Thursday, December 8, 2016

Queer Africans of Faith 3

I had part poured out my passion about religion and Queer Africans..., oh well, it was part venting on my part, and also pointing out that there are some (in my view) peerless advocates of the religious love for queer Africans.

Reading back is like tracking my thoughts through previously painful journeys. But they are done, and am happy about that. Had actually written a couple of other posts which I didnt post... and are now 'lost' where lost bits and bytes get to be 'lost'....

Of queer Africans of faith, didnt mention one, Imam Hendricks of Cape Town, SA. Pic from WorldReligionNews.com

This extra-ordinary Gay Muslim and leader went through his own crisis of faith, and came out stronger. And, then he felt led to shepherd other Gay Muslims and lead them in faith. As a Moslem.

Now, if that doesnt beat courage, I dont know what would, really.
Because, on a day to day basis, his life is a trial. But it is also manifestation of the sheer power of faith for human beings. We believe what we believe, and for one to sway a person of great faith from their faith takes longer. Thats the why martyrs are made.

And, it would be presumptive of me to assume that because we are gay, there would be none of us queer Africans, to stand the gales of disapprobation from mainstream religions that are righteously homophobic.
Imam Hendricks is one such. And, I salute him.

Yes, We queer or gay Africans are also spiritual beings. And, asserting our faith, or right to faith, falls almost naturally into our basket list of 'things to do'.

But, there is more.

Bet you have heard of the convolutions that have gone through world Anglicanism when the American branch accepted a gay bishop.
What I didnt know, or had little appreciation of, is the fact that there has been another quiet but steady movement in the Southern African churches.

Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town and fiery advocate of inclusion for LGBT Christians, we all know. But, what has been his effect on the Church that he led?

Tutu is an extraordinary man. He has used his star power to campaign for what one would call 'liberal' causes, amongst which was one. The ordination of women. He follows the Church that he led, but will not stop himself from speaking out with an African Elder's gravitas when he feels something is wrong. Ask the ANC.....! (Photo Sarah Lee for the Guardian)

Mpho Tutu, the Archbishop's daughter, felt the call of the ministry, and was ordained in the US.

And, Mpho happens to be a Queer African. Brave as the dad, she allowed herself to fall in love..., with a woman...., and horror of horrors, a white woman!! An atheist!!
Mpho was married before, with a couple of kids. Gosh, the lady follows the Dad. Showing how faith can trump indeed all the shackles that we dare put to it. And, Dad and Mum supported her as she is. I salute you, the Tutu family.

Err, that was a teary diversion. They got married. Polar opposites.

“My wife and I meet across almost every dimension of difference. Some of our differences are obvious; she is tall and white, I am black and vertically challenged,” Tutu-van Furth.

“Ironically, coming from a past where difference was the instrument of division, it is our sameness that is now the cause of distress. My wife and I are both women.”

Marriage, the legal one, was in the Netherlands. But, they carried it home..., to South Africa. My people call that the 'introduction'. And, the whole family came out to honour the new marriage. That little tidbit thrills me. Here was a lady that was married, divorced, now celebrating a lesbian (Why do we go in for these damn labels?!) wedding, and the family was there to celebrate with them. This is the City Press' record of that occasion.
Mpho’s eldest brother, Trevor, and her daughters from her first marriage to Joseph Burris, Nyaniso (19) and Onalenna (10), were in the front seats.
---
The small crowd included ... Marceline’s daughter Pien (16), also from a previous marriage, and her father, Ralph. Pien lit a candle to commemorate Marceline’s late mother, Ghi.
Her (?Marceline's?) brothers, Wouter and Eric, had a turn behind the microphone to read The Apache Wedding Prayer. 
----
Moments after Reverend Canon Mpho Tutu-Van Furth slipped a ring on Professor Marceline Tutu-Van Furth’s finger, guests at their wedding ...burst out laughing.
And Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu’s giggle rang out over the Mont Rochelle Hotel’s terrace near Franschhoek, as his wife Leah rocked beside him. 
(Photo Shumaya Hisham, City Press)

Now, now, that was something wonderful. Two families united to celebrate the marriage of a couple. Celebrating a love that seems to reach out and break all kinds of differences and barriers. Goodness, to say they are polar opposites is an understatement!

And why get married?

Love.

What would lead to this need to bridge so many differences that at first would seem absolutely insurmountable? They are human beings, arent they? What is so strong that they can dare thumb the whole world in its collective face, maybe banking on Desmond and Leah's acceptance,...., but the world is not only our dear parents! Why, what drove them?

LOVE.

And, daring the world, they still had to bend to the very conventions that they flouted.
'The Arch', Desmond Tutu wouldn't officiate. But, he proudly gave a 'Father's Blessing'..., showing where his heart truly was.
Church sources said Archbishop Tutu had not given his public blessing for his daughter’s wedding to avoid any impression of forcing the hand of the church, where discussions on the same-sex marriages of both priests and congregants have been ongoing.
And, the knives were soon out. Sharp, sharper, and distressingly agile.
Before full knowledge in the media and the accompanying fracas, Mpho 
was ordained in the Episcopal Church in the US and was “canonically resident” in the Diocese of Washington, DC.
“In terms of the canon, I must have the approval of my diocesan bishop to marry, which I have,” she said.
“With regard to the Anglican Church, I imagine it will resolve its position on these matters in due course,” said Mpho Tutu 
The Arch didnt officiate....., hey, possibly he would have been untouchable....., he has that presence. But, he is also a very logical man. The ongoing discussions in his Church concerned him.

For the priest who 'dared' to officiate...., Charlotte Bannister-Parker, there were calls to resign her priesthood.....!
 “has been subject to horrific attacks. The ‘inquiry’ into what she did hinges on whether or not the word ‘blessing’ was used in the ceremony at any stage. That feels so incredibly sad, that the church is allowing ourselves to be tied in knots by legalisms.
“What Charlotte was doing was praying with us. You can pray with a rapist, a murderer, a torturer – but heaven forbid that you pray with two people in love.”
And indeed, I ask myself, has the whole Anglican Communion truly descended to that kind of legalism?

But, Mpho also faced her own challenges. She gave up her right to officiate as a priest in South Africa, her own country.
Mpho Tutu-van Furth ...said the move had been forced on her following her wedding to a Dutch academic.
“The canon [law] of the South African church states that marriage is between one man and one woman,” she said in a statement. After her marriage, the South African bishop who had given her permission to officiate as a priest in his diocese “was advised that he must revoke my licence. I offered to return my licence rather than require that he take it from me,” she added.
She was “still a priest in good standing in my home diocese” in the United States where she was ordained..

 Tough indeed. 
“It was hard for me to give up my [priest’s] licence, it felt incredibly sad,” Tutu van Furth –  told the Guardian.
“My father campaigned for women’s ordination, and so every time I stand at the altar I know that this is part of his legacy. And it is painful, a very odd pain, to step down, to step back from exercising my priestly ministry.”

Yet, even in this trial, she might be an agent of change. Because, the very church which asked for her licence had the leader admit this below.
Cape Town bishop Raphael Hess said he was “vexed” by the need for Tutu-van Furth to renounce her clerical duties, but that he hoped it would be short-lived.
“The time has come for us to exercise pastoral care, for us to demonstrate a shift that is reflected in the law,” he told the Daily Telegraph. “At the moment she cannot [minister] and she has accepted that but we are hoping that there might be a window for us to change it.”

Agent of Change indeed, or at least the catalyst that precipitates the reaction?

Love. 

That very normal, natural and accepted of human beings driving change to the acceptance of Queer Africans, in places of faith and out.

I shake my head....

Because the post wandered wildly off its plan as I celebrated Mpho Tutu-van Furth's journey as if it was mine and was with her in the happiness.

I will stop here for now. Can continue for hours and hours. Love is such a beautiful thing...., and faith is such a challenge to it! Marrying love and faith....., no wonder Gay Marriage freaks out many!!!!

But, I will also remember that we live in the real world. 

I will remember #NoluvoSwelindawo of Driftsands, Khayelitsha, who was pulled out of her house where she was living with her partner, and brutally killed. RIP Vovo.

Stigma is the real enemy. Those who dare to confront stigma like Mpho do us a massive service, challenging it in places where we would not be able to speak, which has ripple effects to places like Driftsands, Khayelitsha.

Mpho's win would be a win for Queer Africans. For now, we squat and mourn #NoluvoSwelindawo. In a world that had no stigma to who and what you were, you would have lived beyond 22 years of age. RIP, Vovo

gug

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Stigma is the Enemy; 2

I have been slow to return to this.

Meant to..., too important a chain of thought, though it was broken. But, it could return, could be renewed, could be..., done something about.

So, posted about SAs beautiful legal system for #QueerSouthAfricans which rivals none on the continent. It is really wonderful, flawed..., but wonderful.

If indeed the law was all that we had to get things right for queer Africans, #GaySouthAfricans would be in heaven.
But, they simply are not.

The vast majority of them live in real fear of death. I dare you to read the article extracts below.
NPA secured a 17 year jail sentence for a Ceres man who beat and set alight a gay man who asked to have sex with him. 
Judge Siraj Desai labelled the murder of Dawid Olyne a hate crime, and asked that the docket be kept open to find the others who were part of the brutal attack on him, the NPA said in a statement.
Olyne was assaulted, strangled, tortured, tied up, and set alight, after the heterosexual Christo Oncke took offence at being hit on by another man.
Olyne made the mistake of seeing a guy that he liked. He made a pass. And, that made the mistake worse.
brutal attack indeed...., assaulted, strangled, tortured, tied up, set alight...!!!

No, not the work of a single person.

One person was apprehended, someone with mental challenges. The others who were not mentally challenged are free. Quite highly likely members of the same community, and Olyne knew them.

And, Olyne is dead.

That is the day to day lived reality of many black south Africans. An exhilarating freedom, in places and spaces where you can be free, coupled by the very real reality that you might make that crucial pass at the wrong person, wrong time, wrong place......

The law managed to have one of the torture murderers arrested, charged, convicted. Which is a good thing.

And that fear is not only by Gay men. Lesbian South Africans in the townships are open at risk. This happened in the past week. (Pic from Facebook, via Mambaonline

The Cape Times reported that on Saturday night, neighbours were awoken by Swelindawo’s partner, Nqabisa Mkatali, pleading for help.

She told them Swelindawo had been abducted from her home, which had its windows broken and the door kicked in. Swelindawo’s family and neighbours embarked on a desperate search for her throughout the night until they were told that her body had been found.--The body of 22-year-old Noluvo Swelindawo, known as Vovo, was found dumped next to the N2 highway near Khayelitsha on Sunday.

Unconfirmed reports say up to 11 men were involved in the attack on the house. At least one has been apprehended.
a man has now been arrested in connection with the 22-year-old’s killing. The man, believed to be from the same community, is alleged to be the main perpetrator in the murder.
Gay South Africans know of the issues on the ground. They know, for a fact that great laws may not protect their lives. And the fear and danger does not go away, because the law man might not be around the night 'they' attack. So, Queer South Africans have gone on the ground, to change perceptions, to make sure the spirit of the Constitution and the law gets to where the people experience violence. To make neighbor live with neighbor in harmony, be one straight and the other LGBT.

activist Funeka Soldaat, from the group FreeGender Khayelitsha, said that news of Swelindawo’s murder had left her devastated. 
She said that the recently published Hate Crimes Bill will not on its own make a major difference to the continued attacks against LGBTI people and that more interventions need to happen within communities.
“Structures like street committees and other structures must be aware of LGBTI individuals in the community,” Soldaat explained. “Public dialogues with those structures around issues of homophobia and hate crimes must happen.”
 
Mnukwa, however, is angry that the Driftsands community did not do more to protect Swelindawo and failed to come forward with the names of her alleged attackers, despite ongoing engagements.
“We have had countless community dialogues and awareness campaigns to educate people about LGBTI issues and tolerance. I felt protected in Driftsands,” he said. “For them to protect the identities of these men and not to come out and help her when she was screaming at night for help, I feel betrayed.”

The distraught but emboldened community is undeterred. They can murder us, but they cannot make us keep quiet. They will NOT make us keep quiet, because, with Stigma as the Enemy, Silence is death. A Call to action.
GaySA Radio, Africa’s only LGBTI radio station, has called for a Day of Outrage on Saturday (10 Dec) to protest against the brutal and senseless murder: “Express your outrage, speak about what can be done, engage family and friends, take action. Take over social media, your home, your neighbourhood, your community. Join the call that says NO MORE. 

Bottom line. The law is good. Great.

But, on the ground, stigma rears an ugly, unchanging, infuriatingly hateful and murderous head. Stigma is the real Enemy, and for us to make more inroads, we need to go there to the community, the community which heard Swelindawo's screams for help in the middle of the night as a group of men, members of the community, invaded her house and abducted and later killed her, a community which LGBT South AFricans had thought they had engaged and thought relatively safe, but didnt prove safe ultimately for Swelindawo.

Because Stigma is the Enemy, the battle in the law courts is hardly done.

The war must be won by boots on the ground and that painstakingly slowly. Because Stigma is the enemy.

gug

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Stigma IS the Enemy; 1

For those of us Africans from north of the South African border, SA is the gay heaven of the continent....!

Hey, I been there, I have felt it, the desire, the longing to experience all that is good and beautiful in the country..., all that is so far from being realised by the rest of the continent.

Headlines like "Marking 10 Years of Same Sex Marriage in South Africa"
Pic from Mambaonline.com
make us ooze with jealous....

Of course, we do.

That victory came after a decisive court victory. And, as the first couple to get married are quoted saying; (Photo Mambaonline.com)

 “I just have one message I would like to give to everybody – that we are just two men who love each other and who have loved each other for a long time.” The couple are still married today.
And, yes, the courts continue to uphold the rights of Queer South Africans to be equal before the law. Most recent case, apparently because it was not solved by the compromise that parliament stitched together have not been resolved. They are there, and they are real.
The churches think otherwise, not all Home Affairs offices offer the service, people have been turned away humiliated and disdained when they ask for the service.

The courts continue the support, after all, the Constitutional involvement remains the most powerful of driving LEGAL forces.

The Constitutional Court has upheld the right of unmarried partners in a same-sex relationship to inherit each other’s estate, even without a will.

---The court ruled in favour of Eric Duplan, who was in a permanent relationship with Cornelius Laubscher from 2003 until February 2015, when Laubscher died, without leaving a will.

Although they lived together as life partners they never married under the Civil Union Act. Following a claim on the estate by Laubscher’s family, Duplan was named the rightful heir by the courts.

The deceased man’s brother, Rasmus Laubscher, then appealed the ruling in the Constitutional Court. The case hinged on a previous Constitutional Court ruling, known as the Gory order, made before the Civil Union Act was signed into law.

The order decided that a “partner in a permanent same-sex life partnership in which the partners have undertaken reciprocal duties of support” is entitled to inherit the deceased partner’s estate under the Intestate Succession Act

That case was in part because though Gay Marriage was supposed to be exactly the same as hetero marriage, the 'compromise' worked not to be like so. Thus this particular case, and this win...., which is almost 'invisible' in the SA press....

Funny country, is SA.

But, as Constitutional Court Justice Cameron reminded us on World AIDS, in challenges like ours, Queer Africans, and other marginalised minorities, we forget that the LAW is not the answer, solution, or only thing to look out to.

Because, as simply and eloquently as Justice Cameron put it, STIGMA IS THE ENEMY.

He was speaking about the fantastic gains against the HIV epidemic as opposed to the reality for a person living with HIV. Again, medical miracles everywhere..., but STIGMA remains the biggest challenge.

And, that is the one single most important thing that we cannot forget.

Because, despite the stellar, brilliant, fantastic, first-on-the-continent achievements, for Queer South Africans, being gay can be as haunting a journey fraught with pitfalls, as for the rest of Queer Africa.

We shall be getting into this in the next post 

gug

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Kasese Attacks; Leadership

Writing is a funny thing.

When you can write..., it is like something that one does at the drop of a button...., press the button, and, voila, everything happens.

When you are not able to....

Then everything becomes so complicated. The white page stares at you like its demanding to be filled. With what, you beg its demand, and its clear...., no answer. but the demand. You must fill it.

And then you run away from it, to justify not answering its incessant demand. Even when they made these writing aps and blogs..., they tried to imitate paper, like not imitating it wouldn't help. So, a lack of justification to write? Anyone?

Oh yes, you can try something else....., like drawing a few funny tails on the paper to justify the time that you have spent staring at it. Doodling it is called. For some reason, I draw tails...., curling up to gods know where.

There is some funny business going in Uganda. Funny business, I call it. But something like 60 plus people have been killed.
As one journalist, a member of the affected ethnic group wrote on facebook, a post that possibly had her 'disappeared' for a few days, they are not a faceless statistic, but fathers, brothers, uncles, and grandfathers.
Our cultural heritage is quite important to us....., and it is something that we pull out at any turn of the sun. Unfortunately, when the government 'comes' from another part of Uganda, we seem to forget this basic thing. That the cultural heritage matters.

So, the palace was burnt down. A cultural site.

That might have hurt people more than the 60 plus who were King's guards, and are taken as having laid down their lives for the sake of their king. But, the palace was burnt down.

The king, Omusinga Mumbere, was charged with the murder of a policeman. He is a frail, elderly man...., and..., oh well. The governments PR issues are its own. Here is the mighty rebel leader or murderer, or inciter of terrorism? Photo is by Daily Monitor of course, credit to Tausi Nakato

To me, this seems like a 'holding charge'. Of enough depth and magnitude. And of course the government went through lots of things to get away charging him in the district that is his cultural home. That would have driven his people crazy.

So, he is flown willy nilly from his district, to be charged in another district, and away from the restive capital, Kampala. There the opposition is so strong, it would have been interesting to see the mix.....

The Monitor has a good in-depth about the Kingdom and the King, Omusinga and the recent troubles. Because, they are usually not new born. But, they are newly re-ignited by anyone who assumes that they can control the hearts and minds of people with impunity.

Is a funny thing, but, Museveni, President and consummate politician for the last 30 years loves the adulation of all his country mates. And, he is very jealous of the part that we reserve for our cultural heritage. I wonder why?

I mean, we are all so different, it is quite impossible for all Ugandans to come from one, ahem, ahem, ethnic group!!!! Our cultural heritage tells somethings about us that the national identity has refused to say..... And, might possibly never say.

And, the reaction to whatever has been happening is insightful.

Anyway, people in Kasese are scared. After all, the mighty government attacked and arrested the Omusinga, killing 61 plus of their tribesmates. And, they are not to be denied that mourning. Even when the govt (from another area, as it is seen) says they are 'rebels'. They will be champions, martyrs and more...., the more they are not mourned or even identified.



At the health centre, relatives huddled in small groups spoke in low voices, discussing the fate of their loved ones. Soldiers prevented all but a few medical workers and other authorised personnel from entering the health centre.
Some of the relatives who spoke to Daily Monitor on condition of anonymity for security reasons, said they had trekked from the nearby as well as distant Ihandiro, Nyakiyumbu, Kyabarungira, Kyondo and Kisinga sub-counties. All declined to disclose their particulars, demonstrating the palpable fear in the community that in theory should be mourning its own killed by government forces.

And, the govt is restricting the mourning, and the venting, and even the communication of who is dead and who is not! A list of 90 plus suspects has been released.

Maybe a list of the dead will be released once they are rotted away?

Just saying...!!!!

But, for now, they do have a voice of sorts. From the area members of parliament, who include the Parliamentary Opposition leader. And what their narrative of the lead up to the clash that turned massacre is damning.

He gave a chronology of how a delegation of five MPs from the region, including the Leader of the Opposition, Ms Winnie Kiiza, tried in vain to negotiate a peaceful withdrawal of the royal guards from the Buhikira Palace on Sunday.
Bukonjo West MP Atkins Katusabe read a text message from the army chief sent to him at 1:01pm on Sunday afternoon in which Gen Katumba was ordering that the royal guards vacate the Buhikira Palace with their hands up as a sign of surrender.
“Honourable, I have made the following instructions: That they [royal guards] should come without their daggers, knives or pangas. They should show that their hands are free of any weapons. They should not wait for darkness,” read a text message from Gen Katumba to Atkins as the MP held talks with the king.
Before the orders could be enforced, the security forces stormed the Buhikira Palace.
Busongora County South MP Jackson Mbaju, a former Attorney General in the Rwenzururu Kingdom, said the royal guards were trained by police in 2012 with the direct knowledge of Gen Kale Kaiyhura, the Inspector General of Police.
Mr Mbaju accused the government of turning around and branding the royal guards as a “militia” and “terrorists” yet they were trained by the police.
I must salute the Monitor. LOL, as an independent paper, or media organisation, it has to play a real tight rope (make that a thread...) act. LOL......!!!!

I mean, I dont trust anything from the New Vision, the govt media house...., So, I go through the Monitor and try to read between the lines. 

Of course I wouldnt write like this when I am not in Uganda....., I do value my gay ass a lot, thank you very much!!!

In other news, President Museveni is lined up to receive a prestigious award, the African Leadership Awards.

Oh. He will be hosting it. The awards are in Uganda.

Monday, November 28, 2016

#FreeJoyDoreen

I started this blog for the simplest of reasons.

Gay, in Uganda, with little ability to vent. You know, cry, scream, shout and tear out the few hairs that I have because of an 'unfair' world....
Yes, I know. You will tell me that the world is unfair. Always will be. Always has been. And, it will continue being so.....

But, we always want to vent. And, we vent, about lots and lots of things. And, in a country where I couldnt say that I was gay, I found it particularly satisfying to sit in my place in Kampala and start writing things that would have possibly gotten me down.

I never promote it..., lol. Why should I?

I didnt want too many people to know about it. And, too many people knowing it could lead to things that are unexpected. And, still it did...., lol. 

But that screaming and shouting? It led me to a particular place that I didnt want to be. See, all the anger that I couldnt throw out at my world, and I was living it, I came to live it on the blog. And that became an unhealthy thing. When I came to stop blogging, it was something that haunted me.

Of course I was in a better space. Which became worse in a way....., but, that is another story.
I find that I do need to do this. To talk about what it means to be gay, and African, and to be able shout it out to the rest of the world.

Things are happening back home. See this photo?

It was taken by a journalist, Ugandan, from neighbouring Kenyan media station. She had gone home for the traditional marriage ceremony. (Tshhh, for some reason, because of the coming of the white wedding ceremony, the traditional one is now relegated to 'Introduction Ceremony'....)
And the lady looked beautiful during the introduction. Check here.
Photo by Rosebell Kagumire via the Star of Kenya

She's third from the left, and making me feel so homesick for such ceremonies.....







Sigh, sigh, sigh...

If you'd like to see her alone in a pic at work..., here is one, borrowed from the Daily Monitor

Anyway, lady goes to introduce her intended to her family. A grand ceremony, as should be, of course. And, it was beautiful, till it was interrupted.

By war breaking out. Apparently, the Ugandan army attacked the palace of the King of Rwenzururu and killed 46 royal guards. Gruesome pictures of what happened have been spreading via the airwaves...
And, that particular picture that allegedly Joy Doreen Biira snapped as she transformed instantaneously from shy bride to fearless journalist, the huntress that she is, got her into trouble.

She instagrammed it......, you know

Or was it the facebook post that she fired off in anger as she saw her cultural heritage up in flames?

And, she was arrested. She was also giving eye witness accounts of the fighting, slaughter, from what I am picking up...., but you know, news from an instant frontline can become jumbled up...., and, her mom was quick to report her missing, arrested, in case something happened that was inadvertent. Crazy things happen in cases of war, you know!!!
46 royal guards were killed. Presumably defending their king. But, the goverment is ready to name them terrorists, so, I hold my breath before I commit them to the ancestors heavens in glory.....

And Joy Doreen, after being disappeared, the media does what it does in such cases. They all know that strange things happen in war, and, Joy was at the very fore front of it. So, they trumpet it far and wide, engage the social media, and even form a hashtag of course....!

And, voila, Joy Doreen is re-appeared.

But, that is not amazing. What the most amazing thing is, is that she was all the time in police custody or arrest, and, since the outcry was becoming unbearable, they police had to do something... And they gracefully accepted that they had arrested Joy Doreen, and not only that, she was still out on so called 'police bond'.

Anyway, she was quite safe. And there was no need for alarm....

She had been filming things which were considered sensitive. Apparently, this was a restricted area..., and Joy had gone overboard to film the instantaneous war/massacre that had happened. Of course she should have reined in her journalistic instincts...

But, the most laughable thing done by the government was the charge that Joy Dorreen emerged from police custody with. 

Abetting Terrorism.

That is the charge. 

Wonder of wonders that that tough woman is free. She was abetting terrorism!!!! Imagine that! An instragramed photo/video whatever that of course goes virallllllllllll

Lets not mention the so many lives lost. Just a statistic?

Life becomes such a mess.

That is why I take the chance to shout and sing and dance, and also to open my big wide mouth and start shouting about things that my countrymates take for granted should be kept hidden and not talked about...., like #FreeJoyDoreen... and of course #JournalismISnotaCrime !

The laws of the country are perveted when they are used by the state to terrorise citizens. Thankfully, Joy Doreen is free...!

But, she still apparently has to answer to that ridiculous charge....

Now, now, now,

that I have vented as I felt like, I am feeling so good. 
Sincerely, it makes one feel good. To take these things off one's shoulders and rest them on blog page....

That is what it used to do for me. Does for me now, though current trigger is very different.

Anger management therapy...., lol!

But, am so glad that Joy Doreen is free. Though we should still say #FreeJoyDoreen and #JournalismIsNotaCrime. Because that travesty of justice will continue until the charge is dropped. It is a very serious one. Very.

The state is always all powerful. That is why some people dreamt of the so called 'Bill of Rights'.

all the best

gug





Tanzania, HIV and Gay Men Part 2

Continuing this...,

It might be the new Government?

I mean...., remember the serious guy Magufuli? He was elected President of the United Republic...., and after the election, he brought a very fresh vision to what was happening in the country.....

There was a time that the hashtag #whatwouldMagufulido was seriously trendy.....

Apparently, amongst the 'wasteful' things that the government found, was HIV programming for gay men, Tanzanians. And, apparently the first mention of a problem is in a very #Magufuli style.

I am not sure whether the announcement is jumbled...., or what, but it seems nonsensical. The Minister of Health of the republic actually says that gay men in Tanzania have more HIV than other men..., but then says that she has ordered that they no longer be given condoms and lube....! Yes. That is what she says. It is as if she is a Minister of Religion (or Ethics and Integrity, in Uganda) instead of a Minister of Health. Check here.
The Tanzanian government has banned imports and sales of sexual lubricants in its latest move targeting the gay community, officials say.
Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu justified the move on the grounds that the product encourages homosexuality, which is banned in the east African nation.
"It is true that the government has banned the importation and use of the jelly to curb the spread of HIV," the minister told local media on Tuesday.
"It is estimated that 23 percent of men who have sex with men in Tanzania are living with HIV/AIDS," he added.
"I have instructed stakeholders working with gay people to remove the products from the market."
That is a very serious announcement.

Early on in the HIV epidemic in Africa, there were serious debates. Should condoms be promoted because they actually prevent the spread of HIV? Many moral religious people were offended. Condoms would promote promiscuity. Condoms were bad. Condoms were something visible of something that was not supposed to be. 

But, condoms DO PREVENT HIV. They work. And, over the years, we have agreed. Condoms are a very important way to stop the spread of HIV. Young people should learn about them, and should be able to protect themselves. Of course, those who dont want to have sex, this doesnt concern them. But, this knowledge is important.

So, we actually give out condoms free to sex workers. And, we dont tell them to stop having sex. Of course they wouldnt listen to us. That is how they earn money. We are supposed to be realistic, in the real world.

So, we dont tell people NOT TO HAVE SEX. Because people have sex. Whether or not other people want. We just want them, as health workers, to be safe when they have sex.

But, the honourable minister of health believed that this was not okay. GAY TANZANIAN MEN SHOULD NOT HAVE SEX.
So, no condoms and lubricants for gay men in Tanzania..... because this makes them have sex!!!!

I dislike the hypocritical attachment that the minister did when she announced this. It was so out there stupid, that, Lady Minister of Health, I call you out on this. This

The ministry has agreed to work with stakeholders to give the ministry the money they were using to buy and import the lubricants so we could use it to buy beds for the maternity wards." 
This is like the hypocrite who will let a sex worker get HIV and get sick, and cry crocodile tears over the sex worker's child. Why dont you empower the sex worker so that the child is actually born without HIV and is safe? 

And, it is a matter of fact that the lubricant (which in case you didnt know, is necessary for safe anal sex) is given for free. And, if those who gave it wanted to donate maternity beds, of course they would do so.  (Photo courtesy of 76crimes.com and Alchetron.com)

This was very funny of you, Lady Minister Ummy Mwalimu. This, did not serve the country Tanzania, nor the people...., and it is like you havent yet heard of the lessons of the HIV epidemic. 

We cant stop people from having sex. We can help make sure they have safer sex..., whether they are 'criminalised' or not. That, that you forgot, Lady Minister.

Tongue in cheek, Agence Presse reported....
Tanzania is cracking down on import and sales of sexual lubricants on the theory that, without them, homosexuality will decrease, Agence France-Press reports.
Sometimes we do things which are ridiculable. And, I ridicule the idea..., too. Guess it is better for a friend to tell you that you have egg on your face than a stranger on the street, no?

But that was only the first bullet that the minister fired. And that was in July of 2016.

But, worse was to come. 

In August 2016, It was the Minister of Justice to come out suddenly with a statement. Minister Harrison Mwakyembe announced
"new plans to suspend the registration of any charity or non-governmental organisation that supports homosexuality.
The aim was protecting the “culture of Tanzanians”, 
And of course, it wasnt getting limited to that. 
This year, police raided two U.S.-funded HIV/AIDS organizations and seized confidential patient information and supplies, officials said.
The Regional Commissioner of Dar-es-Salaam threatened to arrest gay people, and declared that their contacts on Facebook and Instagram were suspect..... Though that might have been in July..., but, you get the sense of pending gloom and doom...
In September, the deputy minister of health, Hamisi Kigwangalla, accused HIV treatment organizations of “promoting homosexuality.”

Time, is time, gay Tanzanians, to rethink your closets. It is no longer safe out there...... (Photo Reuters/Edward Ecwalu)

In September, the government threatened to ban NGOs that 'promote' gay rights. 

On 1st Nov, the Minister was announcing the suspension of HIV programmes for gay men. And, her reasons were interesting.
  • government had received reports that some local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were promoting and normalizing same-sex relationships as part of their HIV programs
Now..., that is interesting. Can you imagine a program which goes out preaching no sex and condemnation of a particular group..., with the aim to be making them have safer sex? LOLEST. Asking for the impossible, the government?
  • health minister, Ummy Mwalimu, .... had suspended HIV/AIDS outreach programs for gay patients to review whether they promoted same-sex relationships.
As an HIV programmer, you are reminded again and again, you are NOT making people have sex. People have sex. They do. Errrr, even in covents and monasteries. They do have sex. This is the real world. We dont make them have sex. We try to make sure that they have SAFER SEX....., please!!!!!!!  Lady Minister!!! It is as if the whole 30 years of the epidemic have been nothing and taught the government of Tanzania nothing?

As a sop to those who would think the government totally heartless, this was conceded.
government would continue to provide HIV/AIDS services to adolescent girls, drug users and other groups.
Hahahahahaha!

We shall rest assured that the 25% HIV rate amongst this key population of Gay Tanzanian Men is not going to be a problem....... After all, all the other groups of Key Populations will remain targeted...., but maybe we are just starting with gay men? Because, after all, illegal drug use and sex work are ILLEGAL in Tanzania, not so?  Its like saying..., dont worry, this time we are only mad at the homosexuals....., this time...!!!!!

And they are already hurting
A 29-year-old gay man in Dar es Salaam who is HIV-positive said that he was diagnosed four years ago. Since then, antiretroviral drugs have helped him stay relatively healthy and health workers have provided him with condoms, lubricants and information about safe sex so he does not infect his partners.
But now he had gone two weeks without medication. To get it, he would have to go to a public hospital, and he said he fears retribution.
“In this environment, it’s not safe to be a known gay man in the open,” he said.

You have to go brother. Because the virus in your body is going to come up again. You are risking death. Yes, you are. You have to brave the fear, the shame, the possible outing. Please go, else....

Funny thing is, the programs are being funded from the US. Or, is that the problem? Tanzania is saying that, we are poor. We know it. We shall accept help to help our people not die of HIV...., BUT..., with a big exception. We shall not LET you, or anyone else, help Gay Tanzanians.

Of course it is hypocritical. It brings tears to my eyes. Because I am a gay Ugandan. A gay African. Because Uganda was actually doing the same thing just a few years ago. Aid for HIV, but only for the 'good' populations, not sex workers, not gay Ugandans. Tears to my eyes indeed. And that the honourable ministers didnt learn from Tanzania's nothern border is both hurting and ridiculous. Cry, Beloved Tanzania!

The reaction from service providers was gloomy indeed. Of course. Quoted one
John Kashika, of Community Health Education Services & Advocacy NGO, said suspending HIV/AIDS programmes for some LGBT groups was a blow in the fight against the virus.“This is essentially denial of services to people who are at the highest risk of contracting HIV, there’s going to be a lot of implications,” he said.

Indeed, as one Gay Tanzanian noted in dismay
“It’s clear that the government doesn’t care whether we live or die,” said one 22-year-old gay man who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of fear of punishment.
Am afraid you are very right, fellow gay man. It is tough. It is disheartening. It is really, really painful, to me as a gay man, a gay African, and a person who believes that you are a whole human being, and you should not be denied treatment or prevention methods.

Our prayers to you, our queer Tanzanian brothers and sisters. Seems like tough times ahead....., But dont lose hope. You are human. You are real.

We shall overcome.

gug

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Tanzania, HIV and Gay men, what is happening?

What is happening in Tanzania?

That question has been late coming to me. Not been paying lots of attention. But, there are some very serious developments.

First thing that I heard was that some HIV prevention programs were being suspended. From a Reuters flash...., on 01 Nov 2016
“Tanzania has suspended community-based HIV/AIDS prevention programs for gay men, the health minister said on Monday, in the latest crackdown on the high-risk group. Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania’s minister for health said the government had received reports that some local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were promoting and normalizing same-sex relationships as part of their HIV programs. Gay sex is illegal in Tanzania and punishable by up to 30 years in prison…”
Of course gay sex is illegal in Tanzania. So is sex work. So is the use of injectiable drugs (Injection drug use), and of course, gay sex is not allowed in prison, where we drop human beings and tell them, see, you are now prisoners. For the next 20 years of your life, you are not supposed to have sex. No dreaming about it, no contact, no nothing. Because you are now prisoners...., see?

Seriously, we have had this debate since the beginning of the HIV epidemic. And, it is very important in a country like Tanzania. This is what the Wikipedia page on TZ and HIV says.
Tanzania faces a mature, generalized HIV epidemic. In 2011, an estimated 1.6 million Tanzanians were living with HIV/AIDS, with 1.3 million being age 15 or older. Based on 2011 data, AIDS has resulted in an estimated 1.3 million orphaned children.
----

Overall, the survey found that 5.1 percent of those tested were HIV positive. 
6.2 percent of women were HIV positive, against 3.8 percent of men. 
Such surveys are great. They give us an overall picture of the epidemic. Who is affected? How are they affected? How good or how bad are they able to access services?

But, there is a huge problem with them. Certain people will not tell you who they are....., simply because, as the reuters article points out, 
Gay sex is illegal in Tanzania and punishable by up to 30 years in prison…”
 So, although we know that HIV spreads by sex mainly, we are actually not going to ask people whether they have anal sex, or sex with men. We just assume that everyone has sex heterosexually (i.e, forgiving my bluntness for the sake of clarity, by putting a penis into a vagina)...., which of course is impossible. Gay people do exist on this earth. And, whether we do like it or not, they fall in love, or lust, and have sex with each other.

And, who will ask, in a country where prostitution is stigmatized and punished, whether one is a prostitute? And which sex worker is going to answer in the positive? Seriously?
Or the injection drug users? For goodness sake, they will not answer! Especially when you can potentially arrest them.

It was realised very early on in the epidemic of HIV, that there were certain populations which were hugely stigmatized, and very likely to have HIV and of course have HEAVY burdens of the virus. And, these populations were not going to be 'touched' by moral, lovely, cleaner than a white sheet HIV prevention and treatment programs. 

Anyway, despite this constraint, scientists and doctors, negotiate with the government so that they do studies like these. So, it has already been found that;
  • 34% of people who inject drugs in Dar-es-Salaam are HIV positive (against the 5.8% national average) 
  • 31.4% of Female sex workers (DSM) against the 6.8% avg of women in the country. 
  •  12.4% of men who have sex with men in DSM compared to 3.8% of men, nationally.
 The World Health Organisation calls these groups Key Populations in HIV. They are there. They will have the greatest burden of disease. And of course, it is hard to do something in HIV prevention amongst them, just like in other populations. That is normal....., or, it is usual, in Africa, and all over the world.

Problem is...., science is like HIV. The virus does not discriminate. In a population of all Tanzanians, the weakest link is the Key Populations. So, you cant control HIV in all the other populations while forgetting the key populations. So, you have to bite the bullet. 
The politicians have to be educated. The medical doctors have to be told the facts of life, and to put aside the 'morals'. The churches, and the mosques, they have to be educated also. Because HIV doesnt discriminate, and it is better to make sure that the sex worker is having safe sex, is protected from HIV or is under treatment, than start treating the 'innocent' child that is born by the sex worker.

But, for a very long time, a very long time, that is the way that we have acted. 

We so stigmatise certain individuals..... gay men, sex workers, prisoners, those who use drugs....., we actually just shrug our shoulders and say, they are to blame.....

And we forget our huge sex networks, and we forget that we might have sex with someone who was also in prison, or has sex with men who have sex with men..., or is a sex worker...

Just imagine, logically. Who do female sex workers have sex with?

Of course, they have sex with the upright standing gentlemen who drive by on the road and pick them up...., and then later go back to their church going wife.....!!!

Life is life. And what happens happens. HIV does not discriminate.

And, though we so griveously forget people in prison....., at least we try to give some of those like gay men, sex workers, drug users services..., and try to make sure that they have safe sex, safe drugs use, or even get treatment.

Why?

Because, protecting gay Tanzanians protects all Tanzanians in the long while.
It is a fact of life.

Protecting the vulnerable protects the whole population. 

And if we fail to protect the vulnerable....., the whole population is at risk.
So, Tanzania government, with its donors, has actually been giving HIV prevention and treatment to these populations. Because, as a government...., you take the broader view....

So, what has happened now?

We shall continue this....