing up to the West. Nigeria and Uganda both passed sweeping bills criminalizing LGBTI rights advocacy this winter, the governments of The Gambia and Chad both have pending proposals to stiffen laws against homosexuality, and LGBTI people are being targeted by police from Zimbabwe to Egypt to Senegal.

 

“Silence in the context of the African Bloc suggests a kind of complicity with the homophobic rhetoric,” said Graeme Reid, a South African who directs Human Rights Watch’s LGBT program. “It speaks of a kind of misplaced solidarity … not aligning with the [LGBTI] people who are the victims of human rights abuse, but with the perpetrators under the rhetoric of supporting our ‘African brothers and sisters.’”

 

LGBTI rights supporters were also hopeful that some smaller African countries could be persuaded to abstain on the vote — a kind of soft yes — and one or two might even be convinced to back it. This could tip the balance if the vote is close. The 2011 resolution was a nail-biter, passing 23-19 with three abstentions. But that becomes very hard if South Africa can’t counterbalance conservative continental heavyweights that might be lobbying the smaller countries.

 

“As soon as [South Africa] pulls back, it gives countries like Nigeria and Egypt room to bully and push the smaller countries,” said an LGBTI rights advocate from another southern African country who asked to speak anonymously in order to avoid a backlash in negotiations. “We need South Africa to maintain the same position if not better” than in 2011.

 

It’s hard to see why this resolution is so important by reading the plain language — all it really does is order a bi-annual study of LGBTI rights by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. But there are only a few places where language referring to LGBTI rights exists in any international agreements. This small resolution is a way of giving U.N. staff authority to work on LGBTI issues and means that it will be a regular focus of discussion in Geneva. And it will be a precedent that can be used to broaden the inclusion of LGBTI rights in other human rights agreements.

 

Most LGBTI rights supporters came into the negotiations that began last week assuming that South Africa would be supportive even if it no longer wanted its name on the resolution. Regional coalitions are very important in the U.N., and other major powers within the Africa bloc, especially Nigeria and Egypt, have been at the forefront of pushing anti-LGBTI policies. South Africa had taken a lot of heat for the 2011 resolution, and many LGBTI supporters might have understood if officials chose not to take a public role in support this year.

 

But they’ve withheld their support even in private discussions, say sources familiar with the negotiations. The head of South Africa’s Geneva delegation, Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, took the unusual step of coming personally to an informal meeting on Wednesday, something usually left to staff. But he said virtually nothing in the meeting, said a source in the room, which showed other nations that South Africa isn’t about to go to bat for the proposal.

 

This posture follows a move by South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party to block a parliamentary motion to condemn anti-LGBTI legislation enacted by Uganda in February (which has since been struck down by the court). It also comes after a vote by South Africa during the June HRC session that stunned LGBTI rights supporters: South Africa joined with conservative nations on a procedural vote to exclude a sentence stating “various forms of the family exist” in an Egyptian-led resolution on the “Protection of the Family.” The resolution passed without this language, and LGBTI rights supporters were concerned that the language could be used as precedent for excluding families from protections under international law if they are not led by a heterosexual couple.

 

“In the room they’re being a little bit weird,” said a diplomat from a Western country working on the resolution, referring to South Africa’s behavior in the negotiations. But this isn’t entirely new. “They’ve been behaving weird for two or three years on this,” the diplomat said.

 

The diplomat attributed that more to a change in personnel than an intentional shift in policy: Jerry Matjila, who was South Africa’s ambassador to the Human Rights Council when work began on the 2011 resolution, has since returned to Pretoria to take a senior post in the Department of International Relations and Co-operation. His replacement, Ambassador Minty, lacks his personal commitment to the issue, say sources who have worked with the delegation.

 

South Africa’s Geneva mission and the Department of International Relations and Co-operation in Pretoria did not respond to requests for comment.

 

But some South African activists see this dilution of South Africa’s commitment to LGBTI rights internationally as part of a larger trend in the country’s leadership. The late Nelson Mandela and other leaders of the African National Congress embraced LGBTI rights as part of a commitment to fighting a broad range of oppression as they brought South Africa out of apartheid — Matjila is seen as part of that school. But that commitment is not as strong among the younger generation of leaders, most notably President Jacob Zuma, who called same-sex marriage “a disgrace to the nation and to God” around the time the unions won legal recognition in the country.

 

The shift doesn’t mean South Africa has done a 180 on LGBTI rights. Rather, it’s led to a kind of schizophrenia that is frustrating to LGBTI rights supporters. The lack of support for this resolution is all the more confusing because it comes at a time that there is a new commitment from the government to fighting anti-LGBTI hate crimes inside the country, spurred by a series of horrific rapes and murders of black lesbians.

 

“Domestically, there is a sense of a real commitment and energy and political will,” said Human Rights Watch’s Graeme Reid. But the international stance is incoherent — the Latin Americans only introduced the resolution at the last minute because South Africa wouldn’t let go of its ownership of the issue until just before the Human Rights Council session began earlier this month.

 

“There is an air of uncertainty about their position because they have been dragging their feet on this for the last three years, not moving on the resolution and not dropping it,” Reid said.

 

The resolution’s supporters are optimistic that they will have the votes to pass the resolution if it gets an up or down vote next week, and no one who spoke to BuzzFeed News for this story said they thought it was possible that South Africa would vote against the resolution on the final vote. It could abstain on a final vote, a possibility that some of the resolution’s supporters fear is more likely as the negotiations wear on. Or it could vote for a procedural motion that would kill the resolution by denying an up or down vote — exactly what it did to keep the inclusive language out of the Protection of the Family resolution in June.

 

“It would be unacceptable, incomprehensible, and almost unconscionable for a relatively new democracy like South Africa to support shutting down debate at the UN’s human rights body [to affirm a principle] that’s in its own constitution,” said Marianne Møllman, program director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, in an interview from Geneva.

 

By J. Lester Feder

19 September 2014

Source: http://www.buzzfeed.com/lesterfeder/south-africa-which-once-led-on-promoting-lgbt-rights-abroad#2dmkbjy

Gambia’s President Jammeh asked to reject anti-gay law

Gambia President

Leading rights groups have called on Gambian President Yahya Jammeh not to approve tough new anti-gay legislation.

 

Homosexual acts are already illegal in The Gambia, but MPs passed a bill on 25 August imposing life sentences for “aggravated homosexuality”.

 

The bill promoted “state-sponsored homophobia”, the rights groups said.

 

Mr Jammeh is known for his strong opposition to gay rights. He has called gay people “vermin” and once threatened to behead them.

 

Uganda’s Constitutional Court struck down a similar law last month on the grounds that it was passed by MPs without a quorum.

 

‘Deep fear’

Its ruling followed an outcry from rights groups and Western governments – US President Barack Obama described the legislation as “odious”.

 

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the definition of “aggravated homosexuality” was vague in The Gambian bill.

 

Among those who could be given the life sentence were “repeat offenders” and people living with HIV who are suspected to be gay or lesbians, they said in a joint statement.

 

A person who had homosexual relations with a minor could also be convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”, Reuters news agency reports.

 

“President Jammeh should not approve this profoundly damaging act that violates international human rights law,” said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

 

Graeme Reid of HRW said it would “only heap further stigma on people who are already marginalised and living in a climate of deep fear and hate in Gambia”.

 

Under current laws, homosexual acts are already punishable by up to 14 years in prison in The Gambia.

 

Mr Jammeh has 30 days from the date the bill was passed to sign it into law or return it to parliament for further review.

 

The Gambia is a popular tourist destination, famous for its beaches.

 

By BBC News Africa

10 September 2014

Source: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29145397

LGBT Visibility in Africa Also Brings Backlash

homosexuality.jpg4

Eighteen-year-old Gift Makau enjoyed playing and refereeing football games in her neighbourhood in the North West Province of South Africa. She had come out to her parents as a lesbian and had never been heckled by her community, according to her cousin.

 

On Aug. 15 she was found by her mother in a back alley, where she had been raped, tortured and killed.

Shehnilla Mohamed, Africa director for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGHLRC), said that Gift’s murder was part of a disturbing trend in which gender-nonconforming individuals are targeted for so-called corrective rape.

 

“Corrective rape is really the attempt of the society to try to punish the person for acting outside the norm,” Mohamed said.

 

In the past 10 years in South Africa, 31 lesbians have been reported killed as the result of corrective rape, she said.  A charity called Luleki Sizwe estimates that 10 lesbians are raped or gang raped a week in Cape Town alone.

 

Transgender, gay or effeminate men are also the subject of corrective rape, but they are less likely to be murdered and are less likely to report it.

If this is happening in South Africa, the only mainland African country to allow legal same-sex marriage, what is it like to be lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) elsewhere on the continent?

 

“The type of brutality that you see happening to lesbians and to homosexuals in parts of Africa is just beyond comprehension,” Mohamed told IPS. “It’s like your worst horror movie, and even worse than that.”

 

More than two-thirds of African countries have laws criminalising consensual same-sex acts, according to IGLHRC.

 

“Overall what we’ve seen is a fairly bleak picture that’s emerging,” said Graeme Reid, director of the LGBT Program at Human Rights Watch (HRW).

 

Africa is seeing “an intensification of the political use of homophobia,” he said.

 

Nigeria and Uganda made headlines in early 2014 when they signed anti-homosexuality bills that handed out long prison sentences for being homosexual or for refusing to turn in a known homosexual.

 

On Aug. 1, Uganda’s law was declared unconstitutional on procedural grounds by its supreme court, but Shehnilla Mohamed expects that it will be back on the table again once international attention shifts away.

 

Long-time African leaders who wish to extend their stay in office often try to whip up anti-homosexuality sentiment.

 

“Homophobia becomes both a ruse and a distraction from other real substantive issues, whether those are economic or political,” Graeme Reid said.

Chalwe Mwansa, a Zambian activist and IGHLRC fellow, told IPS that in his country, politicians equate cases of pedophilia and incest with homosexuality, fabricating sensational stories to inflame the public. This strategy diverts attention away from problems with unemployment, poverty, health and education.

 

Some leaders also claim that homosexuality is an un-African, Western imposition. Mohamed believes it is the exact opposite.

 

Homosexuality “existed in a lot of the African cultures and a lot of the African traditions,” she told IPS. “It was quite an accepted pattern.”

 

Same-sex relationships did not begin to develop a negative connotation until after colonisation brought Western religion, she said.

 

In an environment of antipathy, LGBT individuals have few places to turn to for help. The police station is often not a sanctuary for those who have been raped.

 

Mohamed recently spoke to a transgender man in South Africa who was accosted in the lobby of his block of apartments by a group of men who thought he was a woman. When they found out he was a man they raped and “beat him so badly that he was totally unrecognisable,” she said.

 

The man ended up contracting HIV/AIDS.

 

In South Africa, after being raped, a person is supposed to report it to the police and receive a free post-exposure prophylaxis within 72 hours to minimise the risk of transmission. However, this man was too afraid to go into the station, knowing that the police would most likely feel that he had deserved it.

 

The problem is even worse in countries like Nigeria that have criminalised homosexuality. According to Michael Ighodaro, a fellow at IGLHRC from Nigeria, after its anti-homosexuality bill was passed in January, 90 percent of gay men who were on medications stopped going to clinics to receive them, out of fear that they would be arrested.

 

Even at home, LGBT individuals in Africa face an uphill struggle. Anti-homosexuality laws do have a current of support throughout society. LGBT people often fear ostracisation by their families, so hide their sexual or gender identity.

 

The increased prominence of LGBT issues in national debates in Africa in the past decade has inspired a bit of a backlash.

 

Njeri Gateru, a legal officer at the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission of Kenya, says that Kenya lies in a tricky balance. Society does not actively persecute LGBT individuals if they outwardly conform to sexual and gender norms, but “problems would arise if people marched in the streets or there was an article in the press.”

 

“We cannot continue to live in a balance where we are muzzled and we are comfortable being muzzled,” Gateru said at a HRW event in New York.

 

Religion plays a significant role in the lack of acceptance of gender non-conforming groups in Africa.

 

IGLHRC’s Mohamed said that even “people with master’s degrees, who are highly educated, who work in white collar jobs will say ‘God does not like this.’”

 

“I think pointing out that LGBTI people are human beings, are God’s creation just like everybody else is really something that we’ll keep on pushing,” she said.

 

According to Gateru, even when churches open their doors to LGBT groups, they sometimes do it for the wrong reasons.

 

A year or so ago, a group of Kenyan evangelical leaders announced that they were going to stop turning LGBT individuals away from churches because, in their words, ‘Jesus came for the sinners, not the righteous.’

 

The churches are “welcoming you to change you or to pray for you so you can change, which is really not what we want,” said Gateru. “But I think it’s a very tiny step.”

 

Archbishop Desmond Tutu has repeatedly and consistently criticised discrimination against LGBT groups and condemned new anti-homosexuality laws.

 

Activist groups welcome the support of prominent religious leaders such as Tutu, and are planning a conference in February to bring together pastors, imams and rabbis to discuss LGBT issues and religion in Africa.

 

In general, LGBT activist organisations have their work cut out for them.

 

LGBT advocacy groups “most of the time are working undercover, are working underground, or if they are registered and are working as an NGO, are constantly being harassed by the authorities or by society,” Mohamed said.

 

IGLHRC was founded in 1990, and helps local LGBT advocacy groups around the world fight for their rights through grant making and work on the ground.

 

“What we really need is to mainstream homosexual rights, LGBTI rights into the basic human rights discourse,” said Mohamed.

 

During August’s U.S.-Africa summit in Washington, IGLHRC urged the U.S. to hold African leaders to account.

 

Depending on the country, the U.S. does have an ability to advance human rights through external pressure. Mohamed speculated that the striking down of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill just days before the summit was a public relations stunt by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, since he wanted a warm reception by the White House.

 

Nigeria, the other country to introduce a new law in 2014, is more difficult to influence than Uganda, according to Michael Ighodaro. Because of its oil wealth, the Nigerian government would not care if the United States were to pull funding.

 

The U.S.-African summit, since it was focused on business, offered an opportunity for LGBT advocacy groups to point out the economic costs of sidelining an entire sector of the population.

 

Mohamed said that LGBT individuals are often “too scared to apply for certain jobs because of how they would be treated. If they did apply they probably would never get the jobs because of the stigmas attached.”

 

Despite the difficult journey to come, supporters of LGBT rights in Africa can look back to see that some progress has been made.

 

HRW’s Reid said that the LGBT movement was practically invisible in Africa just 20 years ago.

 

“In a sense this very vocal reaction against LGBT visibility can also be seen as a measure of the strength and growth of a movement over the last two decades,” he said.

 

Things may get a little tougher before they get better, Njeri Gateru told IPS, but “history is on our side.”

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 9 2014 (IPS) 

Edited by Kitty Stapp

By Joel Jaeger

10 Septermber 2014

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/2014/09/lgbt-visibility-in-africa-also-brings-backlash/

Uganda holds first pride rally after ‘abominable’ anti-gay law overturned

Ugandan men hold a rainbow flag reading

Uganda has hosted its first gay pride rally since a draconian anti-homosexuality law was overturned by the courts.

Sandra Ntebi, organiser of the rally held on Saturday in Entebbe, 35km from the capital Kampala, said police had granted permission for the invitation-only "Uganda Pride" event.

"This event is to bring us together. Everyone was in hiding before because of the anti-homosexuality law," she said. "It is a happy day for all of us, getting together."

The overturned law, condemned as "abominable" by rights groups but popular among many Ugandans, called for proven homosexuals to be jailed for life.

The constitutional court rejected the law on a technicality on 1 August, six months after it took effect. The government swiftly filed an appeal, while MPs have signed a petition for a new vote on the bill.

Homosexuality remains illegal in Uganda, punishable by a jail sentence. However, it is no longer illegal to promote homosexuality and Ugandans are no longer obliged to denounce gays to the authorities.

Amid music, dancing and laughter, activists gathered in a park on the shores of Lake Victoria, close to the country's presidential palace. "Some Ugandans are gay. Get over it," read one sticker a man had pasted onto his face.

Ugandan deputy attorney-general Fred Ruhinda said that government lawyers had lodged an appeal against the ruling at the supreme court, the country's highest court.

"We are unsatisfied with the court ruling," he said. "The law was not intended to victimise gay people, it was for the common good."

In their surprise ruling last week, judges said it had been passed without the necessary quorum of MPs in parliament.

Rights groups said the law triggered a sharp increase in arrests and assaults on members of the country's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Homophobia is rampant in Uganda, where American-style evangelical Christianity is increasingly popular.

Gay men and women face frequent harassment and threats of violence, but activists celebrated openly on Saturday.

"Since I discovered I was gay I feared coming out, but now I have the courage after the law was thrown out," said Alex Musoke, one of more than 100 people at the event.

One pair of activists waved a rainbow flag with a slogan appealing for people to "join hands" to end the "genocide" of homosexuals. There were few police in attendance and no protestors.

Critics said President Yoweri Museveni signed the law to win domestic support ahead of a presidential election set for 2016, which would be his 30th year in power.

However, it lost him friends abroad, with several international donors freezing or redirecting millions of dollars of government aid, saying the country had violated human rights and democratic principles.

US secretary of state John Kerry likened the law to antisemitic legislation in Nazi Germany.

Analysts suggest that Museveni secretly encouraged last week's court ruling as it provided a way to avoid the appearance of caving in to foreign pressure.

Gay rights activists say the battle is not over. MPs have signed a petition calling for a new vote on the bill and to bypass parliamentary rules that require it be formally reintroduced from scratch – a process that could take years.

By Chris Johnston

9 August 2014

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/09/uganda-first-gay-pride-rally-law-overturned

Pressure on SA to host talks to end gay persecution

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Rights groups are putting pressure on SA to hold an Africa-wide seminar on discrimination and violence that has been postponed several times.

 

The department of international relations and co-operation says it still plans to host an Africa-wide seminar on violence against people because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, even though the meeting has been postponed several times since it was first mooted more than a year ago.

 

Altogether 38 African countries have laws that criminalise homosexuality and in Mauritania, Sudan and Nigeria it is punishable by death. The issue has lately become a political tool for some African heads of state, such as Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni. Last week, the Ugandan Constitutional Court rejected a new anti-gay law that would have imposed even more stringent regulations against homosexuality than those already in place.

 

Rights groups across the continent now accuse South Africa of stalling on the crucial meeting to follow up on a United Nations report titled Discriminatory Laws and Practices and Acts of Violence Against Individuals Based on Their Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

 

“It is essential for policymakers and gatekeepers to have a dialogue with civil society on this issue,” says Tendai Thondhlana, spokesperson for African Men for Sexual Health and Rights (Amsher), based in Johannesburg. “In some countries, governments say violence against sexual minorities doesn’t exist. It is up to us to show them the evidence.”

 

South Africa, together with Brazil and Norway, was instrumental in passing a resolution at the UN Human Rights Council in June 2011 that led to the report on the issue.

 

Regional seminars were then held all over the world that fed into the International Conference on Human Rights and Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Oslo in April 2013. But none were held in Africa.

 

No meeting

In March this year, South Africa’s minister of international relations and co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, told the UN Human Rights Council that the meeting would be held before the end of June this year, but this has not happened.

 

The international relations and co-operation department’s spokesperson, Nelson Kgwete, responding to written questions from the Mail & Guardian, says: “South Africa is planning to hold the African regional seminar focusing on finding practical solutions for violence and discrimination against persons based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

 

“The objective thereof will be to facilitate an open and constructive dialogue on the issue of discrimination and acts of violence against individuals … and generate greater understanding on the root causes of these challenges. It is key to note that the objective of the seminar is not to create new or special rights.”

 

Kgwete denies that South Africa is succumbing to pressure from other African countries where anti-homosexual laws are in place.

 

“South Africa remains a sovereign and democratic state, founded on values of, among others, human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms, nonracialism and nonsexism.

 

“South Africa conceived and initiated the idea of the regional seminar without pressure from any country, both inside and outside of the African continent,” says Kgwete.

 

Pepe Julien Onziema, programme director at Sexual Minorities Uganda, told the M&G telephonically that organisations on the continent understand that, in the current climate, there is a lot of pressure on South Africa in the UN Human Rights Council and in the African Union. South Africa also wants to play an important role in issues of trade and security on the continent, he said, but it needs to stick to its prior commitments.

 

“South Africa at this point needs to take a stand because it has for many years now had laws protecting sexual minorities and has led the process in the past,” he said.

 

Rights organisation Amsher, together with the Coalition for African Lesbians, said in a statement that, even if not all African states attend the planned seminar, it should go ahead: “The worsening hostility and increasing violence against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression demands accountability,” they said.

 

In April this year, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights – an organ of the African Union – passed a resolution on ending violence against Africans based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, which was seen as a step in the right direction by human rights groups.

 

By Liesl Louw-Vaudran

8 august 2014

http://mg.co.za/article/2014-08-07-pressure-on-sa-to-host-talks-to-end-gay-persecution/

Young people demand sexual and reproductive health rights

Young-people_feature-634x252

The first time Alfred went to a HIV voluntary testing centre, the healthcare provider did not treat him well. As a gay man, his story is not so rare.

“He [healthcare worker] asked me are you a man or a woman? I answered I am a man. Then he asked me about my parents,” said Alfred, who lives on the Caribbean island of Saint Lucia.

“He just looked at me and treated me as if I was a disgrace to my parents. I decided not to go to the health centre after that. Because I do not want to go to a place where I am judged based on my sexual orientation. I am gay and I have sex. So what? ”

Challenges for youth to accessing sexual and reproductive health

Key populations in the HIV epidemic, such as men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgender people, have the same sexual and reproductive health rights as anyone else— the right to have sexual relations free from coercion, to have children and to protect themselves from infection.

Last week’s International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia was an opportunity for young people, especially youth from key populations, including young people living with HIV, to discuss the barriers and challenges they face in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.

During a session moderated by the Athena Network and the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, one young panelist Violet Lindiwe, 23, from Malawi, said: “In my community, when you attend HIV testing and family planning, healthcare professionals are likely to judge you because they think you misbehaved and that’s why you are there.”

Myo Minn Htet, a young man from Indonesia, added: “Culture and religious beliefs make it very difficult to talk about sex and to go to sexual and reproductive health services. Moreover discrimination against young key populations make their access to these services more difficult.”

The legal age to attend health centres is also one of the barriers identified by young people. Annie Zamina from Malawi said: “In my country though the legal age to have sex is 16, you cannot go a clinic and ask for contraceptive pills without your parents’ approval. It seems that while the law says you’re old enough to have sex, you are still too young to use contraception or to protect yourself from HIV.”

young-people_inpost

Young people vulnerable to HIV infection and unwanted pregnancies

According to the UN, globally young people account for 40% of all new HIV infections. Each day, more than 2,400 young people become infected with HIV, and some 5 million young people aged 15–24 live with HIV.

Apart from HIV infection, poor access to sexual and reproductive health and sex education opens the door to many other consequences, such as unintended pregnancies and dropping out of school.

Violet said: “When you listen to me, you may think I have a PhD but in fact, I stopped school when I became pregnant. I have to care for me and my son now. And this is what happens to young women in my community when they get pregnant when still students.”

Integrated services

According to the World Health Organization, linking sexual and reproductive health with HIV services is an approach that has the potential to increase universal access to prevention, treatment, and care services.

This is what Link Up— a programme to improve the sexual and reproductive health and rights of young people—is trying to achieve. The project works with young people living with and affected by HIV in Bangladesh, Burundi, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and Uganda and is implemented by a consortium of organisations, including the International HIV/Aids Alliance, Global Youth Coalition against Aids, and the Athena Network.

Sexual and reproductive health rights

Reproductive rights only become tangible when reproductive health services that offer a high quality of care are made widely available. Availability includes both affordability and easy access, which also implies a range of services under one roof.

Like Alfred, Rebeccah, a young woman living with HIV from Zimbabwe, was also treated badly the first time she went to a clinic to receive counselling about contraception. She said: “The nurse said she was surprised I was still having sex considering my ‘condition’. And she told me I should abstain from sex since I am HIV positive. I cried a lot in her office and decided not to go to that clinic anymore.”

But Rebeccah, like many other young people, is now getting to grips with her rights. “As a young woman living with HIV, I am sexually active and I have the right to go a clinic for family planning services,” she said. “My status should not be an argument to be denied this service. And I really hope people should not use our status, our sexual orientation or sex work as argument to deny access to healthcare because we need, no, we demand access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services.”

Nina Benedicte Kouassi is a member of the Key Correspondents network, which focuses on marginalised groups affected by HIV to report the health and human rights stories that matter to them. The network is supported by the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.

Feature image credit: Sheikh Rajibul Islam/International HIV/AIDS Alliance

In-post image credit: Julie Mellin/GYCA

By Nina B. Kouassi

30 July 2014

Source: http://stayingalivefoundation.org/blog/2014/07/young-people-demand-their-sexual-and-reproductive-health-rights/

Uganda anti-gay law declared ‘null and void’ by constitutional court

Members of Uganda's gay community reacts as the anti-gay law is declared null and void

Judges strike down legislation on a technicality, but activists say homosexuality remains criminal offence under colonial-era laws.

 

Gay rights campaigners in Uganda and around the world are celebrating a decision by the country's constitutional court to strike down a widely condemned anti-gay law on a legal technicality.

 

Activists in the courtroom cheered after a panel of five judges ruled on Friday that the speaker of parliament acted illegally when she allowed a vote on the measure despite at least three objections that not enough MPs were in attendance.

 

"The speaker was obliged to ensure that there was quorum," the court said in its ruling. "We come to the conclusion that she acted illegally."

 

While celebrating the ruling, activists warned that homosexuality remained a criminal offence in the east African country under colonial-era laws.

 

The fiercely controversial statute represented a dramatic toughening of the penalties. It banned the "promotion of homosexuality" and enabled life sentences to be imposed for various same-sex acts, including touching in public or living in a same-sex marriage. Activists also warned the state could appeal against the ruling in the supreme court and legislators might try to reintroduce new anti-gay measures.

 

President Barack Obama described the legislation as "a step backward for all Ugandans", and several donors suspended aid. But Uganda's president, Yoweri Museveni, signed it into law in February, watched by cheering crowds. Asked about homosexuality on CNN, Museveni said: "They're disgusting. What sort of people are they? I never knew what they were doing. I've been told recently that what they do is terrible. Disgusting."

 

The challenge to the law was brought by 10 petitioners, including academics, journalists, both ruling party and opposition MPs, human rights activists and rights groups. They claimed that it violated the constitutional right to privacy and dignity, as well as the right to be free from discrimination and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

 

Friday's ruling was made in a courtroom packed with opponents and supporters of the measure. Among those present was Frank Mugisha, director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, who said: "We welcome this ruling and Uganda's lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community can celebrate a small victory against oppression.

 

"However, we are disappointed that the case was not heard on its true merits. The truth is that not only is the anti-homosexuality act persecutory, it is also unconstitutional and illegitimate. This law has no place in our society, which values dignity, privacy and equality for all our citizens. Until the act has been dismissed on the substance of our arguments, we cannot rest easy."

 

Ugandan lawyer Ladislaus Rwakafuuzi, a lawyer representing the activists, said the ruling "upholds the rule of law and constitutionalism in Uganda".

 

Homophobia is widespread in the socially conservative country, where American evangelical Christian groups have been accused of fuelling prejudice. The legislation was seen as a political ploy by Museveni to shore up support before elections in 2016, which will be his 30th year in power.

 

The court's intervention allows him to blame others for its defeat while also placating western donors, who were reluctant to punish a military ally.

 

Outspoken anti-gay preacher Martin Ssempa had suggested that the petition was being pushed to mend Uganda's international reputation before Museveni travels to Washington next week to meet Obama at a landmark US-Africa summit. "There are efforts … to drum up a legal precedent to try to show [Washington] that, 'Hey, we are not that bad on homosexuality,'" Ssempa told Agence France-Presse this week.

 

The US last month froze some aid programmes, as well as cancelling military air exercises and barring entry to the US for specific Ugandan officials involved in "human rights abuses", including against the gay community.

 

Rights groups claimed that the law had led to a sharp increase in arrests and assaults on members of the gay and lesbian community. Its annulment was welcomed by the Human Dignity Trust, an organisation of international human rights lawyers challenging anti-gay laws across the world.

 

Jonathan Cooper, its chief executive, said: "It's a fantastic victory for the rule of law. That Uganda's gay and lesbian community has won a reprieve today from the oppression of the loathsome anti-homosexuality act, we can only celebrate.

 

"The brilliance and determination of the activists who have pursued this challenge serve as an inspiration to us all. It is also heartening to know that the rule of law has prevailed and politicians are shown not to be above the procedures that govern them.

 

"However, this is but a temporary fix; the fight is far from over. The international community must seize this opportunity to support Ugandan's gay and lesbian citizens in their battle for the basic freedom from persecution. Now the act has gone, we must do all we can to stop it coming back. Uganda's constitution – which protects citizens' rights to privacy and dignity – must be for all Ugandans."

 

Dr Paul Semugoma, a Ugandan gay rights activist based in South Africa, said: "I am over the moon. Very happy. But we have had legal victories before. It was struck down on a technicality. It may return.

 

"In Uganda, homophobia is such an inherent part of culture now that opportunistic politicians are likely to bring it back. They would pass it."

 

Sarah Jackson, deputy regional director of Amnesty International, said: "Even though Uganda's abominable anti-homosexuality act was scrapped on the basis of a technicality, it is a significant victory for Ugandan activists who have campaigned against this law.

 

"Since it was first being floated in 2009, these activists have often put their safety on the line to ensure that Ugandan law upholds human rights principles.

 

"We now hope that this step forward translates into real improvements in the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda, who have been trapped in a vicious circle of discrimination, threats, abuse and injustice for too long."

 

Kosiya Kasibayo, a state attorney, said that a decision had not been made on whether to appeal against the ruling in the supreme court.

 

By David Smith

1 August 2014

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/01/uganda-anti-gay-law-null-and-void

Uganda: Anti-Gay Petition – Court Rules Today

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The Constitutional court is today expected to rule whether to strike down or uphold the Anti-Homosexuality Act, derided by the West but hugely popular in Uganda.

 

The petitioners include Prof Joe Oloka-Onyango, MP Fox Odoi-Oywelowo, Andrew Mujuni Mwenda, Prof Morris Ogenga Latigo, Dr Paul Nsubuga Semugooma, Jacqueline Kasha Nabagesera, Julian Pepe Onzimema, Frank Mugisha and the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum. In their March 2014 petition, they claim the anti-homosexuality law, passed by Parliament on December 20, 2013, is "draconian" and "unconstitutional."

 

On Wednesday, the petition came up for hearing before Justices Steven Kavuma, Solomy Balungi Bossa, Augustine Nshimye, Eldad Mwangusya, and Rubby Opio Aweri.

 

No quorum?

Nicholas Opiyo, one of the petitioners' lawyers, said the law was illegal because Parliament passed it without quorum. He argued that passing a law without quorum contravened rule 23 of the parliamentary rules of procedure, and Articles 2(1) & (2), 88 and 94(1) of the Constitution.

 

Opiyo said on the day the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed, Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi warned Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga about the lack of quorum.

 

"The rules of Parliament provide that once it's brought to the attention of the speaker that there is no quorum, he/she should stand over the session such that a count is done and if it's found that indeed there's no quorum the session is adjourned. But the speaker did none of the above," he said.

 

Caleb Alaka, another lawyer for the petitioners, said on the day the law was passed, Hatwib Katoto, the Katerera MP, asked Mbabazi why he was opposing the law's passage yet many laws had been passed without quorum.

 

"My lord, here is a member of Parliament saying that it's normal for the Parliament of Uganda to pass laws illegally. The Hansard will bear us out on this one," Alaka said.

 

No evidence:

In reply, Principal State Attorney Patricia Mutesi asked court to dismiss the petition. Mutesi contended that the petitioners had failed to adduce evidence that there was no quorum when the act was passed."It's very clear that this is a matter of fact; so, it requires evidence. When an allegation of fact is made, it requires evidence to support it, which has not been done," she said. Mutesi agreed with petitioners that Kadaga did not ascertain if there was quorum but she insisted that it could not be a ground to nullify the act.

 

"In the circumstances, it would be unfair for this honourable court to find that there was no quorum since it has not been proved that there was no quorum. What has been produced is just a Hansard which doesn't show how many MPs were in the session that day…They should have produced a register," she said.

 

Mutesi contended that the court could not interpret Articles 21, 22, 88 and 94, as requested by the petitioners, in the absence of evidence to prove the alleged lack of quorum.

 

"We conclude that, for this court to come to the conclusion that there was no quorum, it would be speculation. Even failure to ascertain whether there was no quorum cannot imply that there was no quorum," she concluded.

 

However, Alaka maintained that the act should be nullified since Kadaga flouted rule 23 of parliamentary rules and procedure. The rule requires that before the speaker puts an issue to a vote, she must first ascertain whether there's quorum or not.

 

When President Museveni assented to the act in February, angry donors withdrew their aid, citing a violation of individuals' rights.

 

By Derrick Kiyonga

1 August 2014

Source: http://allafrica.com/stories/201408010223.html

Standing together: Reproductive Rights and LGBTQ Rights

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By Jimmy Radosta, Special to PQ Monthly

In the 45 years since the Stonewall riots — where the modern LGBTQ movement was born —we’ve seen extraordinary progress on LGBTQ rights in this country, including last year’s historic ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act and 2011’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Here in Oregon we finally achieved marriage equality in May, and we’re one of only five states that have affirmed that transition care for transgender individuals should be considered an essential part of medical coverage.

This progress is rooted in the same principles that underlie reproductive rights: that politicians should not get to decide what you do with your body or what your family looks like, and that rights in this country should not depend on the state you live in.

We at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon believe that reproductive rights are deeply connected to civil rights for all Americans. We have long stood with LGBTQ people in the struggle for full equality — many of whom turn to Planned Parenthood for health care, information and education.

Members of the LGBTQ community face greater obstacles to obtaining and benefiting from sexual and reproductive health services than non-LGBTQ people. In addition to high rates of stress due to systematic harassment and discrimination — which has been shown to affect physical and mental health — LGBTQ people face low rates of health insurance coverage, high rates of HIV/AIDS and cancer, and high rates of discrimination from medical providers. LGBTQ people of color are at an even higher risk for these disparities.

This is why Planned Parenthood health centers throughout Oregon welcome LGBTQ patients for STD testing and treatment, lifesaving cancer screenings, and other preventive services. Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette’s “Equal Access Fund” helps provide gynecological exams for women and trans men who aren’t covered by state pregnancy-prevention funding but meet the same economic requirements.

Planned Parenthood also delivers sex education that covers the full range of topics affecting sexual health, and we provide sensitive and accurate information on sexual orientation and gender identity to Oregonians of all ages every day. Oregon is one of only 12 states to require its sexual health curriculum to be medically accurate. This means that, in the rest of the country, young people are receiving false information about birth control’s effectiveness and the right way to prevent STDs.

While this country has seen significant strides in the LGBTQ movement in recent years, there is still work to be done. This year Oregonians faced the possibility of a ballot measure that could have allowed corporations to deny services to same-sex couples. Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this month on a lawsuit that could allow corporations like Hobby Lobby to deny their employees insurance coverage for birth control because of their personal beliefs. This could create a slippery slope and let bosses deny a whole host of other medical procedures based on their own personal beliefs – such as vaccines, surgeries, blood transfusions and mental health care. The bottom line is this: When secular, for-profit corporations hire and serve the general public, they shouldn’t get to pick and choose which laws to follow. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon vows continued support for any future legislative efforts that will allow for greater access to health care and information for the LGBTQ community in our state.

At Planned Parenthood, we realize that our incredible patients and supporters don’t comprise any one identity, and we’re grateful for the many volunteers, staff and supporters of all genders and identities who work every day to ensure that Oregonians get the health care and information they need.

This year, 45 years after the birth of the modern LGBTQ movement at Stonewall, we are committed now more than ever to fighting for LGBTQ rights. We know the only way we can move forward — all of us together — is by standing side by side.

Jimmy Radosta is the Communications Director for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon. For more information visit PPAOregon.org.

 

Source: http://www.pqmonthly.com/standing-together-reproductive-rights-lgbtq-rights/19898

Zuma appoints first lesbian to cabinet

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President Jacob Zuma, has appointed the country’s first openly gay cabinet minister, a move thought also to be a first in Africa and a symbolic step on a continent enduring a homophobic backlash.

Lynne Brown becomes the public enterprises minister in a cabinet that includes South Africa‘s first black minister of finance.

Brown, 52, who is coloured (of mixed race ancestry), was born in Cape Town and was premier of Western Cape until the African National Congress (ANC) lost control of the province to the opposition Democratic Alliance in 2009.

According to a 2008 profile of her by the South African Press Association, she began her career as a teacher and gained a certificate in gender planning methodology at University College London. “I can’t bear working in an environment where things don’t get done,” she was quoted as saying. “I’m not a flamboyant type of person; I get things done.”

Her personal interests were said to be playing golf, reading and “an admiration of arts and culture”.

She is not seen as a gay rights activist but her ascent to a cabinet post was described on Monday as a significant moment.

Eusebius McKaiser, a broadcaster and political author, who is gay, said: “It is, sadly, probably newsworthy, I guess, insofar as the social impact of openly gay people in high-profile public leadership positions cannot be discounted in a country like South Africa where levels of homophobia, including violence against black lesbian women, remain rife.

“The symbolism matters from an African perspective, too, given other countries around us are enacting and enforcing laws criminalising same-sex sex and lifestyles.”

Steven Friedman, director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, said: “I think it’s worth drawing attention to. She’s not a gay rights campaigner – it’s not recognition in that sense – but the fact that under the most socially conservative president since 1994 there is the first openly gay minister in such a position is significant.”

South Africa was the first African country to legalise gay marriage but Zuma, a traditional Zulu polygamist, has been criticised for culturally fundamentalist remarks and failing to condemn anti-gay crackdowns in Nigeria and Uganda.

Asked by the Guardian in 2012 about his views on same-sex marriage, the president replied: “That does not necessarily require my view, it requires the views of South Africans. We have a constitution that is very clear that we all respect, which I respect. It has a view on that one, that gay marriage is a constitutionally accepted thing in South Africa. So, no matter what my views would be.”

Zuma, 72, who was inaugurated on Saturday for a second term, named Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister, the first black person to hold the position. Nene, 55, had served as deputy to the widely respected Pravin Gordhan, who is of Indian ancestry.

Nene, whose first name means “luck” in Zulu, is a former parliamentarian and chair of the finance portfolio committee. He spent 15 years at the insurance firm MetLife, where he was a regional administrative manager and where, during racial apartheid, he organised the country’s first strike in the financial sector. Razia Khan, Africa’s regional head of research for Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Nene is an old hand at the treasury. He will be seen to represent policy continuity.”

Cyril Ramaphosa, a former miners’ union leader turned billionaire businessman, becomes deputy president. But Friedman suggested he was far from certain to succeed Zuma. “That’s far more complicated. He doesn’t like taking political risks. The succession may revolve around some regional issues. KwaZulu-Natal is the biggest province and they’re pushing to choose the next president. I don’t think the other provinces will be keen on that.”

After a punishing five-month strike in the platinum mines, the mineral resources minister, Susan Shabangu, was removed.

The police minister, Nathi Mthethwa, who was in office during the killing of 34 striking miners at Marikana in 2012, was also shifted from his post.

By David Smith © Guardian News and Media 2014

Image – Lynne Brown (Gallo)

Source: http://women.mg.co.za/zuma-appoints-first-openly-gay-cabinet-minister/