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Africa: Challenging Homophobia
January 27, 2014 (140127)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"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
Human Rights Watch, "Nigeria: Anti-LGBT Law Threatens Basic
Rights," January 14, 2014
http://www.hrw.org/topic/lgbt-rights / direct URL:
"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:
"Global Fund and UNAIDS urge Nigeria to reconsider new anti-gay
law," by Karanja Kinyanjui
Global Fund Observer, 20 Jan 2014
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
"I am a homosexual, mum"
Binyavanga Wainaina | January 19, 2014
(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
"I have never thrown my heart at you mum. You have never asked me
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."
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
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
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.
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:
[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
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
direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/p6twxoo
Ijabla Raymond, Medical doctor of Nigerian heritage writes from the
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
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
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
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