Challenge to ‘un-Africanness’ of homosexuality; LGBT Catholics in Africa face church cooperation with persecution; lesbian cartoon project debuts in bangladesh under shadow of violence; Global LGBT Recap

In the Guardian, Bisi Alimi writes, “If you say being gay is not African, you don’t know your history.” His story notes, “The idea that homosexuality is ‘western’ is based on another western import – Christianity. True African culture celebrates diversity and promotes acceptance.”

Regarding the idea that homosexuality is “un-African,” Alimi writes:

“This is the same argument that Robert Mugabe usedto suppress the human rights of LGBT people in Zimbabwe; that the former president of Nigeria,Goodluck Jonathan, used when he signed the most dangerous law against LGBT people in the modern world; and that President Yoweri Museveni used in a ceremonial signing of the anti-gay bill in Uganda. This year Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh called for gay people’s throats to be slit.

Alimi says it was a huge task to prepare to teach a course on pre- and post-colonial sexual orientation and sexual identity in Africa.

In digging up facts I found that, while many Africans say that homosexuality is un-African, African culture is no stranger to homosexual behaviours and acts.

For example, in my local language (Yoruba), the word for “homosexual” isadofuro, a colloquialism for someone who has anal sex. It might sound insulting and derogatory, however, the point is there is a word for the behaviour. Moreover, this is not a new word; it is as old as the Yoruba culture itself.

In the northern part of Nigeriayan daudu is a Hausa term to described effeminate men who are considered to be wives to men. While the Yoruba word might be more about behaviour than identity, this Hausa term is more about identity. You have to look and act like a yan daudu to be called one. It is not an identity you can just carry. These words are neutral; they are not infused with hate or disgust…

In Boy-Wives and Female Husbands, a book examining homosexuality and feminism in Africa, the researchers found ‘‘explicit” Bushman artwork that depicts men engaging in same-sex sexual activity. There have been other indicators that the transition from boyhood to adulthood within many African ethnic groups involved same-sex sexual activities…

So what, Alimi asks, accounts for the current dismissal of homosexuality on the continent?

One factor is the increased popularity of fundamental Christianity, by way of American televangelists, since the 1980s. While Africans argued that homosexuality was a western import, they in turn used a western religion as the basis for their argument. When I have challenged people who are anti-gay, many have said that it is not our culture. However, when you probe further, they argue that homosexuality is not in the Bible. But the Bible is not our historical culture. This shows there is real confusion about Africa’s past.

Reinforcing this is the fact that populist homophobia has kept many politicians in power. Across Africa, if you hate gay people, you get votes.

…While to many people the assertion “homosexuality is un-African” might just be words, to all African LGBT people it puts our lives in imminent danger. It is used in South Africa to rape lesbians. It is used to pass laws and to jail, threaten or kill gay rights activists. It is used to dehumanise LGBT people across Africa and legitimise the hate that we face. It is the reason I receive death threats, which ultimately drove me into exile from my home in Nigeria.

As long as the notion that homosexuality is un-African persists, Kenyatta will receive applause, Mugabe will win elections, and parliaments across the continent will reintroduce harmful laws.

To stop all this, we need to start by re-telling our history and remembering our true African culture, one that celebrates diversity, promotes equality and acceptance, and recognises the contribution of everyone, whatever their sexuality.

Affirming the point of Alimi’s commentary, Ghanaian presidential hopeful George Boateng this week “delivered some frighteningly brutal homophobic promises to the people of Ghana,” reports Joe Williams for Pink News.

Speaking on Kasapa radio, the political hopeful said that it was now time to “eradicate” homosexuality from the country – by seeking out, arresting and executing members of the LGBT community.

He declared: “There is too much indiscipline in Ghana, under my presidency when a corrupt person, gay or lesbian are arrested the law will make it possible for the courts to sentence the offender to death by firing squad”

“It will be a public event to be witnessed by all to serve as a deterrent.

“There must be a house cleaning exercise to clear all such terrible acts from the society.”

Williams reports that earlier this year, Law lecturer Moses Foh-Amoaning complained that the clergy are “mute about gayism” and warned that if they don’t speak up they will see “houses of God being ruled by evil homosexuals.” Said Foh-Amoaning, “If they do not take care, their big cathedrals, churches and other places of meeting will be filled with homosexuals.”

In another report, a spokesman for the government of Malawi quashed rumors, sparked by recent comments by President Peter Mutharika, that the country might move to decriminalize homosexuality.

Vatican: LGBTs prep for Pope’s US visit, meeting on families; report on LGBT Catholics in Africa

LGBT-affirming Catholics in the US are preparing – and those worldwide are watching – for the Pope’s visit later this month. New Ways Ministry’s Frank DeBernardo told the Washington Blade’s Michael Lavers, “Nobody is dreading this papal visit as they did other ones where they just knew it was going to be bad. Nobody’s dreading it that way. People are optimistic that Francis is going to say some good things.” Marianne Duddy-Burke of Dignity USA said, “It’s an incredibly interesting time for the pope to be coming to the U.S.,” said Duddy-Burke, referring to implementation of the Obergefell decision. “The country is still figuring out how to react to national same-sex marriage…he will have to address LGBT family issues in some way while he’s here.” Part of the Pope’s visit will included the Catholic Church’s World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

Lavers reports that Pope Francis has been asked for a meeting by LGBT Catholics in the US and in Cuba, which he will visit before flying to Washington, D.C.

An AFP report on the trip’s reparations says Francis “has taken advantage of a summer lull at the Vatican to fine-tune his hotly awaited speeches, sources at the Holy See say.”

For his three-day visit to Cuba, beginning on September 19, Francis can expect a warm reception from the Castro regime following recognition of the key role he played in Havana’s reconciliation with the United States this year….

The welcome from some American politicians is expected to be chilly. The 78-year-old’s decision to visit Havana before Washington has not gone down well, particularly as Congress has yet to lift the embargo against Cuba.

His environmental encyclical and recent impassioned speeches in Latin America against the free market system, blind capitalism and rabid exploitation by multinationals of natural resources, have seen him accused of Marxism.

Regarding the World Meeting of Families, AFP writes:

In Philadelphia, where he will arrive on September 26 for the closure of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, huge crowds are expected to gather to hear his message on marriage and the modern family.

The speech will come just one week ahead of a key Church meeting in Rome on the hot-button topic, which has raised hopes among liberals of an opening towards homosexuals and divorced people, but is unlikely to result in concrete change.

The pope is supported by 87 per cent of American Catholics and 66 per cent of Americans, according to a recent survey.

But he is decidedly out of favour with some US bishops, amid complaints he has not given them enough support against the Obama administration over abortion, contraception and gay marriage.

Also looking toward the October bishops’ synod on the family in Rome, the European Forum of LGBT Christian Groups has released a report on the experiences of LGBT Catholics in Africa, where many Catholic leaders have supported laws criminalizing LGBT people. Excerpts of the report were published by the Washington Blade.


“Sadly, the biggest threat to the Togo LGBT community is the church and religious leaders. The Catholic Church is very powerful there, strongly influencing moral, political and other issues. Specifically the Catholic Church and its bishops are highly regarded by people of the country. She reflects that bishops and religious leaders in Togo frequently come on air to blame any mishap or natural disaster that happens in the country on homosexuals. Therefore, she would appreciate support and work with the LGBT community in the area of lobbying at the wider international/church level.

“This anti-LGBT stance drives Catholics away from the Church. Edenedi, a bisexual woman who was baptized and brought up Catholic, is now worshiping in the charismatic faith. She feels she can no longer go to church on Sunday, sit down and listen to unchristian preaching about LGBT people. Despite this she still identifies herself as Catholic.”

From an interview with three transsexual people in Benin conducted by Davis Mac-Iyalla in March 2015:

“The three explained that the Catholic Church, which is the dominant faith in the country and holds great power, influences social attitudes and fuels homophobic prejudice. The thing, which saddened me the most, was to hear that if a known homosexual dies, he or she is buried in a different cemetery from everyone else, a place where outcasts are buried. Marginalized and hated in life, marginalized and hated in death. The three interviewees wept as they spoke. One of them named Abib asked me to be honest in my reply and to tell them that if they died would they go to hell or heaven? ‘Priests say that transsexuals are demons in the kingdom of the devil.’ This was very shocking for me to hear. In my years living in Nigeria and Togo I have heard much homophobia, and know well the negative attitudes of church and society towards gay people, but this priest’s words still shocked me. At this point I stopped interviewing them and spent the rest of our time together teaching and reassuring them of the unconditional love of Christ, and telling them that all baptized members of the church regardless of their sexuality, sex or gender identity are welcomed into the Kingdom of God.”

From an interview with Rashidi, a young scientist and defender of human rights in Nigeria:

“Rashidi expressed his anger over the Same Sex Marriage Act. Many LGBT Catholics in Nigeria were very disappointed to read in the press that The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria made statements in support of the bill saying that the law was a ‘step in the right direction for the protection of the dignity of the human person.’ Rashidi angrily commented, ‘I cannot understand how the church could support the persecutions of LGBT Nigerians and still call itself Christian.’ There had been an increase in violent attacks against Nigerian LGBT people since the bill was signed into law. Painful for him is the lack of pastoral care and support from the Nigerian Catholic Church towards its LGBT members. While the bishop pays ‘lip-service’ to human rights and equality, the Catholic Church does not seem to put these ideals into practice.”

Bangladesh: Under shadow of violence, lesbian cartoon character debuts

Shelly Walia reports at Quartz India on the launch of Project Dhee:

Since February this year, four Bangladeshi liberal bloggers have been brutally murdered, stoking fears that space for free speech in the Muslim-majority country is drastically shrinking.

Amid this onslaught, the country’s first lesbian cartoon character has made her debut.

Dhee—as the adolescent, bespectacled and curly-haired girl is called—has been created to raise awareness about Bangladesh’s LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community. In Bangla, dheemeans wisdom.

The character has been conceived and developed by Boys of Bangladesh, the country’s largest gay rights group. The comic strips are designed as flashcards to be distributed at seminars, workshops and conferences across the country….

Dhee’s story will tackle challenges faced by a young lesbian in an orthodox setting: From growing up and discovering her sexuality to longing and belonging. At the same time, it will address the biased treatment of homosexuals in the Bangladeshi society, Boys of Bangladesh told Quartz in an emailed statement.

“By creating Dhee, we want to shape perception of LGBT people, because we should be free to choose whom to love,” Mehnaz Khan, one of the four content developers of Project Dhee, told the AFP news agency.

The project was launched on Sept. 05 at Dhaka’s British Council, under tight security to avoid any protestors.

“We don’t want to be stuck inside boxes anymore. We want our mind to be free,” Bangladeshi social activist Khushi Kabir told Dhaka Tribune.

The story notes that in Bangladesh, homosexuality is punishable with a maximum of life imprisonment.

Spain:  Two members of national police in first public same-sex marriage, one hopes for church wedding

From a report by Patricia Ortega Dolz in El Paiz:

Two members of Spain’s National Police force got married on Saturday, marking the first same-sex union within the Spanish law enforcement agency – or at least, the first to be publicized openly.

Chema, a native of Jerez de la Frontera, and Jonathan, from Algeciras, formalized their five-year relationship in gala uniform at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, a prominent dressage center in Jerez – akin to the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

Chema said they have many gay friends within the police force. Even though the Catholic Church has long opposed homosexual unions, Chema remains hopeful and says he would like a church wedding if official views were to change. But it might be a problem convincing his husband, who he said is “agnosticism personified.”


Australia: New TV ad says marriage equality would lead to increase in drug addiction, rape, suicide

We have been reporting on Prime Minister Tony Abbots refusal to allow marriage equality legislation to move forward in spite of overwhelming public support. Last Saturday, the New York Times’ Michelle Innis reported on Abbott’s “uncompromising” position:

Mr. Abbott, a conservative leader who is a polarizing figure at the best of times, is doing badly in the polls, two years after taking office. His position on same-sex marriage is only one factor, but it is one that analysts say goes to the core of his political vulnerability.

“His issue is his inability to reach out beyond a core group of conservative voters,” said Jessica Elgood, a director at the polling firm Ipsos, who added that he had “very little appeal to women voters.”

Last month, after a six-hour meeting, Mr. Abbott declared that lawmakers in his conservative coalition would have to stick to the party line and oppose a bill to legalize same-sex marriage….

Mr. Abbott, a Jesuit-educated Catholic who spent three years studying for the priesthood, has called same-sex marriage a “very deeply personal” issue and one “on which decent people can differ.” He has proposed that Australian voters decide the issue directly, in a referendum or a nonbinding plebiscite. He has been vague about how such a vote would be conducted, but he said that it would probably be held after the next elections.

Meanwhile, a new TV ad by the anti-equality Marriage Alliance, “claims that allowing same-sex marriage will lead to an increase in drug addicts, rapist and suicidal teens.”

In other news, Australia’s first transgender television host, Andrew Guy, is sharing his story.

Cayman Islands: Legal challenge on immigration may lead to change in marriage law

Caribbean News Now reported last week that two gay lawyers whose marriage is recognized in their home countries of Argentina and the UK, are challenging the immigration authority’s refusal to treat the couple as a spouse, in a move that could pave the way to a broader challenge of the country’s marriage law.

Scotland: First Minister gets Equality Network’s ‘Politician of the Year’ Award

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was named Politician of the Year  by the Equality Network in what Pink News called “the first awards of its kind to take place in Scotland. Sturgeon said she is proud to have advanced LGBT equality in Scotland but cited a recent survey on discrimination and prejudice as evidence that more work is needed.

“We’ve got to keep the pressure on, those of us who believe in equality as a fundamental human right – we have to continue to make that case.”

“I’m optimistic – we should never underestimate that challenges that people in other countries still live with – but I’m optimistic that one day we’ll have a world where we are all just treated for who we are and the discriminations and prejudice of the past are exactly that – in the past.

Thailand: Gender Equality Act goes into effect amid hope and some concern

The 2015 Gender Equality Act passed in March went into effect this week. According to Pink News:

The law is is designed to protect members of the LGBT community and aims to punish discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

Those found guilty of discrimination may face up to six months in jail and a 20,000 baht fine.

The law defines “unfair discrimination among the sexes” as any action that “segregates, obstructs or limits the rights” of a person because they have “a sexual expression different from that person’s original sex.”

Somchai Charoenamnuaysuk –  Director-General of the Department of Family Affairs and Family Development – noted that the law bars government agencies, private organisations, or Thai individuals from formulating anti-gay policies, rules, regulations, measures, or operating procedures.

“Co-operation from all sectors is key in moving forward with the enforcement of this Act, in order to create an equal and just society,” he said.

Original exemptions due to education, religion and the public interest were removed from an earlier draft of the law – meaning that governing bodies are no longer exempt from being prosecuted for anti-LGBT legislation or behaviour.

But the Bangkok Post’s Taam Yingcharoen reported this week that “some activists are concerned about Section 17, which is seen as a barrier to creating equality.” Women’s rights advocate Anjana Suvarnananda has praised the legislation as an advance for the rights of LGBTI but that it still has loopholes that could be used by an employer to discriminate in hiring.

Section 17 says any act by the public and private sector that concerns the freedom, security and protection of others, or in accordance with the rule of religion or national security would not be considered an act of discrimination towards the LGBTI.

Netherlands: Gay Russians can seek asylum as a ‘risk group’

The government of the Netherlands has made it easier for Russian LGBTs to find asylum in the country given the deteriorating situation for them in Russia.

State Secretary Klaas Dijkhoff of Security and Justice informed the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, about this in a letter on Tuesday, NRC reports. This follows a report published by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month that stated that LGBT’s are victims of violence everywhere in Russia, and that authorities hardly intervene.

From now Russian homosexuals can prove to the Immigration and Naturalization Service with “low indications” that they fear persecution in their own country. Before they had to prove that they as individual would be in danger should they return to Russia.

Previously the Immigration and Naturalization Service regularly rejected asylum applications from Russian LGBT’s on the basis that larger cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg were still safe. The Foreign Affairs report no longer explicitly state that these cities are safer and the Service must therefore now be more restrained, according to Dijkhoff.

Sweden: Long waiting list for LGBT retirement home

Thomson Reuters Foundation reports that there’s a long waiting list for Regnbagen (rainbow house), the country’s first LGBT retirement home, which opened in 2013.

Sweden is ranked as one of Europe’s best countries for LGBT rights, according to an index that ranks European countries based on legal benchmarks for LGBT equality.

But many of the residents remember a darker time, when they faced discrimination in society and under Swedish law, and some feared coming out to their families and colleagues.

Sitting in the sun-filled kitchen of Bjorn Lundstedt, one of the first residents to move into Regnbagen, Fallman said he liked the idea of creating a home where elderly gay and bisexual people could peacefully retire.

“We are a group of people that has been harassed and seen as criminals and dismissed by law,” he said. “The whole question started within myself: what will I do, what are my possibilities as a single man if I don’t find anyone to live with, what will my older days look like?” said Fallman, at 57 the home’s youngest resident.