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Africa: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia comes to Africa

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO)) is a day is recognized by people joining together to speak out against homophobia, its effects and results focusing on ways to change how people perceive homosexuality and promote equality; ways in which LGBTs are accepted and respected and have  same  rights and peaceful existence with other citizens to roam free and not be harmed. The day is held on May 17 every year.

IDAHO highlights places where homophobia is on the rise. This year the focus is on three Africa countries: Kenya, Uganda and Malawi:

May 17th — International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) — is a day when people of good will bring the spotlight of world attention to the problem of anti-gay discrimination and violence and highlight those places where Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people are suffering the most egregious human rights violations.

This year's IDAHO focus is three countries in Africa – Uganda, Kenya and Malawi. Africa may seem far away to most Americans, but purveyors of hate against gays in the United States have played a key, behind-the-scenes role promoting anti-gay legislation in at least one country, Uganda. Moreover, the anti-gay hate pumped out by American evangelicals here and missionaries abroad is simply a more “respectable” version of the hate which is at the root of anti-gay mob violence in Africa.

A portion of the blame goes to the religious clerics, where the church has been accused of funding, promoting and spreading homophobia. Rev Rowland Jide, a Nigerian pastor of House of Rainbow says:

All over the world, transphobic and homophobic violence is often perpetrated by conservative people who use religion to justify their acts. This is not the privilege of any specific religion and it would be only too easy to find examples related to outburst of violence in Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, animist, etc… contexts. Leading to a climate of violence, exclusion, hate and discrimination within the faith groups and believers, these expressions of violence also indirectly influence many non-believers or atheist people, and lead them to opinions and acts that attack the dignity, safety and sometimes the very lives of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people. Far from being a phenomenon of the past, this religious violence is a persistent, and sometimes an increasing reality in many countries. The conservative religious right is also mandating its theology of violence and exclusion into the political realms as well.

The recent occurrences that puts Kenya, Uganda and Malawi at the center stage are:

Kenya

A post originally written by a gay activist in Kenya Denis Nzioka on the colourful life of a gay Kenyan talks about mobs attacking gay men in Mombasa, Kenya:

On Friday February 12th, reports started streaming in from Mombasa that mobs were attacking gay men in the township of Mtwapa. Through various engagements with some of the gay men witnessing the attacks, the Kenya Human Rights Commission was contacted to respond to the situation. While engaging with various players in Nairobi and Mombasa, KHRC decided to send Luke** of KHRC and Mark** to monitor the situation. Below is a brief write up of the information provided by James** of PEMA Kenya and John** of Stay Alive activists who responded on the ground to the violence and whose members were the most impacted by the sudden violent attacks on gay men in Mtwapa.
Background:
There are various version of where the wedding of two gay men rumor started and there is still need to investigate where the rumor started. There is even a suggestion that it was a planted story.
Uganda
The parliament ready to introduce a legislation to make homosexuality punishable by death or life imprisonment. The stages of the bill are: introduction of the anti-gay bill; amendments by the legislators to make the bill law; president blocking the bill and screening of gay porn in church to propel more hate.

The Ugandan anti gay bill has been tabled in parliament and now it awaits the president Yoweri Museveni to sign and make homosexuality officially illegal. The previous code was not clear but now the bill called “The anti homosexuality Bill 2009” tabled by a member of parliament David Bahati which states that any homosexuality act or tendencies might face the death penalty or face life imprisonment.

Malawi

A gay couple were arrested after holding an engagement ceremony.

A Malawi court will sentence Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza next month of charges of “gross indecency.” Chimbalanga, who identifies as a woman, and Monjeza were arrested last December after holding a traditional engagement ceremony. The couple face a maximum sentece of 14 years at hard labor.

Rev Jide writes on the aims of the International Day against homophobia as:

Arguments for the added value that the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia brings to advocacy strategies:
– It gets good media attention and provides an interesting moment to go public and talk to the media.
– It is a good opportunity to request political attention from policy makers.
– It generates mainstream social attention and allows getting messages out to constituencies that are outside of the “usual” LGBTI/Human Rights circles. It may therefore increase the public campaigning potential around LGBT issues, including through the mobilisation of social networks.
– Through the common focus on one Day, it allows joint initiatives to take place. It helps build perennial alliances around a cause.

It is proposed that the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia in both 2010 and 2011 are used as campaigning moments over this issue.

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