Category Archive Blog

ByNyarwek

On The New Yorker

The Gay-Rights Activists Hoping for a Legal Victory in Kenya


 

By Jacob Kushner

 

Click the link below to read the article.

 

ByNyarwek

THE HOMOPHOBIA CULTURE IS LONG OVERDUE

#Repeal162

 

“Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from any racial, religious, gender or ethnic discrimination”, Coretta Scott King (widow to the late Martin Luther King Jr., during The Annual Conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, 2000)

 

Obsolete and backward articles in some laws that still exist since way back need to be revised in order to promptly trash the homophobic culture that is gaining root in our society. Such law as the Offences against Persons Act of 1861 of London that was passed in 1930 creates a basis for unfair punishment and profiling of the LGBTQ+ society at large, leading to widespread homophobic tendencies across the citizens. This is also fueled by utterances of some public figures, which only functions to breed spite against the general LGBTQ+ society.

 

Article 27 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, in its entirety, grants fundamental freedom to each citizen with specific disregard to any type of discrimination under any situations. Indirectly phrasing it also paints the picture of protection from any disadvantage suffered as an individual or as a group on the basis of profiling. Subsequently, article 28 grants the respect of dignity to every citizen, which on the contrary has not been forthcoming. The Penal Code of Kenya in section 162 (a) & (c) and 165 criminalize private consensual sexual conduct between two adults of the same sex. Apart from intruding into privacy and dignity of Kenyans, vital rights are equally denied by this kind of profiling, among them being health, which is crucial to human survival.

 

These backward laws have had a growing number of Charity Based, Not for Profit and Non-Governmental Organizations come up to fight for their rights. Often, they have been misconceived to recruit people into the LGBTQ+ circles, to promote sexual acts with minors and in public, and to promote non-consensual sex, which has never been the case. LGBTQ+ rights, just like any other human rights, are encapsulated in ‘we are all born equal and free in rights and in dignity’, and they need to be accorded the same respect as any other human rights. Additionally, adult consent should be regarded as ‘important’ especially in relationships. Having laws coming in between relationships is an open way to disrespect individual dignity and privacy.

 

Gender identity and sexual orientation remain crucial in the fight to inclusivity in human rights, and the struggle to achieve these rights is incomplete whilst fighting for a fraction of them, but at the same time, turning our backs to equally important human rights. The homophobic culture should be stamped out by awareness through value clarification and through attitude transformation, such that no individual is segregated and profiled because they love differently.

 

 

ByNyarwek

STRUGGLES OF BEING A LESBIAN IN A THIRD WORLD COUNTRY

“Coming from a third world country and discovering that you have a sexual orientation that requires you to love an individual of the same sex is very depressing,” says 23-year-old Rose. Rose describes herself as a queer feminist. She informs me that she is a lesbian but she uses the term queer because she finds it fancy. She loves the mysterious tone that the term ‘queer’ brings to her sexuality. Rose has always found women to be extremely attractive since she was in primary school.

 

FAMILY BACKGROUND

Raised by a single mother, the first born in a family of four found it very difficult to confide in any of her family members for fear of judgment. “My mom is a Christian and she is against same-sex relationships.” She explains that her mom who is deep into religion thinks that same sex relationships are unnatural and are an influence of the west. She describes her sexuality as very conflicting to her in her earlier years. “Growing up in the slums I never saw, met or interacted with a homosexual. This was very new to me. “

 

She says that it would be a lot easier for her to come out of the closet, had she been born into a well off family. Her opinion is that people from affluent backgrounds are more exposed and more liberal because they travel a lot, meet different people and this expands their thinking. “It is very hard being born in the ghetto, poor and having a different sexual Orientation,” she reiterates. She explains that most people in the ghetto set up are deep in religion and most religions in Africa are still finding it hard to accept same-sex relationships.

 

Her greatest fear is her mom finding out that she is a lesbian because it would break her heart and she might disown her. She plans to tell her in future once she is financially stable and can fully support herself in the event she kicks her out.

 

RELATIONSHIPS

While she was conflicted and trying to fully understand whether she was a lesbian or it was just a phase she was going through, she decided to have relationships with men. “I have actually dated lots of men” Rose says amusingly “It sounds weird right?” she adds.  She thought that establishing relationships with men would take away the attraction she had for girls. “I hated dating men. I did not like it at all.” she explains.

As much as she has had very successful romantic relationships with fellow queers, she has also been a victim of heterosexuals trying to experiment with her. She says that they at times dupe her pretending to be gay, just to have a feel of what it is like being romantically involved with another female. Once she is deep into the relationship and invested her emotions, she realizes that the individual is not queer instead is out to fulfill a certain fantasy. These encounters do leave her feeling used.

 

VIOLENCE

“Being gay in Kenya and Africa as a whole is like a death sentence,” she explains. She cannot count the number of times she was physically or verbally abused for being a lesbian. “The abuse came from all quarters from friends to strangers and even online”

 

She once got in trouble in high school for telling another girl she was beautiful. “I was taken to the principal who later punished me for promoting lesbianism in school. She described lesbianism as satanic.” she adds. Rose thinks that the African society is very intolerant when it comes to same-sex relationships.

 

Before she fully understood her situation and even got help she slipped into depression and even resorted to self harming. This frustration made her contemplate suicide multiple times. “I pray and hope my siblings are not queer.” she says sadly. She does not want them to go through the physical and emotional abuse she has had to endure from homophobes because of her sexual orientation.

SUPPORT AND ACTIVISM.

She is very outspoken about injustices against gay people. Her main aim is to sensitize Africa about same sex relationships and remind homophobes that gay people are human beings too. The university student credits Facebook and internet for helping her accept her lesbian status. She managed to befriend people with similar sexual orientation as her and even joined queer groups on social media. This is when her journey to self discovery began. These interactions helped her to fully understand exactly what was going on with her. Why she was attracted to fellow women unlike her peers who were attracted to men.

 

Together with like minded friends, they normally start conversations on social media and even in public forums aimed at sensitizing the public on matters related to same sex relationships. “I don’t think people hate gays in Kenya or Africa, I just think people tend to criticize what they do not understand.” I think the lack of knowledge about homosexuality comes off as hate and in the real sense it is ignorance. “I have managed to talk to my friends and even strangers on same sex relationships and with time we are getting a breakthrough,” she explains

 

There is a common misconception that homosexuality is an influence of the west something that she refutes and says that it is inborn. Having been raised in a slum set up, she rarely got access to ‘western culture’ because even owning a Television set was a luxury to them.

 

“I am tired of telling people to accept and love same sex relationships. I am tired of telling people that queers are just human beings like other people. They can go fuck themselves.” she concludes.

 

She wishes the world could be more tolerant to queers. The Kenyan government should put laws and policies in place to protect people in same-sex relationships against violations and violence. She adds that the police are always selective and adamant to protect gays when they are violated because of homophobia. They feel they deserve the violations. “Gay rights are human rights,” she concludes.

 

*Rose is not her real name. She requested anonymity for fear that her mum might bump into the article.

 

 

by Aluoch Oito

ByNyarwek

Equality & Gender Guide 2018

The gender debate as it’s become known is something that is discussed on a daily basis on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. With the rise in the interest and openness surrounding gender and orientation discussions, these conversations can at times become somewhat heated. Largely this is can be due to a lack of education and understanding from the cisgender community. While of course, everyone should be entitled to their opinions, it’s important that everyone educates themselves on how others like to be identified as because it’s simply not acceptable to assume that one can title a person in a certain way. We all need to be mindful of other people’s feelings and be more open to new and more immersive ways of thinking. This infographic from the guys at Carvaka aims to shed some light on some of those terms that might confuse. It’s not an exhaustive list because this whole area continues to evolve but it’s definitely a good place to start!

 

The world at present is a binary place where gender traditionally defaults to man or woman. Sexual and gender diversity have come more into the spotlight in recent years; while society has progressed to being more open, friendly and understanding to minority groups, it can sometimes feel that the progress is not fast enough. Fostering acceptance among the public and the mainstream media is definitely a challenge and with the echo chambers and trolls that exist on social media eg Twitter, Facebook and so on, creating a welcoming society for all, no matter the sexuality or gender identity involves continuous learning.

 

Gender Identity & Sexuality Issues on Social Media

When you think about it, the behemoth of social media, Facebook was founded a mere 14 years ago and global widespread adoption really only began in the last decade. Since then of course, we have seen YouTube, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram and so on gain huge popularity but they are all a relatively recent phenomenon. What they have brought is a platform where people can communicate and post about subjects that are close to their heart. While there are many positives about social media in that it provides a voice and space for minority groups to express themselves, it does also have controversies where people known as “trolls” exist.

 

What is an Internet troll?

“Someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as a forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”
Ref: Lifewire

 

Internet trolls exist in many spheres of online conversation but the gender identity and sexual expression topics do seem to attract attention and controversy. Some of that “attention” manifests itself as abuse and vitriol served to individuals which understandably can be quite shocking and upsetting. Those who are open about their sexual and gender identity can sometimes be seen as targets especially if they are not deemed heteronormative. Name calling and verbal abuse about sexuality and gender identity is unfortunately not uncommon and at the root of this is a huge element of a lack of education and understanding. Of course, it must also be said that there also exists a welcoming and very positive community on social media and we have seen a number of times how this has assisted people in their quest to be understood.

 

 

Ellen Stephenson “comes out” as Transgender on her YouTube channel September 2017


For other “commentators” on social media, the “gender debate” as it’s sometimes referred to can be a source of humour (which again can be offensive and hurtful to others).

 

Piers Morgan

@piersmorgan

Tweet from Broadcaster Piers Morgan

 

 

Everyone is entitled to their opinion of course but respect for others should be at the core of our expressions in a modern day society. It’s also important for people to attempt to understand and at the very least, to learn some of the terminology associated with these “new” identities and titles.

Below is a gender identity list and sexuality guide; a caveat is that people should respect an individual’s wishes in that they should ask a person if they’re ok being called a specific term. One should never assume anything especially in relation to individual identity, so it’s important to ask the individual what, if anything they’d like to be referred to as. Similarly, if the individual does not wish to discuss this, one should respect that also. It’s also important to note that this gender identity and sexuality terminology list is not exhaustive because language in this whole area is constantly changing.

 

Gender Identity List & Sexuality Guide of Terminology

 

Sexuality Guide of Terminology

Agender/Gender Neutral

This person sees themselves as neither man nor woman, has no gender identity, or no gender to express.

 

Aliagender

A gender separate from man or woman, that is not androgynous, or neutral, but instead a strong, specific “third” gendered feeling other than man or woman.

 

Androgynous

This describes the blending, in a particular individual, of traditionally male and female characteristics. The individual might not appear either feminine or masculine.

 

Androsexual/Androphilic

Anyone who has sexual attraction towards males. This can be contrasted with those who identify as heterosexual/homosexual.

 

Asexual

A person who doesn’t have a sexual drive.

 

Bicurious

Someone who is open to exploring sexual relations with people of a different gender than those to whom one is usually attracted.

 

Bigender

Bigender people experience two gender identities, occurring simultaneously or varying between the two. These gender identities could be male and female, but could also be non-binary identities.Also often referred to as a “demiboy” or “demigirl”.

 

Binary/Binarism

Binarism describes how a society splits its members into one of two sets of gender specific roles, gender identities and attributes based on the shape of genitalia, i.e. male or female.

 

Bisexual

This is where someone is sexually attracted to both males and females (assuming there are only two genders).

 

Butch

This is a slang term that originated in the lesbian community which describes a more masculine (in attributes and/or appearance) lesbian individual.

 

Cisgender

This is a gender identity that matches the gender that was assigned at birth. Often referred to as “cis”.

 

Demisexual

This is a person who does not experience sexual attraction unless they form a emotional connection or bond.

 

Drag King

This is a female who dresses and impersonates a man and emphasises male characteristics for public entertainment or a show.

 

Drag Queen

This is a male who dresses as an exaggerated female for public entertainment; the drag queen is not necessarily gay.

 

Femme

This refers to a lesbian whose appearance is seen as traditionally feminine. Sometimes referred to as a “lipstick lesbian” (note

this is a derogatory term to some).

 

Gender Dysphoria

This refers to the distress/conflict a person experiences as a result of the sex and gender they were assigned at birth.

 

Gender Fluid

This is when a person does not have a fixed gender; they may feel more female on certain days and more male on other days.

 

Genderqueer

A person who is outside of, falls in between, or fluctuates among the dual gender categories of man and woman. A genderqueer individual often experiences their gender as fluid, meaning it can shift and change from time to time.

 

Gynesexual/Gynephilic

This is a person who has a sexual attraction to breasts, vaginas and femininity. The person with those features is not necessarily a female. Gynesexuals are generally attracted to clean shaven, effeminate males or overtly feminine females.

 

Heteronormativity

This is the belief that people fall into distinct genders (male and female) and assumes that heterosexuality (attraction to the opposite sex) is the only “norm” sexual orientation.

 

Heterosexual

When a person has a sexual attraction to someone of the opposite sex.

 

Homosexual

When a person is attracted to someone of their own sex.

 

Intersex

This is a general term used for a number of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive/sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

 

Intergender

This is a gender identity that is considered non-binary; the individual might be a mix of male and female. There is some debate as to whether one has to be intersex to be intergender.

 

Lesbian

A lesbian is a homosexual woman.

 

LGBTQ

Lesbian,Gay, Bisexual,Transgender, Queer/Questioning.

 

MSM/WSW

Men who have sex with men = MSM / Women who have sex with women = WSW.

 

Mx.

The title used before a person’s surname or full name by those who wish to avoid gender specification or by those who don’t want to identify themselves as male or female.

 

Neutrois

A neutrois person is someone who sees themselves as neither man nor woman, has no gender identity, or no gender to express.

 

Non-binary

This is a catch-all category for identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine‍.

 

Pangender

This is a non-binary category defined as being more than one gender. A pangender person might consider themselves a member of all genders.

 

Pansexual

When someone has sexual attraction (romantic or emotional) towards people regardless of their sex or gender identity.

 

Polyamory

This is the practice of, or desire for, intimate and consensual relations with more than one partner, with the knowledge of all partners involved.

 

Polygender

This is a non-binary category defined as being more than one gender. A pangender person might consider themselves a member of some but not all genders.

 

Queer

This represents sexual and gender minorities who are not heterosexual or cisgender. This can be considered an insulting term so it’s important to use with caution and only if the “queer” individual has indicated its use is comfortable for them.

 

Skoliosexual

When someone is sexually attracted to transgender or non-binary/genderqueer people; it doesn’t generally describe an attraction to specific genitalia.

 

Transgender

Transgender people are those who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their assigned sex.

 

Transphobia

This refers to negative attitudes, behaviors or actions toward transgender or transsexual people, or toward transsexuality in general.

 

Transsexual

This refers to people who transition from one sex to another. For example, a person born as a male can “become” female through the use of hormones and/or surgical procedures.

 

Transvestite (Crossdresser)

Someone who derives pleasure from dressing in clothes and accessories mostly associated with the opposite sex.

 

Trigender

Trigender people have exactly three gender identities, either all at the same time or varying between them. The three gender identities can be male, female and/or any non-binary identities.

 

Gender Identity Pronouns

  • Some genderqueer people prefer to use gender-neutral pronouns. Usage of ‘they’, ‘their’ and ‘them’ in a singular sense is common and ze, sie, hir, co, and ey are used as well.
  • Ze/hir/hir (“Gene ate hir food because ze was hungry.”) Ze is pronounced like “zee” can also be spelled zie or xe, and replaces she/he/they. Hir is pronounced like “here” and replaces her/hers/him/his/they/theirs.
  • Some people prefer not to use pronouns at all, using the individual’s name as a pronoun instead. “Gene ate Gene’s food because Gene was hungry.”

 

 

CAUTION! Never refer to a person as “it” or “he-she”. They are considered offensive slurs against trans and gender non-conforming individuals.

ByNyarwek

World AIDS Day 2018

 

“Know your status”

 

 

On the 1st of December 2018, under this year’s theme, “know your status”, the World celebrates the 30th edition of the World AIDS Day. This day is purposed to create unity, support, and awareness, to sensitize and debunk myths and misconceptions that are related to HIV/AIDS. The two main objectives for 2018 will be, 1, to urge people to know their HIV infection status through testing, and to access HIV prevention, treatment and care service, and, 2, to urge policy makers to promote a “health for all” agenda for HIV and related health services such as tuberculosis (TB), hepatitis and non-communicable diseases.

 

The recently released Kenya HIV Estimates Report 2018 by the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) show that about 1.2 million Kenyans live with HIV/AIDS, which ranks us 3rd behind South Africa and Nigeria in national prevalence. About 75% of new HIV infections within and outside sub-Saharan Africa are attributed majorly to the key population, among other minority groups including commercial sex workers and prisoners. Under the key population, the general LGBTQ community, men who have sex with men (MSM), people who inject drugs and by extension, their sexual partners, bear majority of the statistics of new infections. Globally, they face much higher risks of HIV/AIDS than the general population. Underreporting is, however, common within key populations due to widespread stigma. This makes it difficult to track the statistics of prevalence and improvement. Unfortunately, only about 8% of them have access to HIV testing, which works against objective (1) for World AIDS Day 2018 besides contributing to the statistics that 1 out of 4 people with HIV who do not know that they are infected. This is because of extensive discrimination at the health facilities, which denies the key populations their constitutional rights.

 

The promotion for a “health for all” agenda for HIV and related health services continues to experience struggles, despite the several ratified international documents in addition to the constitutional pledge against discrimination based on gender identities. A number of people within the LGBTQ community report having being turned away from access to services because of their different sexual orientations and preferences. In essence, the fight against HIV/AIDS should focus more on the people who are at the highest risks. Hillary Clinton suggested that in order to beat HIV/AIDS, the conversations that are considered as ‘sensitive’ should be evaluated and acted upon promptly in order not to drive people to the shadows (AIDS 2012).

 

In order to scale up the fight against HIV/AIDS, groups at higher risks should also be catered for. Policies and guidelines should be put in place in order to promote article 43 of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010, and to provide essential services such as HTS, access to services and to provide linkages, as such, The World AIDS Day would make meaning to such minority groups and key populations.

ByNyarwek

PETER COMMITS SUICIDE AFTER COMING OUT TO HIS PARENTS, BUT WHY!!

It was in February 2012 when I received a text from Peter, my longtime friend from childhood and volunteering partner at a local NGO- “I honestly don’t know why I even told my parents I’m gay even though I live in one of the most homophobic countries in the world,” he said.

 

” I was literally kicked out the house and my Dad threatened to kill me if I ever go back home.

Now I’m at a friend’s place. I told him and his family that my parents are on vacation and I’d have to crash at their place for a few days. I can’t stay at my friends place forever. And honestly, I don’t know what to do. I Just want to kill myself. I honestly have no clue what to do. No friends that I can to talk to about this. I can’t go to my relatives because my parents must have told them about me being gay. I can’t believe one mistake has caused this – I am so done.”

Reading this text broke my heart and I texted him back “Please don’t give up! Let me call you in a few we talk.”

 

In the process, I contacted my networks in the LGBTI Field and within no time, an American, who was doing a research on MSM health within Kisumu, reached out and offered to sponsor him.

 

He promised to connect him with people that could get Peter out of Kenya.

“I know you’re hurt and upset and in shock– you have been betrayed by the people who should love and accept you,” he told him through a mail.

 

“I know you feel suicidal– those feelings are natural. But they’re not permanent (I’ve also survived a suicide attempt, and much betrayal at the hands of my family). Please don’t give up!! try to carry on as much as you can – and help your friend’s family with chores and be useful. Show them your gratitude. If you decide you are ready to leave Kenya, I would gladly sponsor you and you may live with me here in the US. I’d expect you to finish your schooling, and I would be happy to mentor you for college or whatever you want to do as a career. Feel free to contact me. You have options. There are many here will support you with a few dollars, friendship, and good counsel. Hang in there!!”

 

The two emailed several times.

Peters friends’ parents demanded to know why he wasn’t on vacation. Fearing his parents would tell them what happened, he gave them an incorrect number. Because they were ‘uncomfortable’ with him staying with them, he knew he couldn’t stay there for long.

 

For some time, I thought Peter was on a good path until Hurther ( US Contact guy) contacted me to inquire if Peter was OK.

 

“The last message I heard from him was that his mother was helping him find his passport. His father had already come looking for him and it was clear they intended on doing something harmful to him. This young man is afraid and I hope that he is out of the danger now and contacts me soon.” Said Hurther. I tried reaching him too but to no avail. It like he had gone into hiding.

Two weeks later, Peters sister wrote on Facebook that “It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that Peter has decided to take his own life.” he said.

“His body was found lifeless in his friend’s house along with a letter written as follows:

 “I’d like to thank all those have reached out to this past few weeks for your support and care. It has not been easy for me. As much as I would like to believe there is hope at the end of the tunnel, nothing can replace the rejection from family. I know I have let many people down, but it’s the only way I can truly find peace. Thank you all and may peace be with you.”

 

I was shocked, couldn’t respond but let my tears flow freely. I attended Peters funeral two weeks later and was more shocked to hear the Dad give a speech on why he doesn’t understand what could make his son take away his own life.

I felt like jumping on him with kicks and blows. I simply stood and left the function without a second thought. I miss my friend, I wish I did more to save his life, maybe he could still be here! May God have mercy on his soul to rest in peace till we meet again.

 

Douglas Otieno Owila,

Public Health Officer and Human Rights Activist.

 

For blogs/articles submissions Email blogs@nyarwek.org

ByNyarwek

Ending GBV Starts With Me: #16DaysOfACtivism

A few days after coming out and declaring her lesbian stand, Cynthia, 24, became a target for threats, constant ridicule and unwarranted jokes in her workplace and she sunk into near depression, as such, her productivity was compromised due to the continued taunting by some of her workmates. The nearest help that she could access was a counselor.  Her partner, who happens to be within the same workspace, was also not spared from the unwelcomed comments by some male colleagues, who occasionally subjected her to the agony of inappropriate physical contact which adds up to sexual assault. Once in a while, they got teased and would also be asked for sexual favors, making the workplace a humiliating and hostile environment.

 

Cynthia is not alone. A number of employees are subjects of gender-based violence including sexual harassment that is meted out regularly. In general, gender-based violence is a description of abuse of gender status for purposes of manipulation, or for selfish gains, and that it can result to physical, psychological, or sexual harm. The inclusion in this consists:

 

  1.  Sexual violence and harassment such as groping.

  2.  Psychological/ emotional violence, such as intimidation.

  3.  Cyber-bullying in the case of online platforms.

  4.  Financial and structural abuse.

  5.  Blackmail for monetary gain or for specific favors, including sexual favors.

 

 As society continues to battle with the traditional cisgender violence, testimonies have recently streamed in especially on social media with the #MeToo tag. The LGBTQ community continues to be a major victim of the heinous acts, being affected directly and indirectly, with the main foundation for this abuse of human rights being the stigma that still surrounds the entirety of the community. However, many times such instances go unreported because of various reasons, such as employers trying to maintain their brand images, reputations, and so on. This only covers up for the growth of the vice without mitigating for its ending.

 

An overview of statistics shows that women are at a 20% higher risk than men in facing gender-based violence and as such,  translates to a much higher figure for bisexual women. People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are thrice more likely to face gender-based violence than heterosexuals. The dangers of this is that the effects may go all through an individual’s life as physical, psychological (depression, anxiety) flaws, and sometimes may lead to drug and substance abuse, isolation, and worst case scenarios recorded suicide.

 

 

The #16DaysofActivism, started on the 25th November, is a campaign to create awareness of the existence of this vice, and to involve stakeholders and individuals in the war against gender-based violence, specific to the workplace. This violence, under The Human Rights Watch, is described as ‘Abuse of Human Rights’, and even though no international treaty or document provides for this by now, we need an overhaul in attitude and values in order to be able to win the fight. Be willing to speak out, and be willing to be involved in stamping out violence at the work-place.

 

#16DaysOfActivism

#EndingGBVstartswithme

#KSMGBVfreeworkspace

#HearMeToo

 

ByNyarwek

What’s next for Queer in Tanzania?

Many things happen when the government stays silent about what queer persons are undergoing in African countries and it continues to put the lives of LGBTI people at risk.

 

The LGBT community in Tanzania has actively experienced repeated waves of repression since 2016. There was a time the Tanzania government banned non-governmental organisations from distributing free lubricants to gay people as part of SRHR, a move most people didn’t understand the essence of.

 

There was also a raid around last year where around 12 men were arrested in Dar es Salaam in a hotel meeting that the government said was promoting homosexuality.

 

Amnesty International also reported that the men who were arrested recently were suspected of conducting a gay marriage because authorities found them sitting in pairs that is “two by two”.

 

What is more shocking is that the mere act of sitting together as men warranted an arrest from a government that is extremely homophobic and repressive in nature. The authorities didn’t have any tangible proof that these men were engaging in acts that were against the “order of nature” yet they were arrested on mere speculations.

 

What makes this even more outrageous is that the conviction for having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” can lead to 30 years or more in jail in Tanzania and these men would have been jailed for 30 years plus due to mere speculations.

 

Last week, the regional governor of Dar es Salaam, Paul Makonda, stated that he was seeking to identify and arrest people he believed to be gay.

 

He said that he was forming a task force to identify, track down, and arrest gay people in Dar es Salaam. Makonda also encouraged citizens to report on those they believed to be gay, and said officials had received more than 5,000 calls or messages so far, naming about 100 individuals.

 

Fear was the main mood in Dar es Salaam as many people went into hiding to avoid arrest, with some moving to different areas so as to be safe.

 

On Sunday, national authorities issued a statement which neither condemned the crackdown nor condone Makonda’s move.

 

 “The government of the United Republic of Tanzania would like to clarify that these are [Makonda’s] personal views and not the position of the government,” the foreign affairs ministry said in an official statement.

 

They added that the government would “continue to respect all international human rights conventions which it subscribes to”.

 

There were reports of a prevalent sense of calm since the government announcement as it’s believed that the government bowed down to pressure from international groups like European Union and United States of America warning the Tanzania government of fire consequences if they continued to remain silent.  

 

However, there have still been reports of physical attacks on homosexuals although not documented.

 

The anti-LGBT crackdown in Tanzania is part of a bigger, more alarming pattern that has had Tanzania recently witnessing an increasingly aggressive targeting of gay people under President John Magufuli, who was elected in 2015, activists told RTE, an Irish outlet.

 

President Magufuli said last year that “even cows” should condemn homosexuality and openly threatened to deport or arrest gay rights activists in the country.

 

Makonda has been among the most vocal anti-LGBT leaders in the country. He has used harsh anti-LGBT rhetoric in the past and promised clampdowns against the gay community, including, threatening to arrest people who were connected to gay men through social networks like Facebook and groups.

 

Tanzania as a country also still have some archaic laws like the anti-sodomy laws although homosexuality itself is not criminalized like it is Kenya, Uganda or Nigeria.

 

Also, Tanzania’s policies weren’t as repressive as those in other countries in the region, although it has in recent years, moved toward more persecution of gay persons.

 

This latest crackdown in Dar es Salaam in addition to Makonda’s statements is an indication of an increasingly unfriendly climate for queer persons in Tanzania and the many ways the government is aiding it.

 

The question is, what is next for queer persons in Tanzania and East Africa as a whole? 

 

Nyar Afrika  

ByNyarwek

My Queer Story : E01

 

I have been queer since I was little.

Cliché as it sounds. I have always looked at girls as if I were a boy. So, from the beginning, I always knew I was not straight.

 

I identified as a lesbian for a while until I was around 14 when I had my first male crush. I couldn’t understand myself because how could I like both genders. By then bisexuality was code for experimentation, and I knew that you were either gay or straight. No in between.

 

High school was crazy because I was more religious than I was honest with myself. So, I kept my crushes hidden and secret to myself.

However, in campus, I fell in love with my best friend and to this day it hurts me how vigorously straight she is. Sigh…

but I guess I couldn’t make her as happy as she would like to be. I am a lesbian virgin. Well, except for the time I got sexually exploited by a family member when I was 7 years old.

 

I have never had the courage to officially ask a girl out. My religious conscience always bashes me whenever I oogle at a “fine ass” or fantasize of a gay wedding. Sometimes I wish I could get the courage to be comfortable with who I am, and maybe I could be genuinely happy.

 

When I think of all the opportunities, I missed because of my double-mindedness I get so frustrated. Oh, I mentioned boys. Well, I came to the conclusion that I must be pansexual because apart from men and women, I have had a crush on a transitioning womxn and a gay guy. Or maybe I am just greedy. Whichever way, I do not see the body as much as I see the character, behavior and general aura of a person.

I wouldn’t mind ending up with anyone regardless of their label but I think females have always had a golden spot in my heart. As for my label, my thoughts are a hundred percent male. My body is as female as they get. Sometimes I enjoy having boobs. Other than that, I think I prefer the pronoun they. Because it all depends on how I woke up.

 

P.S

I hope I end up as happy as Asanda Mqiki and her Partner. 

(Anonymous) 

 

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ByNyarwek

LGBT Crackdown in Dar Es-Salaam, Tanzania, a gross violation of Human Rights:

A few days after Paul Makonda, the Regional Governor of Tanzania’s largest City, Dar Es Salaam, announced that he seeks to identify and arrest gay citizens and their affiliates using a taskforce, human rights bodies and public outcry have made it very open that the crackdown is a gross violation of Human Rights besides contradicting the Country’s motto, “Freedom and Unity”, infringing on the rights of the LGBT community at large.

 

The Governor’s homophobic remarks based on obsolete laws have sent many into hiding after he requested for reports naming the affected persons, backed by previous remarks by the Tourism Minister, who warned that the country will not allow any gay tourists into the country, and that should any make their way there, they shall be deported back to their original countries, 2 years after the same administrator rounded up commercial sex workers and gay men, and performed forced anal exams on them. According to James Wandera who is the founder of LGBT Voice, Tanzania, a state of fear reigns in the City as many have gone into hiding and relocation for fear of arrest, forced anal tests and physical attacks.

 

Under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, (UDHR), all humans are born FREE and EQUAL in RIGHTS and DIGNITY, and article 2 addresses freedom from discrimination supported by articles 3 (right to life, liberty and personal security), 5 (freedom from torture and degrading treatment), 6 and 7 (recognition as a person and equality before the law). Denial of these fundamental rights under any conditions is denial of human rights, which are also connected to other key rights such as health. This crackdown also possibly leads to forced anal tests, violating key human rights which the according to the UN, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say, can amount to torture, adding up as a gross violation of the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In the wake of this primitive crackdown, the European Union, EU, recalled the ambassador to Tanzania, citing deterioration of the human rights and rule of law situation, and some sources claimed that it will “be conducting a broad review of its relations with Tanzania”.

 

In the words of Coretta Scott King (wife of slain activist, Martin Luther King Jr.) during the annual Conference of the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce, 2000, “Freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation is surely a fundamental human right in any great democracy, as much as freedom from any racial, religious, gender or ethnic discrimination”.

The role of leaders, more-so nationally, should be to uphold and to protect laws beyond respecting them first, for the best of the citizens and not to shatter them and spread discrimination, fear and inflammatory messages. Equally, for a country with struggling health indicators, funds spent on such divergent programs should instead be channeled to be of the betterment of the nation instead of divisive sideshows.

 

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