Photograph: Reuters/Eldson Chagara
Support Amnesty’s Malawi campaign
Fax and post letters to the Malawi government
Call for release of Steven Monjeza & Tiwonge Chimbalanga
London, UK – 11 March 2010
OutRage! is backing Amnesty International’s appeal for letters of protest to the Malawian government over the arrest and trial of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga. They face up to 14 years jail on charges of homosexuality. The verdict in their trial is expected on Monday 22 March.
See this sample letter, and the postal address and fax number of the Malawian President and Attorney General:
Amnesty International has adopted the two men as Prisoners of Conscience and is campaigning for their release.
“OutRage! is supporting Amnesty’s campaign. If enough people send letters of protest, it might help secure an acquittal or a less harsh sentence. Even if Tiwonge and Steven are convicted, they could win a successful appeal and be freed eventually,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!
“From their prison cells, both men have urged international pressure for their release. They need lots of support and solidarity in the run-up to the trial result. Please take time to support Amnesty’s letter-writing campaign,” he said.
Amnesty International UK Director, Kate Allen, added:
“Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga have committed no criminal offence and we adopted them as prisoners of conscience after their arrest at the end of December. It is vital that as many people as possible join us in writing to the Malawi authorities calling on them to release the two men and for them to investigate their treatment in custody.”
See this Amnesty International briefing on the case:
Call for participants:
Legislating LGBTQ, a conference on Anti-Discrimination Law
To coincide with the Spanish EU Presidency, and in the context of the important discussions taking place around the proposed horizontal Anti-Discrimination Directive among EU Member States, we feel that this is a prime opportunity to meet in Spain for a conference focusing on Anti-Discrimination legislations. IGLYO aims with it to empower young LGBTQ activists to be part of high-level decision-making.
The Conference is organized in collaboration with Bolo-Bolo, the regional branch of FELGTB, the State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals and Bisexuals of Spain, and will be held in the Castle of San Servando, Toledo, from May 30th (Sunday) to June 4th 2010 (Friday).
Some of its main objectives are:
• Studying current anti-discrimination legislations and discuss their strengths and limitations in order to afford protection to LGBTQ young people, based on case studies ;
• Train activists to ’win the argument’ for anti-discrimination legislation at a local and national level;
• Explore methods of engaging with policy-making processes at a national and international level;
• Sharing best practices as well as creating a network of activists;
• Planning future actions and supervision of the implementation process.
Please if you are interested, read thoroughly the full call here.
You can find the online Application Form Click here!
Deadline for receiving applications 24th March 2010.
Candidates will be notified by the 1st April 2010.
UK Scouts condemn Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill
World scout movement acts on threat to gays, including scouts
Geneva scout HQ refers concerns to Scout Association of Uganda
London – 1 March 2010
The Chief Executive of the Scout Association UK, Derek Twine, has expressed opposition to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, describing the legislation as “discriminatory” and “incompatible” with scouting values. The Bill has been tabled by David Bahati MP, who is also Chairman of the Scout Association of Uganda.
Mr Twine’s statement (copy in full below) follows representations to the UK and international scout movement by the London-based LGBT human rights organisation, OutRage!
Mr Twine wrote to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, as follows:
“We find the Bill not only discriminatory and contrary to the sanctity of life, but also completely incompatible with our interpretation of the values of our worldwide Scouting Movement.”
“We have already drawn our grave concerns on this to the attention of the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and we are subsequently aware that the issues are now subject both to WOSM’s direct engagement with the Chief Scout of Uganda (Mrs Maggie Kigozi) and to ongoing global consideration by members of the World Scout Committee,” wrote Mr Twine.
This statement from the UK Scout Association follows simultaneous direct representations by OutRage! to the World Organisation of the Scout Movement in Geneva.
“At our request, the world scout headquarters has written to the Chief Scout and the Chief Commissioner of the Uganda Scout Association concerning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the sponsorship of this Bill by the Chairman of the Uganda Scout Association, David Bahati MP,” reports Peter Tatchell of OutRage!
“This swift action followed our protests against Mr Bahati to the Scout Association UK.
“Scouting is very big in Uganda and Mr Bahati derives great prestige from his position as Chairman of the Scout Association of Uganda. If we can get him removed from office it will be a significant personal blow to him. He’ll be weakened and his credibility undermined.
“OutRage! is urging the disaffiliation of the Ugandan scout organisation from the world scouting movement, as a way of adding further pressure on the Ugandan government to drop the Bill.
“Our request for disaffiliation was immediately forwarded by the Scout Association UK to the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM) in Geneva.
“OutRage!’s actions are an attempt to open up a new front in the campaign against the Bill and to graphically expose the full ramifications of the proposed legislation on youth and civic organisations in Uganda, which have received little coverage so far.
“By highlighting the particular threat to LGBT scout members, we are not detracting in any way from the wider issues and consequences of Mr Bahati’s draconian legislation.
“LGBT scouts and scout leaders are, of course, only one section of the Ugandan LGBT community. All Ugandan LGBTs are at risk if this Bill becomes law. We are concerned about the danger to them all – and the threat to their straight families, friends, supporters and allies,” said Mr Tatchell.
OutRage!’s appeal to WOSM for international scout action is being handled by Jim Sharp, Executive Director, General Management, World Scout Bureau, 5 rue du Pré-Jérôme, CH-1205 Geneva, Switzerland.
Tel: (+41.22) 705 10 10 (switchboard)
Fax: (+41.22) 705 10 20
OutRage!’s appeal to the UK Scout Association is being addressed by Derek Twine, Chief Executive
Tel: 07889 130 812 (from within the UK) and +44 (0) 7889 130 812 (from overseas). Or 020 8433 7107 or 7261 (from within the UK)
Full statement by the Scout Association UK
Since the mid-1990s, The Scout Association has been clear and unequivocal in our equal opportunities policy and practice especially regarding sexual orientation, as befitting our role in contemporary society.
We are recently aware that the Ugandan Parliament has received a Bill that calls for the death sentence for repeat practicing of homosexuality. This Bill is presented by a Ugandan MP (David Bahati) who is also currently the National Chairman of the Uganda Scout Association. In terms of our own policies and understandings, we find the Bill not only discriminatory and contrary to the sanctity of life, but also completely incompatible with our interpretation of the values of our worldwide Scouting Movement.
We have already drawn our grave concerns on this to the attention of the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and we are subsequently aware that the issues are now subject both to WOSM’s direct engagement with the Chief Scout of Uganda (Mrs Maggie Kigozi) and to ongoing global consideration by members of the World Scout Committee.
We hope that the bilateral and very positive educational and solidarity projects that have been fostered for many years between Scout Groups in the UK and Scout Groups in Uganda on such matters as health and community development will not be prejudiced or compromised by this situation; we await the formal and public response from the Scout Association of Uganda and from WOSM, whereupon we will review our position.
Derek Twine Chief Executive
07889 130 812 (from within the UK) and +44 (0) 7889 130 812 (from overseas). Or 020 8433 7107 or 7261 (from within the UK)
- Gay Scouts May Face Death Penalty in Uganda – Execution of Gays Proposed by Ugandan Scout Leader – By Peter Tatchell
- World Scout Movement Acts on Uganda – Geneva HQ Refers Concerns to Scout Movement of Uganda – By Peter Tatchell
- Execute Gay Scouts, Says Uganda Chief Scout – Scout Children to Be Hanged Under Proposed Law – By Peter Tatchell
Homophobia in Russia: Eurovision Protest 2009
An opponent of the rights of LGBT people wants to close the gap between Russian and International laws.
Sent by Nicolas Alexeyev.
A Member of the Federation Council of Russia – the Upper-Chamber of the Parliament – Vasily Likhachev, known for his sharp rejection of the civil rights of sexual minorities, was appointed Deputy Minister of Justice.
As reported Gazeta.ru on February 27, the main point in his agenda will be to close the gap between the Russian and the International laws.
But when it comes to LGBT rights the new Deputy Minister of Justice is well known for a series of homophobic remarks.
Just two days before his appointment, Mr Likhachev publicly justified the denial by the Ministry of Justice to register ‘Marriage Equality Russia’, a gay group advocating for same-sex marriage:
“The steps taken by the representatives of the gay community, contradict with the general state of morality of the Russian society because it is not our culture and our form of relations”
In 2006, Mr Likhachev called to use any way to stop the process of family rights of same-sex couple “Already in 7 countries of the European Union, homosexuals are allowed to adopt children. The number of countries where same-sex marriages are permitted continues to grow, that’s why in questions concerning gays, there shouldn’t be maximum permissiveness otherwise, we will go too far and the development of the world will go in the wrong direction”
He further defended the ban of a gay pride in Moscow, arguing that “Minority affects the interests of the majority. City authorities are absolutely right that they did not follow the interest of sexual minorities. There could not be any other discussion here”
A similar position that Mr Likhachev repeated a year later in 2007: The society should not abide by the desires of sexual minorities because homosexuals touch the interest of the majority of the people of traditional orientation,
“The respect of human rights must not violate the moral and ethic. And if such a violation occurs, the authorities must apply the relevant laws to prevent it”
Commenting about the appointment of Mr Likhachev, Nikolai Baev, a co-organizer of Moscow Pride said:
“The new Deputy Minister of Justice does not consider the rights of homosexuals to depend on the constitution or the law of this country,
“Moral, ethic and the interest of the majority of the population is sufficient in his eyes to discriminate against us” said Nikolai Baev.
Gay activist further expressed concerns about the future of registering LGBT groups as non-profit organization in the country.
“The Ministry of Justice denied so far to register any NGO which would officially advocate for the rights of gays and lesbians, but, with the appointment of Mr Likhachev we doubt the trend will reverse”
“The only solution is to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights but this process takes years” ended Nikolai Baev.
Religious and Nationalist Groups call for the ban of St Petersburg Pride
Sent by Nicolas Alexeyev
Extracts of a letter addressed to the Governor of the City.
A group of Religious and Nationalist organizations sent a common letter to the Governor of St Petersburg, Valentina Matvienko, asking her to prohibit any gay pride march in the city.
The letter of which ‘rusk.ru’ received a copy says:
“We are categorically against holding any public events, which in any way present a propaganda of sexual perversions.
“Any parade is a demonstration – demonstration is a form of propaganda. As a result, a gay pride is a propaganda of homosexuality.
“Love between a man and a woman exists only for one purpose – to give birth to a new life but gay pride is the propaganda of death”
“But why does no one remember that holding these actions grossly violates the right of the majority and is doubtful from the point of moral action?
“After all, for the majority of our country and, in particular, for our city, homosexuality is an unacceptable deviation from the norm, a moral rejection and a disgust.
“We are constantly told that democracy is the government of majority, but it turns out that the interests of the majority would be sacrificed to a handful of people with unnatural sexual orientation”
The statement is signed by several nationalists and religious groups among them “Intellectuals of the Orthodox Church; Russian Imperial Movement; Movement “For Faith and Fatherland”, “People’s Cathedral”, “Imperial Russia Union”.
The first official gay pride in St Petersburg is scheduled on June 26.
Eight transgenders join UML Party
Sent by Sunil Pant
KATHMANDU: Political parties in Nepal seem to be getting friendly and welcoming with sexual minorities in recent days. A few months after Bhumika Shreshta, a transsexual, joined the Nepali Congress, the ruling CPN-UML welcomed eight sexual minorities in. UML Vice Chairman Ashok Rai welcomed them amid a function at party headquarters in Balkhu on Friday. Rai said they would be recognised as zonal committee members. Newly joined UML activists include Sandhya Lama, Badri Pun, Suman Chepang, Bishnu Chepang, Sumit Paudel, Raju Silwal and Sthapa Chaudhary. “We are quite happy with your entry into our party,” said Aasta Laxmi Shakya, a UML politburo member. “Your entry will be easier in mainstreaming your agenda as well.” UML leaders KP Sharma Oli, Binda Paney and Rai were also present at the function.
Russia denied registering a Gay Group campaigning for Marriage Equality
Sent by Nicolas Alexeyev
The Russian Ministry of Justice turned down the application of a group of gay and lesbian activists to register the first All Russia NGO dedicated to support the campaign for Same-Sex Marriage.
“Your organization cannot be registered on the basis that its aims contradict the law on NGOs and provisions of the family code which define marriage as a union between a man and a woman“ says the letter received by the board of the organization.
The board said today that “we asked today the Russian justice to reverse this illegal decision, and we will go all the way up the European Court of Human Rights if necessary”
‘Marriage Equality Russia’ is backed by a group of Moscow and St Petersburg LGBT groups as well as individuals, also heterosexuals.
The campaign is already running since last May when the group helped a lesbian couple to register their union in Moscow. After getting a denial from the Civil Registrar, the couple entered into Marriage last October in Toronto.
The couple is about to introduce an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights after the Russian justice twice upheld the denial.
One of the spouses, Irina Fedotova (Fet), a board member of ‘Marriage Equality Russia’ said about her participation in the organization:
“This campaign is not only about my marriage with Irina. We want to bring our contribution to help opening the way to marriage to other gays and lesbians and not only in Russia”.
Nikolai Alekseev, spokesman for ‘Marriage Equality Russia’ said:
“Russia is a country where you cannot hold a march in the streets if you openly advertize it as gay, and this is the same with registering an openly gay organization”
“We could probably succeed in registering a NGO and remain discreet on its aim or organize a march without applying it as a gay march, but there is simply no sense in staying in the closet. Only the fight for visibility gets you in the media and help with time to make more people open about us.”
“Knocking at each door in secret and quietly explain what is homosexuality is not going to take us anywhere in a country of 141 million”
Last October, a group of UN experts found that discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation is “systematic”.
Marriage Equality Russia
‘Protest the Pope’ Downing Street Petition launched
Gordon Brown urged to disassociate the government from Pope’s views
Already over 3,000 signatures
London – 22 February 2010
A Downing Street petition has been launched, urging Prime Minister Gordon Brown to “disassociate the British government from the Pope’s intolerant views.”
The petition has been launched ahead of the Papal visit to Britain in September this year. It has been submitted by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and has already attracted over 3,000 signatures.
View the petition here:
Note: only UK residents with a UK address are eligible to sign the petition
A petition by Mr Tatchell on the same subject last year was refused inclusion on the Downing Street website.
“The Pope opposes universal human rights. He rejects equality for women and gay people, condemns the use of life-saving condoms, colludes with Holocaust appeasers and he is implicated in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic priests,” said Mr Tatchell.
“A man with such objectionable views should not be honoured with an official State Visit. If he wants to come to Britain, he should pay his own way. The public should not be expected to cover the estimated £20 million cost. This money would be far better spent on schools and hospitals,” added Mr Tatchell.
The petition reads:
“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to disassociate the British government from the Pope’s intolerant views ahead of the Papal visit to Britain in September 2010. We urge the Prime Minister to make it clear that his government disagrees with the Pope’s opposition to women’s reproductive rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV. We ask the Prime Minister to express his disagreement with the Pope’s role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy, his rehabilitation of the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and his decree paving the way for the beatification and sainthood of the war-time Pope, Pius XII, who stands accused of failing to speak out against the Holocaust. We also request the Prime Minister to assure us that the Pope’s visit will not be financed by the British taxpayer.”
Peter Tatchell has criticised at length the Pope Benedict XVI’s “illiberal” and “often extreme” stance on key social issues:
“The Pope is an opponent of women’s rights. He not only opposes the right of women to choose to have an abortion but also their right to contraception, which can help reduce the abortion rate,” said Mr Tatchell.
“He opposes women’s access to IVF fertility treatment, to give childless couples the chance of parenthood.
“The Pope supports gender discrimination, including a ban on women priests and bishops, and he wants the Catholic Church to be exempt from equality and anti-discrimination laws that apply to everyone else.
“He has sought to block potentially life-saving embryonic stem cell research, and he rejects the right of suffering, terminally ill people to die with dignity at a moment of the their own free choice.
“Pope Benedict denounces the use of condoms, even to stop the spread of HIV, and he has falsely claimed that condom usage “increases” the rate of HIV infection. His teachings put millions of lives at risk.
See The Independent, 27 March 2009:
“He has acquiesced with the Vatican’s lie that condoms spread HIV and that the virus can pass through the latex (sic). This outrageous falsehood has been condemned as untrue and irresponsible by the World Health Organisation and Christian Aid.
See the BBC website, 9 October 2003:
“He rejects legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, and their full protection in law against homophobic and transphobic discrimination
“The Pope has approved the Catholic Catechism, which condemns same-sex relationships as a “grave depravity,” “intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.”
See The Vatican website, Catechism 2357:
“In 1992, he authored a Vatican document that condemned homosexuality as an “objective disorder” and a “strong tendency ordered towards an intrinsic moral evil.” Rejecting the concept of gay human rights, the document asserted that there is no “right” to laws protecting homosexual people against discrimination, suggesting that the civil liberties of lesbians and gay men can be “legitimately limited for objectively disordered external conduct.”
See in full the Vatican document – Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons:
“The Pope has attacked same-sex marriages as “evil” and vilified supporters of gay equality as “gravely immoral.” He has also vilified homosexual equality as a “deviant trend” and condemned same-sex love as being “without any social value.”
“Pope Benedict colludes with anti-semitism, including with holocaust deniers and with Catholic leaders who were complicit with the Nazi regime.
“He rescinded the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson who, in 2008, denied key elements of the Holocaust with claims that a maximum of 300,000 Jews died in concentration camps and that none were gassed by the Nazis.
See the BBC website, 4 February 2009:
“He has also paved the way for the beatification and eventual sainthood of Pope Pius XII by issuing a decree in 2009 celebrating his virtues, despite the war-time pontiff’s 1933 Concordat with Adolf Hitler and his silence concerning the Nazi mass murder of six million Jews.
See The Guardian, 22 December 2009:
“While condemning loving, consenting adult same-sex relations, the Pope helped shield from prosecution Catholic clergy guilty of child sex abuse. He colluded with the cover up of their crimes and with the policy of relocating paedophile priests to other parishes, where they often went on to commit further sexual abuse, as revealed in the 2006 BBC Panorama programme, Sex crimes and the Vatican.
See the Evening Standard, 30 September 2006:
and see BBC Panorama 1 October 2006:
“Pope Benedict is complicit with human rights abuses and should not be accorded the honour of a State Visit to Britain,” said Mr Tatchell.
In the coastal town of Mtwapa in Kenya’s Kilifi district, media hysteria and outrage by clerics over a non-existent gay wedding whipped up mob violence that began on February 12, unleashing a house-to-house witch hunt by anti-gay vigilantes, street attacks targeting gay men, the sacking of an AIDS-fighting medical center, and a widening wave of ultra-homophobic national media coverage.
Many gay men have gone into hiding or fled the area.
From Nairobi, the nation’s capital, Denis Nzioka, a prominent 24-year-old gay activist, told Gay City News, “Ever since the outburst of violence in Mtwapa, gay people have had to fear for their lives. Vigilante groups are hunting down gay men, going door to door, and anyone who is overly flamboyant is attacked in the street.”
According to an internal report jointly prepared by on-scene representatives of both the leading Kenyan queer group, the two-year-old Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK), and the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC), a non-governmental organization formed two decades ago, the wave of anti-gay violence had Kafkaesque origins in a false rumor about a gay wedding supposedly planned for February 12.
“There is even a suggestion that it was a planted story,” said the GALCK-KHRC report, adding, “In any case, the most repeated version is that about two weeks ago a well-known and popular gay man in the Mtwapa area went to a barbershop for a haircut. When one of the barbers commented that his hair looked really nice and asked him where was going, he responded jokingly that he was going to get married. However, the barber took it seriously and went to his local mosque and reported that there was a planned gay wedding set for Friday, February 12 in Mtwapa.”
That mosque’s imam then announced the so-called “wedding” to his congregation and instructed his flock to begin monitoring any community gatherings to insure that no gay weddings could take place.
After this, “a local radio station, Kaya FM, picked up the story and started a series of programs on gays,” according to the GALCK-KHRC report, which Nzioka told this reporter included phone-in talk shows filled with homophobic discourse and incitements to violence.
“Kaya FM presents in Swahili and many of the Minikenda languages, and therefore has a real grassroots reach,” the report said, adding, “The main focus of the discussions was the impending ‘wedding’ of two men in Mtwapa. Other local radio stations also picked up the story, including Baraka FM, Rahma FM, and ultimately national radio stations including Kiss and Classic FM.”
Five days before the date of the alleged wedding, “many of the muftis and imams discussed the impending wedding during Friday prayers and asked the community to be vigilant against homosexuals. They told their congregants to demonstrate and to flush out homosexuals from the midst of Mtwapa and to ensure that no gay wedding took place,” the GALCK-KHRC report declared.
Nzioka told this reporter, “Mtwapa is predominantly Muslim, and the imams have a lot of power and influence there.”
Some 60 percent of Kenya’s Muslim population lives in the coastal area where Mtwapa is located. Kenya is roughly 10 percent Muslim, 33 percent Roman Catholic, and 45 percent Protestant, according to the country’s entry in the CIA World Factbook.
As a harbinger of things to come, on the evening of the February 7, following anti-gay preachings in Muslim mosques, a group of young men invaded Kalifornia, the main gay club in Mtwapa, and while dancing warned in the form of a song, “Gays have no joy and this time round they will have no joy or happiness for them.” In the days that followed, calls were heard from rioters to burn down Kalifornia.
On February 11, a homophobic press conference condemning the next day’s purported wedding was held by Sheikh Ali Hussein, regional coordinator of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK), together with Bishop Lawrence Chai, regional representative of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK).
According to a story in the Daily Nation about the press conference, “The clerics claimed that a large number of youths were being recruited into gay clubs and warned that ‘God is about to punish the fastest growing town in the Coast region. Come night, come day, we shall not allow that marriage to be conducted in this town tomorrow. We shall stand firm to flush out gays who throng this town every weekend from all corners of this country,’ the religious leaders said.”
The two clerics “said they had given the government seven days to close down night clubs they accused of fuelling homosexuality in the town,” the Daily Nation reported, adding that the two “asked the government to ‘save the country from the shame of being used to conduct a marriage between people of the same sex.’ They also warned the owner of a building in the town, who was allegedly renting rooms only to homosexuals, to evict them or face their wrath. They gave him a seven-day ultimatum to throw out tenants.”
The two clerics also denounced the Mtwapa clinic run by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), a large national organization with 750 staff members nationwide that runs a research program co-sponsored by Britain’s Oxford University. The clinic has an AIDS program for counseling and treating men who have sex with men.
Sheikh Hussein and Bishop Chai demanded that the government investigate the KEMRI clinic for providing services to homosexuals.
“How can a state institution be involved on the pretext of providing counseling to these criminals?,” the two clerics said, according to the Daily Nation, and they added, “We ask that the government shut it down with immediate effect or we will descend on its officials.”
The day after this inflammatory press conference, a well-organized mob of some 200 to 300 people armed with sticks, stones, and other weapons, and led by a vigilante leader named Faridi surrounded the KEMRI clinic, which was alleged to be the site of the non-existent wedding, and demanded that all the “shogas” come out of the building. “Shoga” is a Swahili word used as a pejorative against homosexuals — the equivalent of “faggot” — but also by women when referring to their close female friends.
Faridi, the vigilante leader, entered the clinic accompanied by police officers and confronted a staff member wearing a World AIDS Day T-shirt with a pink triangle that read “Condoms prevent AIDS” in Swahili. The vigilante is reported to have said, “This man is a shoga,” and at his demand, the police arrested him. Another KEMRI staffer was arrested later, also at Faridi’s insistence.
Nzioka told Gay City News that the KEMRI clinic was subsequently sacked, with material including computers destroyed, and was forced to shut down. This disruption of the clinic’s work means that many HIV-positive people who access care and treatment there have not been able to get their medications for days, which has serious health consequences for them.
Later that same day, “after Friday prayers” in Mtwapa’s mosques, “mobs of individuals went to the homes of suspected homosexuals looking for them,” said the GALCK-KHRC report, which also recounted speeches to a large mob that had gathered outside the local police station. Sheikh Hussein addressed the crowd in a manner “that was inciting, and he kept talking about Sodom and Gomorrah and the need to root out all homosexuals from the Mtwapa area,” the report said.
A former member of Kenya’s parliament, Omar Masumbuko, was one of several politicians who also addressed the mob. “He said that homosexuality must be stopped and every means used to make that happen,” according to the GALCK-KHRC report. “He told the crowd they should not even bother to bring the homosexuals they find to the police station but should take care of the issue themselves,”
Sodomy and sex “against the order of nature” are crimes in Kenya, punishable by ten years in prison, under a law inherited from the period of British colonial rule, which ended in 1963.
February 12 was punctuated by numerous attacks on gay people. At 8 that morning, before leading the mob attack on the KEMRI clinic, Faridi was joined by police in storming and ransacking the home of a gay man, who was arrested along with a friend who was visiting from abroad. While searching the guest’s luggage, they found jewelry that included some rings. Faridi immediately said that these were the rings for the intended wedding.
In a separate incident, a 23-year-old security guard was descending from a bus heading toward the center of Mtwapa when he was set upon by a mob that threatened him with death and beat him senseless. A female sex worker tried to protect him with her body and yelled at the crowd that they can’t kill people like that and that the man had not done anything, but the mob doused the man with kerosene, preparing to burn him alive. At this point the police arrived, but instead of arresting anyone in the mob, they arrested the man it had attacked. The bloodied, dazed man was incarcerated and denied medical attention.
The following day, a volunteer at the KEMRI clinic was attacked by a mob, which chanted that it was actually his wedding they had disrupted. The man was severely beaten and burnt with cigarette butts. As the mob prepared to douse the man with kerosene, he too was arrested. After his arrest, a mob attempted to attack the Mtwapa police station but was repulsed with tear gas.
In total, six men presumed to be gay were arrested, some of them forced to undergo medical examinations for evidence of sodomy, and all were scheduled for a court appearance on February 15. But Nzioka told this reporter that, after intervention by an attorney provided by KHRC, all six were released from custody, and have now fled the area.
Nzioka also said that the wave of anti-gay violence and protests in Mtwapa had received “huge” publicity in all the national media, particularly radio and television, but that “all of it was, sadly, very, very homophobic,” and that the media had utterly failed to reach out to representatives of the gay community. Instead, he said, gay-baiting commentaries and reactions from imams and other religious and anti-gay leaders were featured.
Asked by Gay City News if the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) was sending a staff member to Kenya from its branch office in Johannesburg, South Africa, the organization’s executive director, Cary Alan Johnson, replied in an e-mail, “We are not sending a staff member to Kenya at this point, as we have full confidence in the local LGBT movement, which is grouped together under the banner of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) to respond to the situation. Also, a number of national and local mainstream human rights partners, particularly the Kenya Human Rights Coalition, are engaging with the clear recognition that an attack on the rights of individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity is an attack on the freedoms of all Kenyan citizens.”
GALCK is not a membership organization but an alliance of five other groups — Ishtar, a health group for men who have sex with men; Gaykenya.com, a web site; Minority Women in Action, a lesbian group; the Gender Education and Advocacy Project (GEAP), a group for transgendered and intersex people; and The Other Man in Kenya (TOMIKI), a social network of gay professionals in the medical, legal, and other fields, most of whom, Nzioka said, are “very discreet.”
The consciousness informing at least some in GALCK’s leadership has raised concerns. In a statement demanding government protection for gays published on the group’s website, its general manager, David Kuria, wrote, “We also call upon the religious leaders in Kenya to appreciate that compulsory heterosexuality is not the way to enforce their religion. GALCK members are willing to enter into dialogue with them, and if they truly have a cure for homosexuality, then we are most happy to take it, BUT NOT UNDER CONDITIONS OF DURESS.”
Since the American Psychiatric Association and most of its Western peer groups have not only completely discredited the notion that there can be a “cure” for homosexuality, but also affirmed that attempting to inflict such a “cure” on those with a same-sex orientation can be extremely harmful psychologically, it is quite disturbing to see the leader of a gay group like GALCK say that his members would be “happy to take” such a so-called cure if available.
Kuria could not be reached for comment by press time.
GALCK has five paid staff members and, Nzioka told this reporter, receives the bulk of its funding from LLH, the Norwegian LGBT Association.
There is no immediate prospect of repeal of the anti-gay sodomy statute in Kenya. Nzioka told Gay City News that Kenya’s gay community has “copiously” inundated the experts drafting a new national constitution with documents supporting the repeal of anti-gay laws and the extension of human rights to LGBT people, but that the committee has turned a deaf ear, and “has even buckled under to homophobia by removing a section which said that ‘every person has a right to start a family,’ which was interpreted as giving gays the right to have or adopt children.”
Moreover, said Nzioka, while there are a handful of friendly elected public officials and politicians with whom queer groups are in contact, “all are secretive, very discreet” about their support for gay rights and there is no organized evidence of that support in the national parliament.
Meanwhile, the Mtawapa witch-hunt shows no signs of letting up: at the beginning of this week, Sheikh Hussein launched radio appeals for a mass anti-gay demonstration in Mtawapa on February 19.
A video report on the Mtwapa incidents from Kenya’s NTV is at:
The web site of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) is at http://galck.org/index.php.
Gaykenya is at http://www.gaykenya.com.
The Kenya Human Rights Commission is at http://www.khrc.or.ke/.
Doug Ireland can be reached through his blog, DIRELAND, at http://direland.typepad.com/
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