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Africa: Challenging Homophobia

AfricaFocus Bulletin
January 27, 2014 (140127)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights ... This simply means granting every one the freedom - and the means - to make informed decisions about very basic aspects of one's life - one's sexuality, health, and if, when and with whom to have relationships, marry or have children - without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence. ... We can no longer afford to discriminate against people on the basis of age, sex, ethnicity, migrant status, sexual orientation and gender identity, or any other basis." - Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique

The rise in state-sponsored homophobia in Africa continued this month, as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law a bill which contains penalties of up to 14 years in prison and bans gay marriage, same-sex "amorous relationships" and membership of gay rights groups. Although Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni delayed signature of a similar bill in Uganda, his remarks made it clear that the state remained committed to combating what Museveni called an "abnormality" from the West.

Yet the character of the debate has shifted significantly, with more African voices speaking out publicly over the last year against the fueling of homophobia by political and religious leaders. Most prominent was the decision by renowned writer Binyavanga Wainaina to come out as gay in a blog post and video statements (see original release at http://africasacountry.com/i-am-a-homosexual-mum/; BBC audio interview at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25843768; as well as his 6part Youtube video at http://www.youtube.com/user/Binyavanga).

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains several recent documents: the text of Wainaina's original blog post, an open letter to African leaders by former Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, and a article by a Nigerian critic of the new law appearing on the widely read Nigerian news site http://saharareporters.com

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin released today, available on the web at http://www.africafocus.org/docs14/hom1401b.php but not sent out by email, contains links to information on "God Loves Uganda," the Oscar-shortlisted documentary film by Roger Ross Williams, which premiered at Sundance last year and is now playing in U.S. theaters, as well as excerpts from a 2012 investigative report on the campaign by U.S. Christian right to promote homophobia in Africa, by the Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, who is featured in the film.

Other sources of interest include:

Amnesty International, "Making love a crime: Criminalization of same-sex conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa," 25 June 2013 http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/AFR01/001/2013/en

Human Rights Watch, "Nigeria: Anti-LGBT Law Threatens Basic Rights," January 14, 2014
http://www.hrw.org/topic/lgbt-rights / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/qcxurgt

"South Africa: Archbishop Condemns Anti-LGBTI Violence; Statement in Video Challenges African Leaders," October 13, 2013 http://www.hrw.org/topic/lgbt-rights / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/oqmggu6

"Global Fund and UNAIDS urge Nigeria to reconsider new anti-gay law," by Karanja Kinyanjui
Global Fund Observer, 20 Jan 2014
http://www.aidspan.org/page/back-issues

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++

"I am a homosexual, mum"

Binyavanga Wainaina | January 19, 2014

http://africasacountry.com/i-am-a-homosexual-mum/

(A lost chapter from One Day I Will Write About This Place)

11 July, 2000.

This is not the right version of events.

Hey mum. I was putting my head on her shoulder, that last afternoon before she died. She was lying on her hospital bed. Kenyatta. Intensive Care. Critical Care. There. Because this time I will not be away in South Africa, fucking things up in that chaotic way of mine. I will arrive on time, and be there when she dies. My heart arrives on time. I am holding my dying mother's hand. I am lifting her hand. Her hand will be swollen with diabetes. Her organs are failing. Hey mum. Ooooh. My mind sighs. My heart! I am whispering in her ear. She is awake, listening, soft calm loving, with my head right inside in her breathspace. She is so big - my mother, in this world, near the next world, each breath slow, but steady, as it should be. Inhale. She can carry everything. I will whisper, louder, in my minds-breath. To hers. She will listen, even if she doesn't hear. Can she?

Mum. I will say. Muum? I will say. It grooves so easy, a breath, a noise out of my mouth, mixed up with her breath, and she exhales. My heart gasps sharp and now my mind screams, sharp, so so hurt so so angry.

"I have never thrown my heart at you mum. You have never asked me to."

Only my mind says. This. Not my mouth. But surely the jerk of my breath and heart, there next to hers, has been registered? Is she letting me in?

Nobody, nobody, ever in my life has heard this. Never, mum. I did not trust you, mum. And. I. Pulled air hard and balled it down into my navel, and let it out slow and firm, clean and without bumps out of my mouth, loud and clear over a shoulder, into her ear.

"I am a homosexual, mum."

July, 2000.

This is the right version of events.

I am living in South Africa, without having seen my mother for five years, even though she is sick, because I am afraid and ashamed, and because I will be thirty years old and possibly without a visa to return here if I leave. I am hurricaning to move my life so I can see her. But she is in Nakuru, collapsing, and they will be rushing her kidneys to Kenyatta Hospital in Nairobi, where there will be a dialysis machine and a tropical storm of experts awaiting her.

Relatives will rush to see her and, organs will collapse, and machines will kick into action. I am rushing, winding up everything to leave South Africa. It will take two more days for me to leave, to fly out, when, in the morning of 11 July 2000, my uncle calls me to ask if I am sitting down.

"She's gone, Ken."

I will call my Auntie Grace in that family gathering nanosecond to find a way to cry urgently inside Baba, but they say he is crying and thundering and lightning in his 505 car around Nairobi because his wife is dead and nobody can find him for hours. Three days ago, he told me it was too late to come to see her. He told me to not risk losing my ability to return to South Africa by coming home for the funeral. I should not be travelling carelessly in that artist way of mine, without papers. Kenneth! He frowns on the phone. I cannot risk illegal deportation, he says, and losing everything. But it is my mother.

I am twenty nine. It is 11 July, 2000. I, Binyavanga Wainaina, quite honestly swear I have known I am a homosexual since I was five. I have never touched a man sexually. I have slept with three women in my life. One woman, successfully. Only once with her. It was amazing. But the next day, I was not able to.

It will take me five years after my mother's death to find a man who will give me a massage and some brief, paid-for love. In Earl's Court, London. And I will be freed, and tell my best friend, who will surprise me by understanding, without understanding. I will tell him what I did, but not tell him I am gay. I cannot say the word gay until I am thirty nine, four years after that brief massage encounter. Today, it is 18 January 2013, and I am forty three.

Anyway. It will not be a hurricane of diabetes that kills mum inside Kenyatta Hospital Critical Care, before I have taken four steps to get on a plane to sit by her side.

Somebody.

Nurse?

Will leave a small window open the night before she dies, in the July Kenyatta Hospital cold.

It is my birthday today. 18 January 2013. Two years ago, on 11 July 2011, my father had a massive stroke and was brain dead in minutes. Exactly eleven years to the day my mother died. His heart beat for four days, but there was nothing to tell him.

I am five years old.

He stood there, in overalls, awkward, his chest a railway track of sweaty bumps, and little hard beads of hair. Everything about him is smooth-slow. Bits of brown on a cracked tooth, that endless long smile. A good thing for me the slow way he moves, because I am transparent to people's patterns, and can trip so easily and fall into snarls and fear with jerky people. A long easy smile, he lifts me in the air and swings. He smells of diesel, and the world of all other people's movements has disappeared. I am away from everybody for the first time in my life, and it is glorious, and then it is a tunnel of fear. There are no creaks in him, like a tractor he will climb any hill, steadily. If he walks away, now, with me, I will go with him forever. I know if he puts me down my legs will not move again. I am so ashamed, I stop myself from clinging. I jump away from him and avoid him forever. For twenty-something years, I even hug men awkwardly.

There will be this feeling again. Stronger, firmer now. Aged maybe seven. Once with another slow easy golfer at Nakuru Golf Club, and I am shaking because he shook my hand. Then I am crying alone in the toilet because the repeat of this feeling has made me suddenly ripped apart and lonely. The feeling is not sexual. It is certain. It is overwhelming. It wants to make a home. It comes every few months like a bout of malaria and leaves me shaken for days, and confused for months. I do nothing about it.

I am five when I close my self into a vague happiness that asks for nothing much from anybody. Absent-minded. Sweet. I am grateful for all love. I give it more than I receive it, often. I can be selfish. I masturbate a lot, and never allow myself to crack and grow my heart. I touch no men. I read books. I love my dad so much, my heart is learning to stretch.

I am a homosexual.


An Open Letter to Africa's Leaders

Joaquim Chissano, former President of Mozambique

http://www.theafricareport.com / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/l32ay9u

[H. E. Joaquim Chissano is the former President of Mozambique and current co-chair of the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD (International Conference on Population and Development)]

This is a transformative moment for Africa - and indeed, for the world.

Decision-makers from across the continent, under the able leadership of Liberian President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, are finalising a crucial document outlining a common position for Africa on the development agenda that will replace the Millennium Development Goals after 2015.

Since the 1990s, Africa has gained considerable strength in international negotiations by sticking together and forging consensus on important issues.

It is a strategy that has empowered us in many ways. And it means that our voices will be heard when the framework that will guide governments, donors and development partners for years to come is negotiated. So we need to be careful what we ask for.

I urge our leaders to draw from the lessons of the past, but also to heed current realities. And to look ahead to what the future is calling forth - because this new development agenda will affect the lives of millions of our people at a very critical time for Africa.

I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms.

This means pushing for three priorities that lie at the heart of sustainable development: the empowerment of women and gender equality; the rights and empowerment of adolescents and youth; and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people.

These interlinked priorities and their policy implications have been carefully analysed by the High-Level Task Force for the ICPD that I co-chair.

We have found that they represent not only human rights imperatives, but smart, cost-effective investments to foster more equitable, healthy, productive, prosperous and inclusive societies, and a more sustainable world.

Sexual and reproductive health and rights, in particular, are a prerequisite for empowering women and the generations of young people on whom our future depends.

This simply means granting every one the freedom - and the means -- to make informed decisions about very basic aspects of one's life - one's sexuality, health, and if, when and with whom to have relationships, marry or have children - without any form of discrimination, coercion or violence.

This also implies convenient, affordable access to quality information and services and to comprehensive sexuality education.

We can no longer afford to discriminate against people on the basis of age, sex, ethnicity, migrant status, sexual orientation and gender identity, or any other basis - we need to unleash the full potential of everyone.

As an African who has been around a long time, I understand the resistance to these ideas.

But I can also step back and see that the larger course of human history, especially of the past century or so, is one of expanding human rights and freedoms.

African leaders should be at the helm of this, and not hold back. Not at this critical moment.

The international agenda that we will help forge is not just for us here and now, but for the next generations and for the world.

As I think about these issues, I am reminded of the words of our recently departed leader, who gained so much wisdom over the course of his long walk to freedom.

"To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains," Nelson Mandela reminded us, "but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others."

Let us live up to his immortal words.


Homosexuality Is Not un-African, Homophobia Is

Jan 18, 2014

By Ijabla Raymond

http://saharareporters.com / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/p6twxoo

Ijabla Raymond, Medical doctor of Nigerian heritage writes from the UK

In Nigeria, university lecturers have been on strike for nearly 6 months; medical doctors are contemplating going on strike; the roads are death traps; people rely on generators for power as electricity supply is epileptic; people have to sink wells or boreholes to supply their own homes with water; those who can't have to buy water off the street from water vendors; Nigeria remains one of only three countries in the world where polio is endemic, the other two being Pakistan and Afghanistan; our hospitals are poorly resourced and people with money fly abroad for routine health checks; we have one of the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the world; many state governments have refused to adopt the Child Rights Act, and those which have, are failing to enforce it; child marriages occur with reckless impunity and no one appears interested in banning the practice anytime soon; you get 7 years for raping a woman but 14 years for a consensual same-sex intercourse; we rely on foreign aid to assist with poverty alleviation despite our stupendous wealth; our government is one of the most corrupt in the world etc.

But guess what? The Nigerian government has chosen to prioritise anti-gay law over all of these pressing needs. The government feels that legislating on what two consenting adults choose to do in their closet takes precedence over all of the aforementioned problems.

Sadly, but as expected, this law has turned out to be very popular with Nigerians, who say that homosexuality is wrong because it contravenes God's principles in the Quran and the Bible. They say that homosexuality is wrong because it is un-African, foreign and that it will lead to a de-population of the human race. But, if I may ask, what is African about Christianity and Islam? These religions are foreign to us and are very un-African, when are we going to ban them too?

Homosexuality is as old as human history and it exists in all human races. It even occurs amongst animals. Gay people lived freely and even got married in many African cultures pre-colonisation. It was colonisation, through the instrument of the twin foreign religions, Christianity and Islam, which criminalised homosexuality. Till date, those who live in northern Nigeria will be very familiar with the "yan daudu" - the third gender men who can be anything from transvestites, homosexuals, to bisexuals. I grew up in northern Nigeria and I remember how well these individuals were accepted - their lifestyles were even featured in TV dramas.

My question to those who say that homosexuality will lead to a depopulation of the human race is: When should we start jailing heterosexual couples who practise anal and oral sex or couples who suffer from infertility or those couples who use contraception?

And to those who say that homosexuality is wrong because the Bible or Quran God said so, first of all, may I remind you that these religions are foreign to Africa and were instruments of slavery? They were used to subjugate our forefathers. Secondly, if we say that God is omnipotent or omniscient, then we must accept that it was His grand design and plan to create homosexuals, so, why destroy them?

Who would believe, that in the 21st century, we would still be making laws based on books that were written a few thousand years ago by men who reasoned that diseases were caused by demons and evil spirits? We need to separate religion from the State, it's only in doing so that we can guarantee and uphold the human rights of all people.

This anti-gay law smirks of gross ignorance of our own history and culture. If we are going to make laws, then let's do so from a position of knowledge and best evidence, and not ignorance or religious bigotry. ...

President Jonathan (GEJ) and his government have succeeded in distracting Nigerians from our main problem - corruption. I have seen photos of harmless gay people on news media being hounded into the back of vans with their hands cuffed, but those who steal our collective wealth and cause us untold hardship and death are not only walking freely, they are even worshipped by some of us. I will not be surprised if GEJ gets voted back into office for a 2nd term on the back of this popular, but inhumane, anti-gay law. I weep for this country.


AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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