Saturday, May 31, 2008

Egypt accused of "indifference to justice and public health" as HIV convictions upheld

By Staff Writer, • May 30, 2008 - 11:33

A Cairo appeals court has upheld the sentences handed down to five men jailed as part of a 'crackdown' on men who are HIV positive or living with AIDS.

Nine men have been sent to prison so far.

"To send these men to prison because of their HIV status is inhuman and unjust," said Joe Amon, director of the HIV/AIDS programme at Human Rights Watch.

"Police, prosecutors, and doctors have already abused them and violated their most basic rights, and now fear has trumped justice in a court of law."

As in previous cases, authorities forced the detainees to undergo HIV tests without their consent.

Four of the five convicted last month tested positive.

They were charged with the "habitual practice of debauchery," a term which in Egyptian law includes consensual sexual acts between men.

Well, the rest of the story is here.

Very interesting people, the Egyptians.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Gay Human Being

To hear some talk, to Christians, religious people, others; because I am gay, a homosexual, I am a sinner beyond and above all other human beings.

Thus they call me ‘homosexual’; a slur on their tongues, a curse, a horror of a label. Not like I say it, homosexual, a fact of being, but homosexual, a perversion of life. They cannot call me gay, as I call myself. Because that would take away the horns and tail that I have. Because that would break down the walls in their minds to understanding what I am, apart from being homosexual. Because, to them, being homosexual is the very essence of my being. It defines me; totally, completely, absolutely. To them I am nothing but a homosexual.

And more, I am a homosexual activist. The worst kind of homosexual. A sinner, so deeply mirred in my sin that I am proud of it. One who lifts it up on a standard, and parades it brazenly, unashamed, before the whole world.

Because I am that, a homosexual, and an activist, I am less than a human being, in their eyes. It is worth it, and correct, to them, and in their eyes, to wish me dead. To threaten my very life. To strip me of my birth right as an African, a Ugandan. To cut off my head, to deny myself, as I am, a human being. To throw me out of family, and clan, and country. To deny me the facilities that are open to any other country mate of mine, a fellow Ugandan, and any other African. The whisper of my dreaded sexuality is enough to stir up a crowd in righteous anger, to condemn me and stone me to death. Because I am.

Yet, I am.

I cannot deny it, though I can hide in lies. I can deceive myself, pray to all the deities, seek to be healed, torture myself in prayer and self hate and self deception. I can seek to try and rid myself of all that this part of me means in this world. Yes, I can do that.

But I will not.

I am what I am. A human being.

I have a dark skin, rich with melanin, living, breathing, alive. I have a fairly shaped head, a jaw that juts out to challenge life. And I am also a homosexual.

I am gay. A human being who, through a lot, has come to accept what I am. Myself.

It is not the whole of my identity. It is not the whole of me. It is a part of me.

Its true, many others may use this as a characteristic to hunt me down and hurt me. A cure for all their ills in removing this stain on their being, their community. Like the crowds in South Africa have hunted down, beaten, burnt and killed other Africans, in the name of jobs and poverty.

Doesn’t stop me from being what I am. A human being.

Doesn’t stop me from affirming what I am. A gay human being.

Doesn’t stop me from loving others, from falling in love, hating like others.

Doesn’t stop me from lifting my head up, though they would proudly stretch my neck in a noose.

I am a human being. A gay human being.


Ugandan Bank Denies Account to Trans Activist

Call me stupid, but I didnt know that I may have a problem opening a bank account in Uganda. Just because I am gay, or, am a gay activist?
Well, things can be kind of different in my beloved Uganda. Check out this story that I lift from the Advocate.
I blog here anonymously. Oh, many kuchus know who gug is. I told them. I dont doubt the govt knows who I am. Have not been hiding. Would I be paranoid to assume that my personal account is being monitored? Something to think about this overcast Wednesday morning.

Ugandan Bank Denies Account to Trans Activist

Uganda's ban on homosexuality is playing out in the private sector, with a local branch of the U.K.-based Standard Chartered Bank denying account access to a trans activist.

By Frankie Edozien

An exclusive posted May 27, 2008

International Ugandan Bank Denies Account to Trans Activist

Imagine walking into any major commercial bank, opening a checking or savings account, and then days later being told that your account has been frozen. And oh, by the way, since you’re gay and you work for a gay organization, our bank has a problem with you, and you will not be getting your paychecks deposited into that account.

An unlikely scenario? For most people in the West, yes, but that’s exactly what Juliet Victor Mukasa, a female-to-male transgender activist, says happened to him at a Kampala, Uganda, bank in March.

For all its breathtaking natural beauty and delightfully hospitable and charming citizenry, Uganda is still a place where being openly gay can turn this East African equator nation from paradise into a nightmare.

Homosexuality is criminal in this pearl of Africa. It’s been on the books for ages, with the penal code stipulating that "any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" to being hauled into prison. It dates back to the penal provisions imposed during the era of British colonialism and was strengthened in 1990 to increase the penalty from 14 years to life.

Yet while these laws remain in force, Uganda has introduced democratic reforms and improved its human rights record since Yoweri Museveni became president in 1986.

Mukasa, 32, a research and policy analyst for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, was born female but now identifies and expresses himself as a male, routinely eschewing skirts for pants. He is cofounder and first chairperson of the Sexual Minorities Uganda group.

In 2005 his home was raided and he went into hiding. Then he did an about-face and sued the government for trampling on his rights by raiding his home without a search warrant and arresting his guests. A judgment is expected in that case soon.

But years after the incident, Mukasa went to Standard Chartered Bank -- an international bank based in London but with branches and subsidiaries all over Africa and Asia -- to open an account.

As at most banks, staff members greeted him courteously and said there would be no problems when he told them where he worked. The account application required him to mention both his current and previous employers.

Human Rights Commission. Could I still have an account here?” Mukasa recounted to The Advocate. “‘Of course, this is an international bank and we don’t discriminate. Just write it,’ was the bank’s officials response.”

Mukasa said he wrote his current employer, IGLHRC, in the blank space and for the question that required his previous employer followed, he wrote, “Sexual Minorities Uganda.”

The adviser made a copy of Mukasa’s passport, took photographs, and asked him to sign a document, then told him to return the following day, a Saturday, with passport photos and the money to be deposited.

The next day, Mukasa recalled, “The adviser took my photos and told me to go pick a deposit slip, fill it and deposit the money that I had. At the top of my completed slip he wrote something like ‘Account open…’ and signed it.”

An elated Mukasa skipped out of the Kampala branch, located in one of the city center skyscrapers, dancing for joy.

The following day he went back and deposited 500,000 Ugandan shillings (about $302) and was asked to come back the following week to apply for a Visa debit/ATM card.

“I told a couple of friends about it, how great SCB is, and I even showed them the deposit slip. They were all happy for me,” he recalls.

But the joy was short-lived. When Mukasa went in to complete the Visa application process, a bank officer took him aside with the original officer who helped open the account and told him there was a problem.

He recalls an official saying, “The account opening process goes through so many hands. Your application form got to some bosses who were not OK with it.” Mukasa asked what was wrong with his application and at first the official failed to explain. “I helped him by asking, ‘Is it because of the fact that I work with the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and am a gay person myself?’ He answered in the affirmative.”

Mukasa took his case up the chain even asking for a meeting with the local CEO but the account remained closed.

SCB Uganda’s corporate affairs manager, Herbert Zake, in an April interview in his sky-high office overlooking the Kampala metropolis, stressed the bank’s community involvement over the past year: schools built in rural areas; the commitment to ending blindness by paying for cataract surgeries at $277 a pop; drilling boreholes for rural communities at a cost of $80,000 -- some people have to walk 10-15 kilometers to get water and it may still be contaminated; and large-scale refurbishments of high school facilities in the capital city.

The company is even leading an effort to end stigma among those affected by HIV or AIDS by offering complimentary voluntary testing and providing a supportive environment to HIV positive employees.

But when asked about why a company that was such an outstanding corporate citizen in many ways for Ugandans and Africans at large, was denying an account to a lesbian, Zake appeared stunned by the question for a moment.

And then says, “She indicated that the money was coming from a gay and lesbian human rights organization ... it [homosexuality] is illegal here.”

When pressed on whether national statute against gay actions affected whether gays could have bank accounts, Zake's response was that the matter “is open to interpretation.” The executive then insisted that he would get clarity on the matter and forward a response to this reporter.

In May, when The Advocate contacted SCB’s parent company, officials in the United Kingdom declined to speak publicly about that one case, but insiders pointed out that the bank has a history of opening in culturally challenging locations.

While the mammoth $50 billion bank has branches in 13 African countries, it also operates in the Middle East, including Iraq, and in Afghanistan. In Middle Eastern locations where it might be difficult for both sexes to mingle openly, it has had to open banks primarily for women.

“We have a very strong ethos of diversity and inclusion in the bank and do not discriminate against customers on the grounds of sexual orientation, or gender or race, for that matter,” insists Tim Baxter, Standard Chartered’s London-based head of external communications.

The problem wasn’t SCB’s, but local law that officials feel they must comply with. Since IGLHRC promotes equality for sexual minorities, and activities of such minorities are illegal in Uganda, that puts SCB in an untenable position, insiders say.

“We operate in more than 70 countries with many different cultures and fully comply with all local laws and regulations,” Baxter says.

SCB officials say they have many senior gay and lesbian employees and try to work within the restrictions of local governments to provide retail financial services for all.

In the meantime, Mukasa has to make do with having friends who can lend a hand -- or a bank account.

“IGLHRC wires my salary to a friend's account. This is not comfortable for me. This makes me feel horrible … I am very frustrated. This place is becoming a stranger land for me every day.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Blue Skies

A sunlit day in Kampala.

Clear blue skies. The heavens high and open, blue, strips of white wool scattered. Except on the horizon. And elsewhere.

Beautiful Kampala!

I would say it is the best of seasons. The sun is not too hot, and there is not that much threat of rain. This morning, woke early. Had to break out of our bedroom. Something hilarious, which I just hope to have the courage to write about here!

Life is very full of her small surprises.

Prepping for work, was a bit late. Traffic jams are back in town, with school term started. And I was not surprised. Had to complete the last km of my journey on foot. Late. Not comfortably seated in a car.

But that is Kampala.

All through the walk, I was remembering leaving my lover in bed.

Loverman. Great how a smile, a sleepy goodbye can be such a memory to carry one through a busy day.

But now, between me and the bright sun outside is the burglar proofing; steel mesh on the window. Prison? No, I am not in a cell. Just that it feels like so.

I would love to be out in the sunshine, to walk on the busy streets of Kampala. I would love to sample all that lovely freedom of being. I would love to walk up the hills, feel the breeze from the lake in on my face, watch the leaves dance on the trees, and wave my hands in tune with the branches.

I am alive, and well. I am in love.

Can I ask for something better? Have a great day.


Monday, May 26, 2008


I made a commitment to myself to temper down my almost irrational anger at Christians who bash me in the name of their religion.

Have been doing fairly well, I must confess. That is, until Ssempa featured again.

Ok, so this is life.

One pastor pissed me off big deal. Here, and here.

Another lovely Christian showed me how much love she had for me in the name of Jesus.

I was boiling, by that time. I am responsible for what I wrote, which I am ashamed of now, but which I will not remove from the blog. Here, and here.

Then a Christian pointed me to another Christian, a Reverend who is gay, and is facing more Christian hate than I am likely to face, me as a non believer. I will lift the whole article and put it here.

Thanks Bolton, and thanks Rev. MacCaulay of Nigeria. At least, with people like you believing, us non-believers can have some hope in people of religion.

• Sunday, May 25, 2008
Less than seven days after Cardinal Anthony Olubunmi Okogie declared Nigerian gay pastor, Rev. Jide Macaulay an insane person ignorant of biblical principles, the gay pastor has fired back, saying Okogie does not know the Bible.

Okogie, the Catholic Archbishop of Lagos had last Sunday said that right from creation, “God made male and female and admonished them to multiply. He did not make them male and male, nor female and female”.
In his reply to Okogie’s comments, Macaulay who heads the House of Rainbow Metropolitan Church in Lagos, with another branch in London said conservative Christians like Okogie do not know the bible and the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The controversial gay pastor said that he is on an enlightenment mission and must supply new and fresh information for Christians in the country to understand.

“We have to be radical against those who are violent toward me. Many citizens of Nigeria including conservative Christians have concluded that homosexuality is a sin. They need new information, education and anointing for wisdom to understand the heart of God for all the people of God”, the homosexual pastor said.

He explained that homosexuality is included in the mysteries of God in the dynamic creation of the human spectrum, and said he is happy to be a gay and servant of God.
“Let us say a few things. Jesus Christ came to the world to die for my sins and not my sexuality. If you fail to love me, then God who made me will love me always. he said.
I have responded honestly with all my heart, to the call of God to be the face and voice of our community Nigeria. I’m sure many people agree with me but refuse to identify because of fear of rejection. All the same, I can understand”, he said.

Rev Macaulay said that there are at the moment 15 million gays and lesbians in the country and called on them to fight for their rights.
“Before we rush into the condemnation of the 15 million sexual minority in Nigeria, we need to think of the people’s rights to be part of the household of God and also how they are to be included as rightful citizens of Nigeria”, he said.

He added, “we get nowhere without a fight, but I believe that fight is righteous for many people that are made to speak out or stand up for their belief”.

Last week in a recorded television show at the City Mall Studio, Onikan, Lagos, the gay pastor had said that he had been a gay since the age of 14.

He said he practices sodomy, the act of having sex with another man through the anus, adding that he is comfortable with it as a gay Christian.

My loves like a Poem

My love’s like a poem

I cannot stop reading.

Yesterday, at the beach, or what is taken for one here. A short strip of sand, blue green water, calm, stretching in the distance. A few islands near the horizon.

I was there. So was my lover, and a few hundred other people.

Eye candy.

I do like looking at people. Fun to watch the different faces.

I am gay. I look at men. They are the more interesting half of the species; so unaware of my gaze. When I watch women here, they are soon aware that I am looking. But men…

And Uganda has some beautiful men, I must confess.

I watched them. Some playing beach football, all the glory of their nakedness scantily hid, more to emphasize the present bits, than to hide them. Others, naked, but for briefs and bikinis, splashing around in the water. Men and women, but my gay eye unashamedly followed the glistening males, dark skins rippling and full of abundant, unashamed life.

My eye was drawn to my lover.

He is one beautiful specimen.

Ok, I love the guy, so, I am biased. I know that I am.

But still, with his glowing brown black skin, huge brown eyes, prominent nose, face that is so characteristic of tribal group that it nails him down at sight, he is still a beautiful specimen.

He was looking at all the glorious eye candy around us, and I looked at him. He may not have been the most beautiful, but, I mused, he was the guy that I shared myself with. My lover. My love.

He is extremely jealousy of me showing attention to another man. But, he does not mind looking himself. Something I find hilarious, most of the time. He looks, trying to seem as if he is not, hiding it from me. I look and hide it better, (I think!), but still look.

My eyes were riveted on him. And he caught me looking.

[I cant keep my hands off him. Always touching him. Public and private. And there was something in my eye which made him flash a smile. Love that smile.]

I wrote a couple of lines. Circled them, showed them to him.

Is true.

He is a poem that I cannot, I strangely cannot stop reading.

In school I was known for my reading speed. Trash, I used to read. But useful trash sometimes. It taught me a fluency of the written word that beat most of my mates. But, I could never read something for long. Got distracted, bored, too quickly. I could pick the essence out of a page in a quick scan, and would soon be bored if I had to read it again.

Very different with poetry.

There are some poems that I read, day in, day out, for hours, meditating, thinking, walking. Don’t want to cram them. Don’t want to know them off by heart. I want to touch them, on and on, all the time, to read and think about them, like a gum that I chew on all the time, even when I am doing something else. That’s how much my reading has changed, reading a poem for days, when the first seconds of scan give me the basics.

My love’s a poem that I cannot stop reading.

Well, I don’t want to stop reading this poem.


Include gays in Aids fight, reports say

From the Monitor Newspaper

News | May 24, 2008

Include gays in Aids fight, reports say

Kakaire Kirunda


A study conducted recently in Kampala and whose findings were published this month in the journal Aids Behaviour says recognition of gay and bisexual men in local HIV prevention programmes and education messages is urgently needed.

The study that was based on 224 gay and bisexual men’s views found that “37 percent had unprotected receptive anal sex in the last six months, 27 percent were paid for sex, 18 percent paid for sex, 11 percent had history of urethral discharge”.

Yet perception that gay and bisexual men are at risk for HIV infection was low, according to the authors.

“Our study demonstrates that gay and bisexual men in Uganda are willing to identify themselves and participate in research and prevention campaigns,” write the authors, further showing that 61 percent and 39 percent reported themselves as gay and bisexuals respectively.

Similarly, the newly released Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), MSM –LGBTI HIV/AIDS Report 2008 calls for the inclusion of gay people in the fight against HIV and Aids.

“Having a programme for HIV prevention is a national priority in Uganda which is held back because most people ‘hate’ homosexuals,” reads the report. “This is [a] real problem where all Ugandans can do something. Isolated interventions by the minority homosexuals are very limited in their impact.

They need the acknowledgement and support of the majority heterosexual Ugandan population and together HIV can be curbed.”

The report is punctuated by testimonies from gay people who have reportedly been mistreated each time they seek sexual health related services.

Uganda has a generalized HIV epidemic, meaning it affects all sections of the community, but most of the prevention, treatment and care programmes for the sick mainly target heterosexuals.

The current national HIV/Aids strategic plan shows no programmes that specifically target men who have sex with fellow men (MSM). Efforts to get a comment from the Uganda Aids Commission, which co-ordinates the HIV/Aids response in the country, were futile.

However, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, the chairman of Parliament’s HIV/Aids committee, said although involving MSM in the fight against HIV is essential, it is not something that can be done easily. “Given that anal sex that those people perform is one of the most effective ways of transmitting HIV, there should be cause for concern,” he said.

“Unfortunately, under the current legal framework they can’t be helped as a group. However, they can make use of the available programmes as individuals.”

According to Dr Tumwesigye, until gay activities are decriminalised, it may not be easy even for organisations that are willing to help to involve this minority community in the fight against HIV.

Anti-gay activist Martin Ssempa said Uganda needs to send a clear message to homosexuals that they are engaging in a suicidal and un-natural risk that fuels HIV and other infections such as hepatitis.

“These people are just looking at ways of legitimising their practice, which is illegal and deviant in our society,” said Pastor Ssempa. “Our previous experience showed us that bringing homosexuals into campaigns against HIV only gives them a chance to propagate their illegal and unnatural acts.”

Makerere University School of Public Health Dean David Serwadda said the fight against HIV requires the participation of all in the community.

Again we try to get into HIV Prevention. I love the quote from Ssempa. Truly, absolutely, fantastic! Imagine, we deserve to get HIV because bringing us into an HIV programme only gives us a chance to propagate our illegal and unnatural acts!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Celebrating IDAHO in Africa

I am an ignoramus. I didnt know about IDAHO. So, I will have to use someone else's words. Hope I catch it next year.


By Abeli Zahabu (BTM French Reporter)

ALL AFRICA – May 19, 2008: The gay and lesbian community in Central and West Africa celebrated the International Day Against Homophobia (IDAHO) with various activities.

Initiated after the General Assembly of the World Health Organisation (WHO) removed homosexuality from their list of mental disorders 18 years ago, IDAHO aims to fight for the recognition of equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.

This bold action, taken by WHO, does not seem to have translated in equal rights for LGBTI communities since LGBTI people continue to suffer prejudice and discrimination in the world, largely in Africa.

“Being lesbian or gay is risking jail time in 86 countries and death penalty in seven”, says an International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) report on State-sponsored Homophobia.

However, despite discrimination and torture, the LGBTI organisations in Central and Western- Africa acknowledged the significance of this day with a great sense of gratitude.

Alternatives-Cameroun, a Cameroonian LGBTI organisation issued a press statement, informing national media practitioners about the significance of this day and raising awareness.

“It is a fact that media practitioners are more often than not unaware of the plight of LGBTI people. Alternatives-Cameroun wanted to take this opportunity to sensitise the media so that they could inform the general public”, said Steave Nemande of Alternatives-Cameroun.

Alternatives-Cameroun also released a report detailing various cases of imprisonment of LGBTI people. The organisation was actively involved in obtaining their release.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, Si Jeunesse Savait – a human rights organisation fighting for the recognition of LGBTI people’s rights – held a special radio programme to raise awareness of the general public on the existence of LGBTI people.

Si Jeunesse Savait also convened a workshop with various human rights organisations and defence lawyers organisations.

“We have noticed that even some human rights organisations do not realise that LGBTI people’s rights are also human rights. We deem it very important that human rights organisations begin to integrate LGBTI people’s rights in their programmes and campaigns”, explained Francoise Mukulu of Si Jeunesse Savait.

In Senegal, the recent wave of arrests of LGBTI people could not allow any major celebration of this year’s IDAHO. “I really thought that water had passed under the bridge and people could be more tolerant towards LGBTI people. Apparently the situation has not changed and LGBTI people cannot come out and celebrate this day”, Jean-Louis Rodriguez of AND LIGEEY who is still in hiding, said sadly.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), IDAHO has a special significance this year, as it is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – the first international document to define a universally applicable and inalienable set of human rights that are the entitlement of every person, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Human Rights Watch LGBTI Hall of Fame

Sorry, slip of the hand.

Human Rights Watch 'Hall of Shame'. Inductees for this year include;

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda: for denying people privacy and security. In August 2007, after a coalition of LGBT organizations in Uganda launched a campaign called "Let Us Live in Peace," the government showed it had no intention of doing so. Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo publicly called homosexuality "unnatural"; while dismissing claims that police harassed LGBT people, he warned, "We know them, we have details of who they are." The deputy attorney general called for the arrest of gays and lesbians, "because homosexuality is an offense under the laws of Uganda."

LGBT Ugandans have faced official harassment for years. In 2005, authorities raided the home of human rights defender Juliet Victor Mukasa and forced her into hiding. Government officials have censored media discussions of homosexuality and threatened to respond to any advocacy for LGBT rights with prison terms.

A colonial-era sodomy law in Uganda punishes homosexual conduct with life imprisonment. Worldwide, over 85 countries criminalize consensual homosexual conduct. Such laws give governments like Uganda's a pretext to invade people's private lives and deny them an essential right: to live in peace.

From me, no comment. 27th, surely a rant?


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pastor Ssempa Strikes Again!

Saw this before I was off on my travels. Doesnt hurt to lift it, does it?

Uganda: When Pastor Sempa Halted the Amakula Film Festival

The Monitor (Kampala)

17 May 2008

Posted to the web 16 May 2008

Moses Serugo

Film buffs at the just-concluded Fifth Amakula Kampala International Film Festival must have wondered why the film showcase did not start on time last Thursday.

Most had come early to the National Theatre to watch Ugandan filmmaker George Sengendo's works Adopted Twins and Dangerous Decisions scheduled to show in the morning.

Unbeknownst to them, Pastor Martin Sempa had thrown a spanner in the festival works and had petitioned the Broadcast Council about the impending screening of a gay-themed movie The Watermelon Woman at 10.15p.m. that day in the Green Room. The Broadcast Council forwarded the complaint to the Media Council who summoned the festival organisers and asked that they preview the controversial film first.

The Watermelon Woman is a loosely constructed faux documentary about black lesbian filmmaker's obsession with obscure silent film star. says it's the kind of film that would be much appreciated by those seeking mix of tongue-in-cheek humour with thought-provoking exploration of gender, race and identity.

The Media Council then decided that the film contained a lewd lesbian act that was not palatable for public consumption and its secretary Mr Paul Mukasa requested that they suspend the film but that the festival could go on.

Another gay-themed film, Rag Tag by Nigerian born filmmaker Adaora Nwandu had already shown on Tuesday May 6 at 10.10p.m. at the festival before Sempa's raised his complaints. Rag Tag is short for Raymond and Tagbo. It is about two inseparable Afro-Brit teenagers who reunite after years of separation.

During a trip to Nigeria they realise that their feelings for each other are more than just friendship. The film paints itself as a depiction of how empty and suffocating life can be for gay Black people.

The fiery Pastor Sempa has gone on to say that Hivos, a Dutch organisation that is one of the festival's prime sponsors is also an active pusher of the gay agenda. Festival director Alice Smits who has often been on the receiving end of Pastor Sempa's anti-gay activism resents his militant approach to fighting homosexuality which does not promote dialogue.

The two clashed at the Commonwealth People's Space last November after Sempa mobilised youth to push Ms Smits off the venue where the Amakula Kampala Cultural Foundation had organised a debate between pro and anti-gay activists.

The halting of The Watermelon Woman's screening may look like an extension of the personal vendetta between Sempa and Smits but Sempa insists that Smits is offending African culture, the Christian faith and breaking our laws in using the festival to push the gay agenda. "There are sections of the Penal Code that condemn homosexuality and indecency which those two films are all about," says Sempa.

He would prefer that the Media Council took a more proactive approach to ridding society of this "seedy, dirty, filth" that is on TV and in most films coming out of Hollywood today. "The absence of the censorship board is the reason everyone feels they can bring their filth here.

Hivos and Amakula are computer programmes that may have good content but are embedded with viruses. As civil society, we need stronger anti-viruses to inoculate ourselves against them even as they get more sophisticated," says Sempa.

Media Council's Mukasa knows the regulatory body ought to play a more proactive role. "But you must understand that like most institutions of our kind like the police, someone has to report first," says Mukasa. He, however, urges restraint in civil society's pursuit of the anti-gay agenda.

Amakula's Smit is rather surprised at the whole hullabaloo about the two gay films at this year's festival. "We are not out to push any gay agenda. The focus this year was on pictures by African filmmakers and the diversity of subjects they are exploring. We showed over 300 films and it is not that the two gay films were pornographic so in my opinion, Amakula did not break any of the laws Sempa is talking about," says Smits.

Gay Marriage; The View from Africa

Not yet out in Africa

Many consensual same-sex couples in Africa still face victimisation. ( From the Mail and Guardian Online)

The International Lesbian and Gay Association (Ilga) reports that 38 African countries still criminalise consensual same-sex sexual activity between adults and there have been many cases of victimisation across the continent, with new laws passed to limit gay and lesbian activity.

In line with its Constitution South Africa passed the Civil Union Act in 2006, making it possible for gay and lesbian couples to marry. In 2007 gay and lesbian activists met in Johannesburg, under the aegis of Ilga and local lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersexed (LGBTI) organisations, to discuss lesbian and gay rights and activism in Africa. The editors of a new book, To Have and to Hold: The Making of Same-Sex Marriage in South Africa, interviewed several activists about rights in their countries. These are excerpts from their responses.

What is the situation for lesbian and gay people in your country?

David Kato, Uganda (organisation: Integrity, a faith-based member of Sexual Minorities Uganda): The authorities are still harassing us and arresting us. But we are encouraging and sensitising the LGBTI people in our country not to give in to blackmail from the police, but rather to take the case to court so that we can ask the government why Uganda is not acting in accordance with the international covenants it signed. Uganda is one of the signatories of many international covenants that talk about non-discrimination.

But when they come back from signing, the Constitution is not changed. One of the objectives of Integrity [and Sexual Minorities Uganda] is to fight the legal system and the discriminatory laws. We try to advocate and lobby organisations and decision-makers to fight these laws. We need to remove the idea our leaders have that this is a white thing.

Linda Baumann, Namibia (The Rainbow Project): Namibia’s population is 1,8-million, which is about the same size as that of Soweto. But the level of homophobia is high. I live in a township where I still face homophobia. I am told to be careful — “Jy moet oppas, ons gaan jou kry [You must watch out, we’re going to get you]”. The hate crimes are also high. Last year The Rainbow Project started documenting some of the hate crimes, including two gay men who were killed. We also have a lot of lesbians and gay men who experience “correctional rape”. But people do not speak about it.

There is no law in Namibia that explicitly says homosexuality is illegal. Chapter 3 of the Namibian Constitution speaks about fundamental human rights and that gives LGBTI people some room to manoeuvre … Most of our politicians do not really want to sit down with the LGBTI community and talk about their issues. It is often said that homosexuality is unAfrican.

Lourence Misedah, Kenya (Ishtar MSM): Currently it is illegal to be gay or lesbian in Kenya. There are some gays and lesbians who are publicly out in Kenya.

But this involves risks … We [are] tired of politicians in Kenya saying that we do not exist and that homosexuality is unAfrican.

Naome Ruzindana, Rwanda (Horizon Community Association): It says in the penal code of Rwanda that whoever is found guilty of homosexuality is to be put in prison. A while back they announced they are going to change the penal code. We are waiting for that to be finalised.

Reverend Rowland Jide Macauley, Nigeria (House of Rainbow Metropolitan Community Church): Same-sex relationships are prohibited [in Nigeria] … This law was inherited from the colonial era and it has remained on Nigeria’s statute books up to today. In 2006 the Nigerian government introduced the Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill. The Bill is an attempt to ban homosexuality and gay marriage and it seeks to push away the issue of homosexuality or any association with it — including gathering literature, attending lectures or anything to do with same-sex relationships. There is homophobia on every street in Nigeria.

If you are gay and it becomes public knowledge, people taunt you, they verbally abuse you … people have suffered homophobic attacks and violence.

What are the possibilities for law reform in your country?

Kato: If we begin asking for marriage now our mission will backfire. They will think we’re just looking for sex. What we need is to be tolerated and to have the same rights as other people … to break down discriminatory laws.

Baumann: One of the challenges that we face is that people are afraid to be seen. You can count on your hands the strong gay activists in Namibia who are out and proud and able to speak.

Ruzindana: Rwanda is a sensitive country. This is true even of the human rights defenders who are there. They fear the government and they have not helped us at all. Is there potential for these kinds of changes in Rwanda? Maybe in 10 years!

How do you feel about the fact that same-sex couples can now get married in South Africa?

Kato: Since Integrity is a Christian organisation, love has no barriers for us. Some people think marriage is just about getting children out of it.

But not all heterosexual couples produce children. They forget that marriage is also about companionship and love for each other.

Baumann: I am proud that at least one African country has achieved this. South Africa is setting an example for the whole African continent.

Misedah: The situation we have right now in Kenya is that we first still need to be recognised before we can reach that point.

For example, I can be chased out of school because of my sexual orientation, or thrown out by landlords. This is what we want to address first before we start talking about marriage.

Ruzindana: I was listening to the radio when I heard about the same-sex marriage law being passed in South Africa. The listeners said that this news should not even be announced on the radio in Rwanda! I know that same-sex marriage is difficult for some to understand, but there are people who got the message.

Off with my Head!

For some reason, because I am gay, some people sincerely believe that I should die.

Want to 'cut off my head'. Duh. Paranoia? Here is from the His Excellency of Gambia, a tiny riverine country in West Africa.

President plans to kill off every single homosexual

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh says he will “cut off the head” of any homosexual caught in his country.

Monday 19 May 2008

Addressing supporters at the end of his meet the farmers tour here Sunday,

Jammeh also ordered any hotel or motel housing homosexuals to close down, adding that owners of such facilities would also be in trouble.

He said the Gambia was a country of believers, indicating that no sinful and immoral act as homosexual would be tolerated in the country.

He warned all homosexuals in the country to leave, noting that a legislation “stricter than those in Iran ” concerning the vice would be introduced soon.

President Jammeh said he was bent on making the Gambia one of the best countries to live in, adding that his government had spent over US$ 100 million towards the development of the country since 1994.

He said, however, that almost 98 per cent of the amount had gone to foreigners. Panapress .

Duh, double duh.

I am an African. Am also homosexual. Seems according to this leader of mine, I am no African because I am homosexual. Or I cannot be a homosexual because I am African?

Anyway, I am. Will hold that thought. In my head. The one which is supposed to be cut off!

A good morning to you all, Africans and all gay Africans.


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

California ban on same-sex marriage struck down

This would not be the Gay Uganda Blog if this article was missing. Better late than never. Congratulations to our Carlifonian Brothers and Sisters.


  • Story Highlights
  • Justices say gay couples just as capable as as anyone to raise kids
  • Governor says he will respect ruling, not pursue the matter further
  • Opponent calls ruling "worst kind of judicial activism"
  • State Supreme Court rules law unconstitutional on equal-protection grounds

(CNN) -- The California Supreme Court struck down the state's ban on same-sex marriage Thursday, saying sexual orientation, like race or gender, "does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights."

In a 4-3 120-page ruling issue, the justices wrote that "responsibly to care for and raise children does not depend upon the individual's sexual orientation."

"We therefore conclude that in view of the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians, whether gay or heterosexual, and to same-sex couples as well as to opposite-sex couples," Chief Justice Ronald George wrote for the majority.


Yes, home. There is nothing like home. The world is beautiful when I travel, but getting home is something. Back to my lover’s hands, his embrace, touching him, feeling him, breathing in his very special self.

Helps too that the country is so beautiful.

It is home. So, I am biased, but the sun seems to shine brighter, and the air is open and, even when it is overcast like it was in Nairobi, something still lifts my spirits that bit more.


Sister capital of our sister nations. Right on our doorstep, but I had never really been. Like being and seeing and walking and appreciating. This time did. Strangers the people, until I met those who speak and talk like I do. Interesting how a few hundred miles to the east of Kampala still seems like home, just because there are those who are like me. Strangers, but friends made in seconds. Experiences swapped, curiosities settled.

We speak Uga-English, that curious mix of English and our various mother tongues and accents from the various regions. The Kenyans speak English, with their regional accent. Was interesting to listen to the differing sounds as they came from their mouths. Definitely different from Uganda. But a comfortable different. Not hostile, no. And for some reason, I seemed to blend in. Except that my Swahili is horrible!

I am Ugandan, translation, Swahili non-speaker, unlike other East Africans. So, though I did not look out of place, even when I was in the matatus, (mini-buses) as soon as I opened my mouth to speak the lingua franca, I was nailed as a foreigner. So, they would take pity on me and speak English. I was grateful.

The land of ‘Nyama Kyoma’ according to WildeY. How accurate!

‘Nyama kyoma’ is Swahili for roast meat. But Kenyans take it like none else. I sat down to a couple of meals like so. A platter of meats, served fresh from the roasting stick. And what meats! The more common ones were beef, lamb, sausages, pork, goat. All at the same seating. Served hot and sizzling, all that I could take, and eat I did.

The more exotic ones? I tasted Ostrich, camel, and Crocodile. Yes I did. Couldn’t miss that chance! Ate my fill and my quota of meat for a whole month, at one seating. By the second trial, I was more cautious, though not much less ravenous. Now I do understand what WildeY means by the land of Nyama Kyoma. Positively carnivourous, that culture!

Oh yes, I do have some apologies to tend.

To the sisters. Sorry, I needed some time off. Not from you.

Had planned to go for some time, but couldn’t inform you. Not even privately. DeT seems to be unable to… [cough!]

Yes. I am being paranoid. Will not apologise for that, that trait has served me too well in the past, and however beautiful and anonymous cyber is, I must remember that danger still lurks if I tread unwarily.

But I am back, for now.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Nairobi Morning

There's so little sun

its remarkable when it is shining,

rather than when it aint-

and the breeze blows cold,

and the skies are grey,

and there's a promise of wet,

though the rain never falls.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Missing my Baby

I am alone.

Mooning. I should be working, but, the white page is very inviting. No, the thoughts are not so easily formed. Not easily translated onto the page. The words. They will not say what the thoughts say.

I am missing my baby.

Should be with him, but aint. He is at home, and I am not with him.

Wonder what he is doing? Probably in the kitchen, cooking. Thin body in a cotton shirt. Sleeveless, stirring and playing with the fire. Does he like cooking, or does he cook for me? His sense of duty is tremendous, and I am the one person that he believes is the centre of his care. I don’t cook. Not much. So, I am always charged with washing the dishes. Like when I was a kid and the adults cooked. Except that we are both adults.

I love him.

Strange thing to say. We have been together, what, seven years. And I can still say that I love him. It is a comfortable love. I do not fear that he will get to see another of the thorns in my body and run away. He knows me all. Inside out. But he still stays with me.

Why does he love me?

I do not know. I am not very sure that I am that lovable.
Selfish, a dreamer, self involved. Yet he does love me.

We are so different from one another, light and its absence, that it is incredible that we love one another. Sometimes I wonder, does he love me? But not when, like this morning, I wake up with him lying across from me. And I pull him close, and we move and nudge each other, trying to fit more comfortably into the other’s naked body. We are two individuals, but at that time, moment, we are one. Together. The bed cannot be too big, or too small. The world is nothing but him and I, together, in each others’ arms.

I hope he is not angry when I go back home.

Sometimes, he is angry at me. Refuses to say why. I stopped playing the guessing game, trying to figure out what was angering him. Can’t read his mind. Too hard, and we do not think alike. What angers me, makes him laugh. What I think minor, he thinks major.

And he still loves me.

I look forward to seeing him. When I get home, and I hold out my arms. He will come to me. He will hold me in his arms, I will hold him in my arms. I will drink in his scent, nuzzle in his nape. He seems to like it when I rub my rough chin on his, feeling his very special warmth and scent, his welcoming breath.

Yes, I look forward to seeing him, hold him in my arms, my love.


Sunny Kampala

A sunlit Kampala afternoon.

Beautiful, golden sunlight. The birds are singing, sweet tingly carols in the background. The sun is up in an almost cloudless sky. Almost, because on the sides, nearer the horizons, huge, fluffy white masses dominate the sky. White, a brilliant, reflective white on a deep sky blue. It is beautiful.

Seems like I have been sleeping. Have I?

Mercurial moods. Sometimes up, other times down, most of the time in between. But, at the moment, I am appreciating the world. It is beautiful.

Has not rained in a few days. Drizzles do not count, but it has drizzled, once in a while, and usually at night. The weather has not been as settled as it is today for about a week. Not this clarity of sunlight, and the bird song!

There is a certain tiny bird here, a flock of them. Have an ear splitting song, tone. High, but extremely sweet. Would like to pull it out of the background, the rustle of tree leaves, and listen to it, again and again. The bird itself is tiny. Wonder how it pours itself out so thoroughly in that note of music, repeated again and again.

Would like to go out and walk the hills of Kampala. Like an explorer, for the sake of it. Climb Namirembe, Rubaga, Mutundwe, Mulago, the others. Look at the city laid out before me in the afternoon sunshine. The deep green of the trees, the red, rusty brown slum roofs in the valleys. The trendy suburbs with their heavy trees and red tiled roofs. Kampala, beautiful Kampala.

It’s a city of contrasts.

Near where I live, a judge also lives.

I believe he is high court, or supreme court, or whatever. Huge walled house. Manicured compound. I have never been inside, but kind of like to peep in whenever I see the gate is open. He is a big man, and, well, a big one indeed.

Just across the road from his house is another.

A shack. Child’s play house, like the ones we used to build as youngsters. You know, make a frame of wood stakes, and cover it with bits and pieces of old tin cans. We would look for the tins, and hammer them flat, and then make our house. Can picture it, low, rusty, metallic, and extremely confortable to my child’s mind. Though Mama could never allow us to sleep in it.

I swear this house is exactly like that, opposite the big judge’s house. A jumble of old, discarded tins, rusty remains of ‘baati’ roofing, bits and pieces. And a family calls it home.

Used to wonder whether they indeed slept inside. Confirmed, when once, passing, past midnight, the door opened and closed. Someone going in. During the day, they sell bunches of banana and fruit.

That is my beautiful Kampala. As harsh a beauty as Africa tends to be. But, I must confess, I do love it. It is the place I call home.



Oh, that topic.

I have been having fun. Blogging about sex, and the restrictions that we do face as Ugandans in talking about it.

Oh, it was certainly not a ‘girlish’ topic. But a very serious problem according to my twisted thinking. In Uganda, despite the fact that we have passed through the HIV problem, there is this funny hangover. We cannot discuss sex. Not openly, not frankly, not between the sexes.

We pride ourselves on being a ‘moral’ society. So we sweep everything about sex under the rug and admire how clean and pure we are.

I could not imagine, that 26 years since HIV started, our government refuses a meeting of prostitutes. Because it is immoral. Because it is against the morals of the vocal few. Yet the ladies of the night are such a pervasive feature of Kampala that it is impossible to live here and not know that quite a number earn their living in that way. They are very visible. Extremely visible.

Downtown, they line Speke Road, flood Rock Garden Bar. Even where the blogloren meets for its Bloggers Happy Hour, at Mateos. The blogloren decided to meet at an unfashionable hour. Early evenings on Thursdays. Pop in Friday, Saturday evenings, and you will have no problem identifying the ladies of the night. In the bars, ‘bufundas’, they ply their trade openly, and their clients are as open about the business.

The gentlemen of the night are more discrete, but they frequent the same places!

But the huge frustration is that we cannot actually talk about these things. Not openly, not frankly, not in Uganda. We are hypocrites of the first order, and we are quite confortable as we are. They have problems, which they cannot solve, because they cannot organize. They are prevented from organizing. Imagine this bit of hypocrisy; why would the government of Uganda stop a meeting of prostitutes to talk about HIV prevention? Oh, the government did.

Yet in recent years the problem has become worse. Before, we did not talk about sex openly. But now, it is fashionable to condemn sex in all its guises. Sex is evil. Sex is sin. Sex is bad.

That is the message that is being forced down our throats in the name of HIV prevention, and ‘morality’. It doesn’t matter that the greater majority of the population does not agree, or acts in a different way. That majority is a silent majority. They will listen as people talk about the ‘No Sex’ ideals and think how stupid it is. But few will talk up against it. Oh, the politicians will go to church and listen to the summons on Sunday, and go back and pick a sex worker off the streets. Sex is also an intensely private thing, and the taboo on talking about that extends to that. The big man may have more than the officially recognized 4 wives. But that is ok. His ‘official’ wife can talk about the values of abstinence and being faithful, and say that condoms promote promiscuity. Pullllleeeeeesssssse!

It is my problem too.

I am gay. And that is a label, and catalogue which the thinking puts me in. Because I am gay, I am bad. Doesn’t matter that I can write like an angel. Doesn’t matter that I am supporting my brother through school, that I have a family that I love a lot, that I am a Ugandan, and that it is a tiny small bit of the whole who is me. I am gay, so I am bad.

Yeah, it is a wall against which we have to bang our damned heads against. Can you imagine how hard it is realizing that you are gay, growing up and realizing that your sexual orientation is different in such a society, where ‘officially’ sex is a taboo subject, demonized. And on television and radios, and in school and rallies that is what you hear? Knowing that you are gay, yet the very ‘thought’ of sex is being condemned as evil? That is, sexual thoughts are sinful thoughts, the very expression is more evil. Oh god, people pray for deliverance from the devil of masturbation!

Small wonder that they would consider me and my gay sexual orientation a devil incarnate. And I must say that a kuchu who does understand him or herself gets a priceless gift. Coming to terms with ones person. No wonder many of us fail to.

Yeah, I understand us, Ugandans, in a way. But I don’t understand also. Logic and illogic seems so finely mixed that I do not know how to tackle that problem!


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Sexual Mores.

deTamble has been curious whether I love a ‘moaner’ during sex. You know, someone who cheers you on enthusiastically during the act, making it a total experience for the both of you. [Got you, sis]!

She asked first time, I dodged the question.

She is a persistent one, the lady. Asked me again, I ducked. Again, and I feinted. She became even more persistent, and I became more resolute. I would not tell her whether I liked the loudspeakers booming during the act, and the crescendo of the climax underlined with vocal drumbeats. She ended sulking away, not understanding why I am not able to answer such a question. Such a simple question, in a way.

I, on my part, am also highly amused. I think I do understand what is happening.

Cultural differences. I am an African man, who has been taught, growing up, that talking about sex just does not happen. Not in polite conversation at least.

Of course I did talk dirty with my mates. Expected, and hell, part of my ‘cover’.

And I have talked dirty with girls. Those that I was hoping to bed. It is like an unwritten rule. Just doesn’t happen, in polite conversation.

I think my society is very highly sexed. Extremely highly sexed. But there are certain things that are not talked about in ‘polite’ conversation. I am gay, and have made my sexuality a big ‘theme’ of my blogging. Of course I have shocked many with the openness. I was amused when 27th was teased by someone of having a crush on me. Mortifying to him, and he had decided not to continue that conversation till I teased him back. Yet he happens to be one of the more open ones, of the Ugandan bloggers. Princess dares not talk about it. [Ok, if you do, pray, post something about sex, as a dare]

Highly hypocritical, but a glaring fact.

During the debate on having the play ‘Vagina Monologues’ perfomed in Uganda, the liberal ladies were asked to say the word ‘vagina’ on radio. Most hesitated. It is the incomparable Miria Matembe who could dare talk about her ‘V’ and demand the right to talk about it. I remember one time that she was actually asked to translate it into her mother tongue. She did not dare say that on radio.

That sexual more seems to be quite strong. Ask most people when they first had sex, and they will point to their teens. In the village, it was traditional for a 17 year old man to have his own hut, separate from the family, ready for marriage. A 13 year old girl with budding breasts is taken as sexually mature. Yet the law in Uganda forbids sex below the age of 18.

The sexual hypocrisy has had some funny consequences.

If you listen to our media, you may be forgiven to think we are a pristine, sexless society, by some of the official positions. For example, the promotion of condoms only became legal about 5 years ago. And it is illegal to supply them in schools. Talking about safe sex in school is a nightmare. One is supposed to talk about the virtues of ‘abstinence’ and ‘being faithful’ in marriage. Condoms are not supposed to be talked about. And they are actively de-campaigned, because teaching teenagers about them will make them promiscuous.

The play ‘Vagina Monologues’ was banned, official campaigns for HIV prevention based on abstinence, with Abstinence rallies, promotion of virginity, and something called ‘secondary virginity’ are the in thing. The cultural silence about sex is replaced by the nightmarish ‘no sex’ promotion. Sex is simply a bad thing which is not discussed in polite conversation. Better to talk about how holy ‘no sex’ is, than to talk about hitting the summit with drums roaring, of multiple climaxes, not in polite conversation!

Oh, of course one is not supposed to talk about homosexuality, or homosexual sex, but to condemn it. Was it Queen Victoria who asked what lesbians do in bed? Most Ugandans think that homosexuality is about sex. Sex and only sex.

Someone asked me on this blog, very politely, whether all gay men were as ‘passionate’. I was laughing to myself as I answered that. Surely all men are passionate? Guess I am (mis)-representing African gay men as very open about sex and sexual matters.

Guess I am open. Cant help it. Just have to be, after breaking some of the ‘absolutes’ of my growing up! But I still cant help being what I am, an African man.

So, do I love a ‘moaner’ in bed?

Seriously sis, told you that I am gay. Not hoping to bed you. Not interested. And it still seems creepy for me to tell you about what does happen in my bed with my, err, lover. I bet you do love a moaner, don’t you deT? I am a prude, missionary style only!


Monday, May 5, 2008

Searching for Love Where Being Gay Is a Crime

I am feeling lazy.

Late night, and today is Monday morning. Not a good combination.

I am feeling lazy, so I am going to lift an article and have the audacity to dedicate it to someone. Why not anyway?

To WildeY. Just something that reminded me of you in the country you love so much.

Gay Nairobi Man is a less frequent visitor. Sasha seems to have disappeared during the struggles. Just hope that he is fine. But for now, this interesting review of the Kenya gay scene is yours, WildeY

Searching for Love Where Being Gay Is a Crime

With Vibrant Nightlife in Kenya, Courtships Must Get Creative


NAIROBI, Kenya, May 5, 2008

With all the attention the political strife and violence have brought Kenya this year, most probably don't think of its capital city as a party town. But Nairobi is considered one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Africa.

Kenyans and ex-pats alike pour into numerous clubs for all-night dancing to the latest American, reggae and African hits, as well as to the city's wide array of upscale bars that host karaoke nights and live bands.

Nairobi has its share of dive bars, where local Kenyans hang out discussing the latest politics. Many places can be found easily by tourists, and, as in most African cities, spots frequented by "ladies of the night."

But what this modern, urban city lacks is a gay club.

This is part six in's 10-part special series on nightlife around the world. Click here every weekday through May 9, 2008 for the latest story.

"It's straight clubs and mixed clubs," said Steve, a 37-year-old gay Kenyan who did not want to give his real name, but who talked to ABC News over a couple of drinks at a bar he described as not too open to homosexuals. He said he likes the nightspot because of the amazing live band that plays.

"That level of segregation isn't [here], but there are 'gayer' clubs," he said.

In Kenya, homosexuality isn't just socially unacceptable -- it's illegal.

The penalty for homosexual acts for men is seven years in prison. But openly gay men, referred to as "queens," are more likely to be beaten by homophobic Kenyans than arrested.

"I know someone who had a beer bottle shoved up his a--," Steve said.

Despite the consequences, there is still a substantial gay population in Nairobi. It's hard to find exact numbers, but there are enough that they have now founded an organization called the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya. Steve is a member.

Though they are demanding their rights, group members are forced to "walk a fine line," said Steve, who worries about getting arrested. The group is trying to force the government to recognize the rights of homosexuals without causing a backlash.

"It's a bit like pushing out a boat without having a lifesaver," he said.

Still, they're making progress. Homosexuals are rarely arrested, and Steve said he expects the laws will change in the next few years, but "it's a process."

Gay Kenyans walk the same line in the club scene. There are clubs that are known to be "gay friendly." Gypsies, for example, is sometimes referred to as Kenya's most closeted gay club. Other clubs have certain nights when the gay community knows it is welcome.

But only to a point, according to 21-year-old Paul, who, like Steve, does not want to give his real name. Paul likes a club called Tacos. He and his gay friends are allowed in "[depending] on the mood of the management," he said.

And even at these "gayer" clubs, displaying affection openly is a big no-no. "You can hug and you can dance together," Paul said, "but no kissing, provocatively touching each other or being romantic."

Meeting Places With Codes, Hidden 'Tourism'

The fact that a few clubs let in homosexuals is a huge sign of progress, said Steve, who remembers how, 15 years ago when he first came out, gays in Kenya used to meet one another under far different circumstances.

"You used to go to the Stanley Hotel bar and wear a pink shirt," he said. It was a secret code to let others know you were gay and available. At that time, under the dictatorship of President Daniel Arap Moi, the threat of arrest was much greater.

"The '90s gay scene was symptomatic of everything that was wrong with this country," he said. "The scene was subdued because people were scared of eavesdropping by the regime."

The one exception to homosexual intolerance was, and continues to be, sex tourism. For several years during the Moi regime, there was a club in downtown Nairobi, frequented by British sailors and ex-pats, Steve said, where men could pick up other men, often male prostitutes.

In the coastal town of Mombasa, male prostitution continues to be part of the tourism trade without much scrutiny from the government -- or even the local community. "If you have money in this country you can do whatever you want," Steve said.

But, he added, the history and prevalence of male sex tourism in Kenya has only added to the country's general intolerance of homosexuality.

"It's a perversion of being gay," one that only confirms the idea homosexuality is "dirty" and "unnatural," Steve said.

Even within Kenya's gay community, the idea that homosexuality is fundamentally wrong continues to exist.

Walk into Gypsies and you will find many men socializing and dancing, but several simply leaning against the walls, trying not to look too "gay," Paul said.

"If you go to a club where there are too many gays, you have to pretend you're straight," he said. "I wouldn't want my parents or my brother to find out I was at a gay club."

Paul said his generation worries more about the social consequences of being openly gay than about the government and law enforcement.

"Nowadays the government knows these things exist," he said. "There are ministers and members of parliament who are gay."

Staying Low Key in Public and With Family

Paul's family refuses to acknowledge his homosexuality. Like many young gay men in Nairobi, he is not from the city, but lives in Meru, an area of Eastern Kenya that is likewise intolerant of homosexuality, Paul said.

"My father would say 'This is not my son' if he found out," Paul said. "I am forced to have girlfriends. & I have a girlfriend in Meru now."

Once or twice a month Paul makes a trip to Nairobi, where he feels free to be himself and go to clubs and bars to meet other gay men. Still, he must be careful not to tip off someone who may know a member of his family. Even the Stanley Hotel pink shirt code still exists today, he said, though now the shirt color is yellow.

Steve, who is from Nairobi, has come out to his family, which is very rare in the homosexual community.

"Most people have no choice in leading a double life," he said. "I was very lucky. But still in the 15 years I've been out I've faced things that sometimes make me think if I could, I might have done things differently and not been quite so out."

Steve hopes Nairobi will be as open to gays as other cosmopolitan cities, such as Johannesburg in South Africa, within the next five to 10 years.

The progress made so far is a combination of Kenyan attitudes evolving and the gay community slowly coming out of the shadows and banding together.

"You can't spend your whole life obsessing about what you can do or can't do," Steve said. "You have to start to concentrate on being who you are."

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Sunday, Before Noon

Strange unsettled weather pattern.

It is morning, soon slipping into the afternoon. But it has been a strange, blustery, blowing morning, mixed with times when the sun was bright, but not convincingly hot. Clouds in the sky, racing to the west. The dirty, pregnant wool of rainy promise. But something tells me that rain today may not be likely.

A reflection of my mood.

Dark, with flashes of brilliant light interspersed. Had a good night, no great. And the early Sunday morning in bed was fantastic. Read what you want in that! Got out late, read a poem, wrote another, and have been lazy and not want to commit to anything.

My lover promised to groom me, something that I do like, a lot. I mean, just lying there as someone does these very personal things for you. Reminds me that no one else can do them. Problem was that I had ‘sinned’. Done something which he doesn’t like.

Oh, one of many things, but this one we cannot talk too much about. He is extremely jealousy of my attention to anyone else, including my relatives. And well, he would like to have me acknowledge him above them. Or something like that. Have not yet figured out how!

So, he groomed me, because he had promised, in a thunderous silence, and now refuses to talk to me. Needs a kiss and a cuddle to make up. Funny thing is, we all agree that he is unreasonably jealous, but doesn’t stop him from acting like so!

The communist has put up a hilarious post. Wondering why nobody is supporting Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Seems to offend his sense of ‘fairness’.


I wondered aloud at his blog why none seems to support the Austrian grandfather/father House of Horrors man. Surely the lack of support for this excellent example of humanity should also be highlighted?

I used to be an idealist. Very much so. Until I realized that the practical lessons of life, especially in Africa, demand that one is a realist, not a ‘head in the clouds’ kind of person. Forcing life to bend to our perception of it. Life is not kind to one who tries to do that. Not in Africa. Sight, perception has to be as clear as possible, even when we know that it is not ‘politically correct’.

Its great. I have managed to write this much. I thought that I would not be able to. The day is beautiful, but I have to push away quite a lot of the cobwebs. To see the sun’s smile.

Have a good Sunday. Have a kiss and cuddle to give to someone.