Uganda: Report finds over 89 cases of violations against LGBTI persons

Newspapers in Uganda have been used out LGBTI Ugandans. Photo Wikimedia.
Newspapers in Uganda have been used out LGBTI Ugandans. Photo Wikimedia.

KAMPALA, Uganda - A new report on abuses based on gender identity and sexual orientation found at least 89 verified cases of violations against LGBTI Ugandans in 2014.

The report, released Thursday by the Human Rights Awareness and Promotion Forum, found that in most of the reported cases members of the Uganda police force participated in violations of the rights of LGBT persons or condoned abuses by third parties.

The 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, that made “aggravated same-sex relations” in Uganda punishable by life in prison, was found to have fueled these violations and abuses of LGBTI persons. The amount of violations detailed in the report almost doubled in March, after the Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

The report did show signs of slight improvement from the previous year, including a few reported instances where the Uganda police force did protect the rights of LGBTI persons.

The verified violations included instances in which transgender persons were sexually abused in jail cells, LGBTI persons were forced to partake in medical examinations, families discriminated or abandoned children because of their sexual orientation, and the use of mob justice against LGBTI persons.

However, many elected leaders and members of civil society in Uganda claim that abuses toward LGBTI persons do not occur, especially since Uganda’s Constitutional Court declared the act null and void based on a technicality just months after the bill was signed into law.

“One of the issues we have when we are advocating with government agencies is that they always say they do not see these cases,” said Fridah Mutesi a human rights lawyer at HRAPF.

The report by the Forum is the second annual, and is meant to challenge the claim that these violations do not exist by systematically documenting and verifying violations, providing analysis, and recommending solutions to policy makers, police, and the international community.

“There has been a false perception — a feeling that all is well now. This feeling is mainly reflected in the attitude of development partners,” said Nicholas Opiyo, a lawyer at Chapter Four known for leading the successful constitutional challenge of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. “This perception is really a false perception because we are very far from achieving equality — we are very far from achieving inclusion of LGBTI persons in Uganda.”

The recommendations for the Ugandan police and policy makers in the report were simple: to recognize basic human rights.

Chris Dolan, Executive director of the Refugee Law Project at Makerere University School of Law said, “We know there is still just lot of silent complicity.”

Contributing Editor: @AustinBryan

Tunisian Police Rape Woman then Charge Her with Indecent Exposure

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 00:30 AM EDT, 5 October 2012

Tunisian Protesters Hands, Photo by America Abroad MediaTUNIS, Tunisia - Earlier this year, the world was appalled to learn that under Article 475 of the Moroccan penal code, a rapist can escape prosecution by marrying his victim.

In an unconscionable twist of fate, a young girl who had been raped and reported the assault to the authorities, was subsequently ordered to marry her rapist. Facing such an untenable situation the girl took her own life.

On Tuesday, 02 October 2012, in the neighboring North African country Tunisia, hundreds of women gathered in the capital city, Tunis, to protest the trial of a young woman who had been charged with indecent exposure after she was raped by two Tunisian policeman.

Her ordeal began last month when she and her fiancé were driving in the city and were approached by three police officers. According to her complaint, one officer took her fiancé to the bank to extort money, while the remaining two took turns raping the her inside the car.

When the couple reported the sexual assault and extortion to the authorities, instead of launching an investigation into her complaint and possible misconduct of the policemen; the police department charged the couple with "intentional indecent behavior," a charge that carries a term of up to six months in prison.

The audacity of the attack and the charges levied against the victim demonstrate a total lack of regard for women's rights or fear of reprisal for any abuses. The fact that the courts upheld the police's complaint against the woman, connotes an environment in which men can violate women with relative impunity.

According to reports, ‘it was only after the woman filed a complaint against the officers -- and they were charged with rape and extortion -- that the officers said they found the couple in an "immoral position" in the car.’ (Source: CNN)

The combined impact of this high-profile case is the tacit acknowledgement that female victims of physical or sexual abuse will not receive justice and in fact may themselves face prosecution.

Despite Tunisians leading the Arab Spring movement which paved the way for a renaissance of personal freedom of expression, it appears that these hard fought rights were never intended to benefit Tunisian women. In fact, last month, in another blow to women's rights in the country, 'the government rejected a U.N. Human Rights Council's recommendation to abolish discrimination against women in areas such as inheritance and child custody.’

The sensational aspect of this rape case highlights a systemic environment of anti-women's rights policies within post-Arab Spring Tunisia. From regressive family laws to charging rape victims with a crime if they have the temerity to report the assault, one has to wonder what the Tunisian fruit seller who self-immolated would feel about the outcome of his actions that sparked a freedom movement.

He and other Tunisians’ made the supreme sacrifice to achieve the dream of living in a post-President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali’s regime. It is disheartening to witness that the newly installed government has chosen to adopt the failed policies of the last regime to control the Tunisian citizenry and journalist through arbitrarily applied "public immorality" and "public disorder" statutes, clearly designed to silence the voices of those seeking justice.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter
Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor: @ayannanahmias

Waris Dirie | FGM vs Circumcision

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Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 16:00 PM EDT, 3 May 2012

Waris Dirie

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is currently one of the most egregious women's rights abuses occurring globally. It is a subject that is hard to discuss because of its intimate, sexual and graphic nature.

However, it is exactly because of the life-long psychological and physical effects this barbaric practice has on its innocent and unwilling victims, that it is incumbent upon us to publicize this abuse until it is eradicated.

This issue was first brought to the public's attention by Waris Dirie, Somalian author, activist, and victim of FGM, when she published her memoir titled 'Desert Flower.' The book was subsequently made into a movie in 2009, and Liya Kebede, an Ethiopian supermodel, played Waris Dirie in the heart wrenching but ultimately victorious story of survival.

Initially, when we featured a post about this topic, a number of readers commented about male circumcision and how this is just as barbaric as FGM and should also be classified as a human rights abuse.

Though it is true that any type of unwanted genital mutilation is a crime, the major differences between male circumcision and FGM are as follows:

    1. Most boys are circumcised at birth, or in the case of Jews and some Muslims, on the 8th day of life;
    2. Men who are circumcised later in life often elect to have this procedure for personal, religious, or health reasons;
    3. The surgery is performed in a sterile environment, usually under anesthesia;
    4. Male circumcision is usually performed in a non-invasive manner that ultimately results in few, if any adverse psychological effects.

By comparison, FGM has more in common and correlates best to physical castration in men.

    1. Girls who undergo FGM (aka female circumcision) are forcibly mutilated anywhere between 13 and 15 years of age;
    2. The 'procedure' occurs without anesthesia in unsanitary environments;
    3. Rusty razor blades, old knives, or shards of glass are used to cut the flesh;
    4. The clitoris and the inner and outer labia are torn away;
    5. Finally, the wound is crudely stitched together and must be cut open for sex and childbirth.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are benefits to men and boys becoming circumcised particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.

"Strong evidence from Africa indicates that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV infection in heterosexual men by 38-66%, and studies have concluded it is cost effective in sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization (WHO) currently recommends circumcision be recognized as an intervention as part of a comprehensive program for prevention of HIV transmission in areas with high endemic rates of HIV." (Source: WHO)

The effects of FGM are profoundly debilitating and deleterious to women's reproductive health and serves no useful purpose. It is a practice deeply rooted in misogyny, tyranny and the concept of women as chattel.

Men who have been circumcised can still enjoy a robust sex life filled with numerous encounters, whereas women who have undergone FGM must suffer immense pain to remove the sutures, and as one can imagine, sexual intercourse thereafter would be excruciating.

In the Europe between the 16th and 17th centuries the 'Chastity Belt' was developed to prohibit women from having sexual intercourse. This device was also a contrivance of men desiring to control the sexuality of the women in their societies.  In comparison to FGM, a 'Chastity Belt' was infinitely less egregious, but definitely a women's rights violation.

Surprisingly, FGM procedures are on the rise in Western nations such as the United Kingdom.  It is easy for most people to acquiesce in the face of such a daunting problem that is occurring half-way across the world. It is also more comfortable to believe that this is an Islamic problem though FGM is no prescribed in the Quran.

It is easiest to effect change in one's backyard, and thus, in Western societies where there are no health reasons to recommend FGM it is up to the medical establishment and authorities to intervene and halt these procedures.

Misogyny like rape, is less about the object of abuse, in this case, women, and more about control. The net result of FGM is that it diminishes all women everywhere even if it hasn't personally impacted your life or those of your friends and family.

Follow Nahmias Cipher Report on Twitter Twitter: @nahmias_report Editor-in-Chief: @ayannanahmias

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Combating Racism Against Africans

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-Chief

Last Modified: 00:52 a.m. EDT, 27 September 2010

UNITED STATES - My son was 10 years old the first time I had to have the talk about "race" and "racism." This was when he began to feel different and although he couldn't articulate it, he had already embarked upon the nuanced journey of life as a person of color, albeit biracial.

Specifically, we have had several discussions about Africa and African people. He understood that I had grown up in Africa and that I was 'brown,' but he couldn't comprehend why he was fair and had straight hair. So he chose to identify as 'white' which was at odds with how his Caucasian classmates viewed him. At that time he attended a strict religious school with a homogeneous population. It was very difficult for him because of the isolation and ostracization he experienced.

One day my son came home in tears because the children teased him when he told them his mother had grown up in Africa. It was particularly disturbing to me when my son recounted what the children in his school said about Africans and the cuisine I cooked. I recognized in large part these children were only repeating what they heard at home since children are intrinsically innocent, and must be taught to hate, disparage, and disrespect. It is the responsibility of the parents to train them otherwise.

Sometimes we think our children don't listen to us, and if they do hear, that they won't act upon what we teach them.  However, in this instant, my son obviously heeded my admonition and forcefully told these children that they could not make fun of Africa or his mother.

I was and continue to be proud of him, and how he had the courage to follow my instructions to never let anyone put Africa or Africans down. I told him that though he is biracial German, his heritage is also African, and that all life on earth started in Africa. I emphasized that he needs to be proud of his African heritage, and that his grandfather, my father,  lives in Harare which is a major city in Zimbabwe, Africa.

At the time when my son told me what happened, I was angry that racism remained perniciously prevalent in America.  I was incensed that my son had to experience it at such a young age. That is when I decided that it was important for me to expose him to Africa, if not in person, then through the next best medium of video. I wanted to communicate to him the importance of becoming a global citizen because xenophobia is bred from fear and lack of exposure.  I searched a long time for something that I could show my son to communicate the modernity of Africa.  Luckily, someone who is a follower of the blog sent me a link to this video.

It is a generally accepted fact that genetically human beings are 99.9% identical. "When researchers completed the final analysis of the Human Genome Project in April 2003, they confirmed that the 3 billion base pairs of genetic letters in humans were 99.9% identical in every person. It also meant that individuals, are on average, 0.1 percent different genetically from every other person on the planet." (Source: National Human Genome Research Institute, NIH)

My son, a science buff, understood this much more easily than my telling him that we are all the same. What he couldn't understand was much more personal.  He wanted to know why the food I prepared for him was vastly different than what the other children in his class ate.  I explained to him that we eat organic foods, but also that some Europeans preferred diets rich in dairy, sugar, very little spice. By contrast, I cooked the food that I grew up eating which is very spicy foods made from fresh, organic vegetables and legumes.

I will address the moniker of organic vs non-organic and GMO in another post, but for the purposes of explaining the type of foods I prepare for my son, I take great pride and care in cooking fresh food for him everyday. So, when he came home with his Sambusas (which in other parts of the world are called Samosas) in the bottom of his backpack I was concerned. Then when his teacher told me that my son was hungry at school because he had no food, I was understandably chagrined.

I asked him why he wasn't eating his food, and he told me "because the other children say that my food stinks like Africans." That conversation then apparently segued into a discussion about how Africans live, and more stereotypes were presented about Africans as fact.

I remember when I came back from Tanzania, East Africa in 1979, I vividly recalled some of the ignorant assumptions that children had then about Africa.  If one more child asked me about "lions running down the middle of the street, naked women with their breasts exposed, cannibalism, or what it was like to live in the jungle", I might have screamed.  But to hear my son repeat such comments nearly 30 years later, was unfathomable.

I never thought I would see a person of color elected to the highest office in America in my lifetime. Yet, in 2008, a biracial African-American, the son of an African Kenyan father and a Caucasian American mother, was elected as the President of the United States.

There are any number of characteristics and reasons why President Barak Obama is one of the most famous persons alive today; but most transformative for me is his African heritage, and the fact that his election at this time in history, changed the paradigm for all children. Especially, for my son who views President Obama as a hero and someone who looks like him.

Though at seven, my son was more interested in competing in the Olympics as an equestrian, or playing Polo, or growing up to be scientist who builds space ships, robots, and rockets, for him the question of ever being President of the United States is but one more option in a panoply of choices.

President Obama, through his life, his family, and his leadership, is demonstrating that we do not have to dwell in the realm of pigmentation, but should elevate ourselves to the heights of our intelligence. I am not naive nor idealistic enough to think that his election would eradicate racism in this country, but I did hope that it would die with my generation and those who came before me.  Sadly, this is not the case, and so, I fight the fight, one interface and interfaith dialogue at a time.

Recently, I was speaking with my mother about the difficulties of raising a biracial child of African/European descent in a largely European environment. We are privileged to have access to my mother's wisdom and insight. She is a world-traveler, former Peace Corp Desk Officer responsible for all of the countries in the Horn of Africa, a former educator, and a phenomenal human being..

As we discussed the challenges associated with communicating to my son the value of his heritage, and how I might demonstrate in a tangential manner short of traveling to Africa, that the Continent is more than what is portrayed in the Western media. My mother suggested that I go to the library or bookstore and get some large picture books with photos of Africa and its cities.

Nothing takes the place of actual experience, but until we have the opportunity to return to Africa, this was going to have to serve as a satisfactory alternative. As expected, my son responded much more to the video than the books that I provided to him because the music is superb, the images clear and powerful, and it is so evocative.

Like me, it pulled him in and provided him with a visual reference for him to embrace and share. The continent of Africa has many countries, each with major cities and sprawling metropolitan areas that rival, if not outstrip many in the West.

It is my hope that others will view this video and share it with friends, family and acquaintances. The producer of this video has done a great service to humanity in promoting greater understanding and knowledge of Africa. We can't all be "rock stars" like President Barak Obama, but each of us can contribute to making the world a better place for our children's today and tomorrow.

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Twitter: @nahmias_report
Editor: @ayannanahmias

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