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PostPosted: Sat Jun 18, 2016 6:11 am 
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Kenya: Judge upholds use of anal probes to define sexuality
16 June 2016

MOMBASA, Kenya (AP) -- A Kenyan court on Thursday upheld the use of anal examinations to determine a suspect's sexual orientation, dismissing the argument that the procedure amounts to torture and degrading treatment.

There was no violation of rights or the law, Mombasa High Court Judge Mathew Emukule said. "I find no violation of human dignity, right to privacy and right to freedom of the petitioners," he said.

Two men had sought a court ruling to stop enforced anal examinations and HIV tests of men accused of being gay after they were subjected to the procedures. The two were arrested in a bar near Ukunda along Kenya's Indian Ocean coast in February 2015 on suspicion of engaging in gay sex, which is a criminal offense in Kenya. They still face the charges and, if convicted, could face 14 years in jail.

In their petition, the men said the anal examinations and HIV and hepatitis B tests they were forced to have amounted to being subjected to torture and degrading treatment. The judge said the petitioners should have used their lawyers to seek injunction orders to avoid undergoing the tests. "I sat in court holding my chin in disbelief," said Eric Gitari, the executive director of the Kenyan National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, which has supported the petition. He said the men will appeal. "It's so painful when we are trying to encourage the gay community to go to court to affirm their rights; the courts are instead affirming violation of their rights," Gitari said.

The court judgment means that someone can be arrested on a rumor that they are gay and subjected to these tests, he said. "Do we want to use the nation's scarce resources on this?"

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 8:16 am 
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Gambia's leader says ban on child marriage 'as from today'
9 July 2016

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) -- Gambia's president has announced a ban on child and forced marriage and urged lawmakers to take up the issue quickly.

"As from today, child marriage below 18 years is illegal in the Gambia," President Yahya Jammeh said at a feast ending the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on Wednesday.

Jammeh said the decision to ban child and forced marriage must be tabled before the National Assembly. He expressed his resolve to fast-track the issue before the July 22 celebration that marks the anniversary of the military takeover that brought him to power in 1994. The president warned that offenders will face heavy penalties over any reported child marriages, saying that "if you ... failed to report, if we know about it we will deal with you."

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 12, 2016 1:42 pm 
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Rights group decries 'forced anal exams' used in 8 countries
12 July 2016

GENEVA (AP) -- Human Rights Watch is urging an end to "forced anal examinations" with a report documenting them in eight countries, mostly in Africa, saying the practice is based on flawed ideas about supposedly proving homosexual conduct.

The advocacy group calls the examinations "a form of cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment" that amounts to sexual assault, violates international conventions and could rise to the level of torture. The report unveiled Tuesday draws on interviews with 32 men and transgender women subjected to the exams in eight countries that ban same-sex conduct: Cameroon, Egypt, Kenya, Lebanon, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uganda and Zambia.

The report says the exams are rooted in "discredited 19th century theories" that homosexuals can be identified by characteristics of the anus. A Kenyan court has upheld the use of anal examinations.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 24, 2016 6:26 pm 
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Uganda police stop gay pride parade deemed illegal
By RODNEY MUHUMUZA
24 September 2016

ENTEBBE, Uganda (AP) -- Ugandan police on Saturday prevented organizers from holding a gay pride parade on the orders of a government minister who said such an event is illegal.

Police blocked organizers from staging the event at two locations outside the Ugandan capital, Kampala, said Frank Mugisha, a gay rights leader in Uganda. More than 100 LGBT people turned up for the event Saturday at a beach on Lake Victoria.

Most were later ordered into minibuses and escorted by police to Kampala, apparently for questioning, the reason one young man jumped off a moving minibus and injured himself, Mugisha said. "They are traumatized," he said. The LGBT people who had traveled in the mini-buses were later set free, he said.

Homosexuality is a crime in Uganda, as in many African countries. A colonial-era law proscribes homosexual sex acts "against the order of nature." Gay rights leaders say the LGBT community faces discrimination, violence and extortion. In August, Ugandan police briefly arrested about 20 people attending a gay pride event at a nightclub in Kampala. Following that raid, Mugisha and his colleagues decided to postpone the pride parade until September.

On Wednesday, Simon Lokodo, the Ugandan minister in charge of ethics and integrity, issued a strong statement condemning public activities of homosexuals and urged police to arrest them if they went ahead with the parade.

In 2009, a Ugandan lawmaker introduced a bill that prescribed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, saying he wanted to protect Ugandan children. The proposed bill prompted international condemnation. A less severe version of the bill passed by lawmakers was rejected by a Ugandan court as unconstitutional.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 22, 2016 6:33 am 
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Gay rights supporters win UN victory to keep UN LGBT expert
By EDITH M. LEDERER
November 21, 2016

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Supporters of gay rights won a victory at the United Nations Monday when an African attempt to suspend the first U.N. independent expert charged with investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity failed.

African nations had urged the General Assembly's human rights committee to delay implementation of a resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva to determine "the legal basis" for the expert's mandate. They also sought to suspend the expert, Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, who was appointed on Sept. 30 and has started his work.

Latin American and Caribbean nations, who supported the appointment of the expert, introduced an amendment to get rid of the paragraph in the African-backed resolution calling for a delay in implementing the Human Rights Council resolution and suspension of the expert's activities. That amendment was adopted by a vote of 84-77 with 12 abstentions by the assembly's human rights committee - a move that was welcomed by LGBT supporters.

The amended resolution, taking note of the Human Rights Council's report without any reference to suspending the expert, was then approved by a vote of 94-3 with 80 abstentions. It now goes to the 193-member General Assembly for a final vote next month, when the Africans could again try to seek a delay. But the result is likely to be very similar to Monday's vote.

The vote on the amendment - and the 23-18 vote with 6 abstentions in the Human Rights Council that established the LGBT expert - reflect deep international divisions on gay rights. The U.N. has worked to improve the rights of the LGBT community in recent years but has repeatedly run into opposition from some member states - especially from countries in the Middle East and Africa as well as China and Russia. Many of those countries spoke against the amendment on Monday. According to a U.N. human rights report last year, at least 76 countries retain laws used to criminalize and harass people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships among adults.

Botswana's U.N. Ambassador Charles Ntwaagae, who sponsored the resolution seeking the delay, reiterated Africa's alarm that the Geneva-based Human Rights Council is delving into national matters and attempting to focus on people "on the grounds of their sexual interests and behaviors" while ignoring intolerance and discrimination on other grounds including color, race, sex or religion.

U.S. deputy ambassador Sarah Mendelson countered that the council has approved numerous resolutions on violence and discrimination against minorities and others. She warned before the vote on the amendment that having the General Assembly re-open a Human Rights Council mandate for the first time could undermine its ability to function.

Gay rights groups campaigned hard against the African resolution. A statement endorsed by 850 organizations from 157 countries around the world highlighted the need for all countries to respect the authority of the Human Rights Council and to vote in favor of the independent expert. Jessica Stern, executive director of the U.S.-based gay rights group OutRight Action International, said the vote confirmed that countries believe in the council. "A lot can be accomplished when forces join hands," she added.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2016 10:59 pm 
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Gay rights supporters win 2nd victory at the United Nations
By EDITH M. LEDERER
December 19, 2016

UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Supporters of gay rights won a major victory at the United Nations on Monday with the failure of a second African attempt to stop the work of the first-ever U.N. independent expert investigating violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation.

After a first defeat Nov. 21 in the General Assembly's human rights committee, African nations led by Burkina Faso attempted again to suspend the work of LGBT expert during the final General Assembly vote. But the result was almost identical. The Africans urged the 193-member world body to delay implementation of a resolution adopted by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in order to determine "the legal basis" for the expert's mandate. They also sought to suspend the expert, Vitit Muntarbhorn of Thailand, who was appointed on Sept. 30 and has started his work.

But their proposed amendment for a delay and suspension was defeated in the General Assembly by a vote of 77-86, with 16 abstentions. The human rights committee vote had the same number of LGBT supporters and opponents. African nations said they wanted a delay because "there is no international agreement on the definition of the concept of 'sexual orientation and gender identity.'"

U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who opposed the African amendment, called this "patently false." She said violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity are "well established" and have been referred to in U.N. statements and resolutions including in the General Assembly and Security Council. "In reality, this amendment has little to do with questions around the definition of sexual orientation and gender identity," Power said. "Instead, this amendment is rooted in a real disagreement over whether people of a certain sexual orientation and gender identity are, in fact, entitled to equal rights."

While gay rights supporters welcomed the result, the close vote reflected deep international divisions on gay rights. The U.N. has worked to improve the rights of the LGBT community in recent years but has repeatedly run into opposition from some member states - especially from countries in the Middle East and Africa as well as China and Russia.

According to a U.N. human rights report last year, at least 76 countries retain laws used to criminalize and harass people on the basis of their sexual orientation and gender identity or expression, including laws criminalizing consensual same-sex relationships among adults. The International Service for Human Rights said 870 organizations from 157 countries around the world signed an open letter urging nations in the General Assembly to continue the LGBT expert's work.

Pooja Patel, who manages the organization's LGBT rights program, called Monday's outcome a victory for equality. Discrimination and violence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people around the world "is real and needs to be combatted," she said, and the close vote shows how much work is needed to build bridges with many countries.

Source: AP

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PostPosted: Sat Sep 09, 2017 5:07 am 
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The juju curse that binds trafficked Nigerian women into sex slavery
By Lorenzo Tondo in Palermo and Annie Kelly
3 September 2017

Every night as dusk falls in Piazza Gastone in the Noce district of Palermo, a tall, imposing Ghanaian woman dressed in traditional west African robes stands before a small congregation sweating in rows of plastic chairs before her.

The Pentecostal Church of Odasani has been converted from an old garage in a backstreet into a place of worship, albeit one unrecognised by any formal faith group. But what many of the congregation – largely young Nigerian women – have come for tonight is more than prayer; it is freedom. “Nigerian women come to me for help, they have bad spirits that have been put inside their bodies by people who want to make money from them,” says the self-proclaimed prophetess, as she prepares to start her service.

She gestures to her devotees, who sit nervously fiddling with their phones as they wait for her to begin. “The spirit is forcing them to remain in a life of prostitution. When they come to Europe and realise they can’t live this life, they come to me and I help free them of this juju forever.” She says she has spent the past 10 years battling the juju curses that are potentially keeping tens of thousands of Nigerian women under the control of human traffickers across Europe.

The abuse of religious and cultural belief systems in Nigeria has proved a deadly and effective control mechanism for traffickers involved in the recruitment of women destined for the sex trade in Europe. A hugely profitable and well-organised criminal industry has been operating between Italy and Nigeria for more than two decades but the UN’s International Organisation for Migration says it has seen an almost 600% rise in the number of potential sex trafficking victims arriving in Italy by sea over the past three years.

In 2016 its staff registered more than 11,000 Nigerian women at landing points in Sicily, with more than 80% of them victims of trafficking and destined for a life of forced prostitution on street corners and in brothels across Italy and Europe. Before they left Nigeria, many of them will have been made to undergo traditional oath-taking ceremonies involving complicated and frightening rituals often using the women’s blood, hair and clothing. These rituals – which have become known as the “juju” – bond the woman to her trafficker and to any debts she will incur. The rituals make it clear that failure to pay off those debts will result in terrible things happening to the woman and her family.

“This juju might seem like something small or meaningless to people here in Europe, but to the women these curses are real and they are terrifying,” says Princess Inyang Okokon, who runs Piam Onlus, an anti-trafficking NGO and who was herself taken from Nigeria to Italy in 1998. “Using these very old belief systems passed down through generations is a psychological form of control that is much stronger than any violence that can be done to them.”

Psychologists in hospitals across Sicily say they are witnessing a growing mental health crisis in these women among Nigerians who have been persuaded to leave their traffickers by the authorities or NGOs. At the Vittorio Emanuele hospital in Catania, 20 Nigerian women are being treated by the psychiatric department – double the number last year. “These women, who are brought to us by our emergency staff, have been abused, they have been raped, imprisoned and blackmailed. Some of them are as young as 12,” says Dr Aldo Virgilio.

He says that 80% of those coming to the outpatient clinic are asylum seekers. “Already this year we have seen 80 cases of women being brought to us, but many refuse food and treatment, they are afraid something is coming to hurt them. We cannot convince them that this is not the case. We can treat their symptoms with drugs but this doesn’t resolve the deep-set psychological fractures that have occurred. So aside from the drugs there is little we can do for them.”

At the Paolo Giaccone hospital in Palermo, Dr Filippo Casadei and Dr Maria Chiara Monti are trying to help five Nigerian women referred by migrant reception centres and shelters. They say that while they understand the women’s psychotic episodes, hallucinations, panic attacks, insomnia and fits to be the physical signs of post-traumatic stress disorders, the women themselves see them as proof that the juju is coming to punish them for leaving their traffickers and breaking their oaths. “On top of the terrible abuse they have faced while being trafficked, the juju is a constant source of strain on these women, they feel under constant threat and this creates a kind of psychological dependency and addiction,” says Monti. “So when they leave their traffickers, the pressure of the years of carrying this curse on their shoulders can break them.”

Casadei says that they recently had a young patient who had been trafficked from her home town in Edo state and had been referred to the hospital after escaping her traffickers. “She had been doing so well. We were so proud of her. She’d escaped her captors, had been living independently,” Casadei says. “But then one day she received a package in the post from her home town. She couldn’t tell us what was inside but we knew it was related to the juju curse that she’d been made to undergo before her journey to Europe. She had a severe psychotic episode, a very violent reaction to whatever was in that package and we never saw her again.”

Casadei and Monti admit they are at a loss to know how to help the women. “It is pointless trying to say that these curses are not real, these women need to believe in a treatment or solution and there is an impenetrable wall between our two belief systems,” says Casadei. “Our approach of western psychology is virtually useless in these cases.”

Prosecutors say that the juju’s hold over the women is hindering their fight against the traffickers. “Because of the juju, Nigerian women become the perfect victims of sexual slavery,” says Salvatore Vella, a prosecutor in Agrigento. “Gangs know they can trust them, they know women are not going to report them to the police because they are afraid of the consequences for breaking the juju. And this makes our investigation harder. It is almost impossible to find witnesses among Nigerian prostitutes because of the ritual. Maybe one in 20 is ready to speak out. The rest of them are stuck in a wall of silence and fear.’’

There is also evidence of Nigerian criminal gangs in Sicily being in touch with the traditional priests who conduct the rituals. “They are providing the traffickers in Italy with all the information they need to terrify and control their victims. When the women arrive the traffickers know their names, real ages, names of their relatives, and above all the name of the “priest” who conducted the juju ceremonies. You don’t need to use violence if you have this sort of control.”

Some local African leaders on the island are trying to form a bridge between the authorities and victims to try to break the psychological chains. Sister Mary Anne Nwiboko, a Catholic nun working in a convent in Carlentini in Syracuse, says she has helped more than 300 Nigerian women escape their traffickers since 1998. A trained counsellor and psychotherapist, she works with the police to help identify and approach potential victims. “I have always battled the juju,” she says. “I do not believe in these ceremonies but I understand the power that they hold over these women.”

In recent months, she says the number of women independently seeking her out to help them escape the juju curses has risen sharply. She says she invites them into her convent and uses prayer and song to try to get them to trust her. “These women are very far away from their home. I know their language, their world, it helps me explain that they don’t need to be afraid. Behind every one of these ceremonies is money and I try to show this to the women. That this is not magic, it is just a way to keep them under their control.”

The influence of a handful of west African self-styled Pentecostal priests and traditional healers who are claiming to exorcise juju spells is also on the rise. Small informal churches, like the one in Noce, have sprung up in disused buildings and private homes. This is concerning charities such as Médecins sans Frontières who believe they are often working in tandem with traffickers to keep the women under their control. “Sometimes these preachers are the very same people who are reminding the women that they must not fail to pay their debt,” says Lilian Pizzi, a psychotherapist with MSF.

The Odasani “priestess” vigorously denies that she is doing anything but using “her power” to save the lives of the women who come to her door. This evening, after she has started her service, she invites a young woman asking to be freed of her traffickers to stand in the middle of a circle. The congregation starts to chant and pray, their voices getting louder and faster as the ceremony progresses. The priestess blesses water and oil before conducting a traditional ritual of purification, dousing the woman and commanding the bad spirits to leave her forever.

“I ask the spirit, what is your name? And the spirit answers. And I say, in the name of the Lord depart from my daughter,” she says, raising her arms to the sky. “For many when they leave here the juju has departed their bodies. If they believe this then they are healed and they are free. But if they don’t believe then it is no good. If they don’t believe then there is nothing I can do to help them.”

Source: The Observer UK

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:41 pm 
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Police in Zanzibar arrest at least 20 for 'homosexuality'
16 September 2017

Nairobi (AFP) - Twenty people have been arrested on Tanzania's semi-autonomous archipelago Zanzibar for alleged homosexuality, a police official said Saturday, in the latest crackdown on the country's gay community.

"They are implicated in homosexuality. We arrested them and are busy interrogating them. The police cannot turn a blind eye to this practice," said regional police commander Hassan Ali Nasri on state television. He said the 12 women and eight men were arrested in a hotel where they were undergoing training from an NGO that works on HIV/Aids education programmes.

In February, Tanzania announced it was stopping many privately run health centres from providing Aids-related services, which Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said promoted homosexuality.

Gay male sex is punishable by anything from 30 years to life imprisonment under Tanzanian law, but there is no such ban on lesbian relations. However, politicians had largely ignored the gay community - which was not subject to levels of discrimination seen in other countries such as neighbouring Uganda - until a recent spike in anti-gay rhetoric by the government.

On Friday, deputy health minister Hamisi Kingwangalla vowed in front of parliament to "fight with all our strength against groups supporting homosexuality in our country". The government has in past month vowed to deport foreigners who "campaign for homosexuality". Dozens of men suspected of being gay have been detained and taken to hospital for anal exams to confirm their homosexuality.

In July last year the government banned the import and sales of sexual lubricants, which Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said encouraged homosexuality which led to the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 countries in Africa, and is punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan and Somalia, according to Amnesty International. Uganda in 2014 tried to impose the death penalty on those found guilty of being homosexual, however the controversial law was later repealed.

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:51 pm 
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Seychelles parliament decriminalises gay sex
19 May 2016

Victoria (AFP) - The Seychelles has decriminalised gay sex, the state news agency said on Thursday, after lawmakers voted to amend a penal code that meant those convicted of sodomy faced 14 years in jail.

The move means the Indian Ocean archipelago has become one of the very few African Union (AU) members to allow homosexuality, which remains a crime across most of the continent.

President James Michel, who heads the ruling Parti Lepep which dominates parliament, launched the proposal in February, but said members could vote according to their conscience. "Out of 28 members present for the vote, 14 voted in favour while the other half abstained," the Seychelles News Agency (SNA) reported after the vote was passed on Wednesday in the capital Victoria. Four other lawmakers were absent from the vote.

The Seychelles, which belongs to the 54-member AU bloc, is made up of 115 islands lying off the coast of east Africa. More than three-quarters of the islanders are Roman Catholic, official statistics show. Its economy depends mainly on high-end tourism, and passing the bill may ease concerns of some visitors. "Our constitution clearly states that all persons are equal and this is what our party believes in," opposition leader Francesca Monnaie of the Popular Democratic Movement told SNA. "So I do not see why we should discriminate against a specific group based on their sexual orientation."

The bill amended a section of the penal code dating back to British colonial rule that penalised anyone who "has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature".

Foreign Affairs Minister Joel Morgan had sought to ease concerns among some politicians and church leaders, including Roman Catholic Bishop Denis Wiehe, SNA reported. "A sin is not determined by the government, but by religion," Morgan said, explaining it was not an issue for the judicial system. "Each individual needs to follow his or her conscience on the issue."

Fabianna Bonne, who heads the country's only gay rights campaign group, said efforts would now focus on educating society about "misconceptions and negative stereotyping", SNA added.

Source: AFP

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:11 pm 
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Tanzania arrests 1 of 2 women seen kissing in online video
3 December 2017

DODOMA, Tanzania (AP) -- Tanzanian police are holding one of two women accused of kissing in a video widely circulated on social media.

Ahmed Msangi, police chief in Tanzania's Mwanza region, said authorities arrested the woman in the northwestern region of Geita and are looking for the other woman and some others seen in the video. He said "it is just a matter of time" before law enforcement officers arrest the others, adding "the plan is to eliminate the entire chain of people involved or supporting homosexuality for the betterment of the generations."

Homosexual relations are criminalized in Tanzania and the law prescribes jail terms of up to life. This East African nation has launched a countrywide crackdown against people accused of promoting homosexuality. Authorities have threatened to deregister NGOs accused of supporting gays.

Source: AP

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