Women haunt land grabs and mass evictions

Oxfam came out with a major report this week on land grabs in five countries, Uganda, Indonesia, Guatemala, Honduras, and South Sudan. In Uganda, over 20,000 people were evicted from land they had farmed for decades, evicted so that a British corporation, New Forests Company, could come in, create tree plantations, earn carbon credits, sell timber.

The residents were never consulted. Quite to the contrary, tales of violence abound. For example, Olivia Mukamperezida, whose house was burned to the ground. Her eldest son, Friday, was at home because he was sick. He was killed in the fire. She buried Friday, and now is not sure if he’s even in his grave. “They are planting trees,” she says.

Christine was forced off her land as well: “We lost everything we had .… I was threatened – they told me they were going to beat me if we didn’t leave.”

Christine lost more than everything she had. She lost the future. Before she and her family lived in a six-room house, farmed six hectares, sold produce, sent their kids to school. They had been doing so for twenty years. Now, they live in two rooms, eke subsistence living out of a small plot, eat once a day, and the children no longer attend school.

The Oxfam report highlights the particular vulnerabilities of women, and the specific impact of eviction on women around the world. They note that in Africa, the situation is particularly dire: “Women’s land rights are less secure and more easily targeted. They also depend more on secondary uses of land, which tend to be ignored in large-scale acquisitions. Furthermore, although women comprise the majority of farmers, men effectively control the land and the income derived from it, even if it is the fruit of women’s labour. In practice, a new commercial opportunity often means that men assume control of the land at the expense of women’s access. Thus, new sources of income from the land are likely to burden women and benefit men. The new competition for land between biofuels and food crops, leading to less availability of food and higher prices, is also likely to affect women more than men, as women tend to take responsibility for feeding the family.”

From direct physical and verbal assaults to the processes to the consequences, the entire land grabbing machinery is violence against women.

None of this is new. Previous researchers have issued reports on that describe the gendered impacts of commercial pressures on land, that wonder if land grabs aren’t simply, and intentionally, another bigger, badder yoke on women’s land rights. Activists, such as Esther Obaikol, Executive Director of the Uganda Land Alliance, have also been organizing with women farmers … for decades.

When it comes to land grabs in Uganda, as elsewhere, women farmers have been pushed harder, deeper, further. They are the first and final targets of land grabbing. Mass evictions attack women. Women haunt land grabs and mass evictions … everywhere.

 

(Photo Credit: Sven Torfinn for The New York Times)

Betty Tibikawa’s asylum nightmare

Yarl’s Wood

Betty Tibikawa is a Ugandan lesbian who has applied for asylum in the United Kingdom. She has been turned down and sits in Yarl’s Wood, waiting to be deported, struggling to live.

Betty Tibikawa’s family has disowned her. The infamous Ugandan tabloid, the Red Pepper, identified Tibikawa as lesbian, and so extended the threat to her life and well being.

And she has been tortured. Having just graduated from high school, Betty Tibikawa was preparing to go to university in Kampala when three men abducted her. They took her to an abandoned building and branded her thighs with a hot iron. They left her unconscious. She remained at home, in bed, for two months. In the home of the family that then disowned her for being lesbian.

The United Kingdom Border Agency has decided that Betty Tibikawa shall not receive asylum. The scars are real, and they do indicate having been branded with a hot iron, but she shall not remain in the United Kingdom. Has the agency decided, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Uganda is now magically safe for LGBTQ persons? That can’t be. There’s too much evidence to the contrary. Is Betty Tibikawa not lesbian enough for the UKBA, and thus not in enough danger? Being tortured, being abducted, being threatened by a national newspaper, being disowned and abandoned by one’s family aren’t enough? What would be credible enough?

Betty Tibikawa’s story is an old story, a familiar story. In pleading for asylum, Tibikawa is  “at the mercy of states not only jealous of their own sovereignty but dominant on the international scene, pressed to intervene here rather than or sooner than there”. Hers is a story of mercy, a test of the sovereign nation-State’s capacity to engage in mercy. The State has failed … again.

She has come before strangers and revealed herself. She has been prodded, poked, interrogated, poked again, prodded again, all in the name of some sort of science. In this, Betty Tibikawa mirrors Saartjie Baartman, a Khoisan woman brought to France, an African woman who, in the end, “craved … mercy. Mercy. I was one colored woman against a thousand dead white men.” All she craved was mercy. She found none. She found, instead, European men who claimed science, who claimed mercy.

Betty Tibikawa mirrors as well Joseph “John” Merrick, the “Elephant Man”, who looked at the world of English scientists and doctors and wondered aloud, “If your mercy is so cruel, what do you have for justice?” The doctors responded that Merrick had much to learn about science, about religion, about mercy.

Where is mercy?

Is it to be found in a court of law? Does mercy abide anywhere in the processes of asylum? Do mercy and justice ever meet? What crime did Betty Tibikawa commit? The crime of self knowledge? The crime of knowing whom she loves? The crime of love itself?

Betty Tibikawa says she can’t sleep and has terrible nightmares. The current practice of asylum is a nightmare, a nightmare from which we all must try to awake. Meanwhile, Betty Tibikawa waits to be deported back to Uganda.

 

(Photo  credit: Dan Chung / Guardian)

 

The dead shall not walk through those open doors

Andries Tatane's Wife

Who is the stranger in our midst? Ask the police.

There was a protest, a service delivery protest, on Wednesday in Setseto, outside of  Ficksburg, in the eastern part of the Free State, in South Africa. During the protest, Andries Tatane, a 33 year old activist, approached the police. Either he approached the police to plead for some consideration for an elderly man who was not part of the protest or he approached the police to ask them to stop using water cannons because there were elderly people in the protest. Tatane was shirtless, unarmed, unthreatening. About six or seven riot police attacked him, beat and kicked him. Then Andries Tatane was shot. Finally he collapsed, and died, 20 minutes later. By the time the ambulance arrived, Andries Tatane was dead, and the mourning, and outrage, had begun.

There was a protest, a student protest, on Monday in Kabale district, in southwestern Uganda. Students at Bubaare Secondary School went on strike, protesting a policy shift affecting the disposition of male and female students. During the protest, Judith Ntegyerize, a senior, walked by, on her way to classes. The riot police showed up just then, allegedly shot their rifles in the air, and a `stray’ bullet hit Ntegyerize in the head and killed her, instantly.

These are only two stories, only two stories from the past week. In the past year, there have been similar stories of unarmed innocents killed by police fire everywhere. Around the world there are murals to the martyrs, more often than not young women and men, such as Oscar Grant, in the United States, or Neda Agha-Soltan in Iran, or the young women and men killed by live fire in protests in Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Egypt. Sometimes, their names become known, more often they remain anonymous. Sometimes, the State apologizes, but usually it just spins.

Whenever police are armed with live bullets and sent to a protest, the State has decreed that deadly force is an acceptable means to an end. But what is the end? It is the identification of the strangers, the strangers in our midst. Only the strangers can be so blithely beaten, kicked, shot, disposed of, dumped like so much garbage, killed. That is the nation-State’s rule of law, the law that protects `citizens’ against the threat, the pathogen, of strangers.

In a poem entitled “Passover”, Primo Levi enjoined us, all of us, to “light the lamp, open the door wide so the pilgrim can come in”. That poem ends with these words: “This year in fear and shame, next year in virtue and in justice.” Open the door, open it wide, and when you do, remember Andries Tatane and Judith Ntegyerize. Remember. The dead shall not walk through those open doors.

 

Not just another murder, Brenda Namigadde

On February 4, 2006, almost five years ago, Zoliswa Nkonyana, “a young Khayelitsha lesbian”, was chased by a group of 20 or so young men. When they caught up with her, they clubbed, kicked and beat her to death. They tortured her to death for being lesbian, for being openly lesbian, for being a woman, for being.

It took two weeks for the news of her brutal murder to finally reach the media. The police didn’t make much of the death or its circumstances. The press in Khayelitsha, five years ago as today, is marked largely by its absence. It was `just another murder.’

Five years later, the case is still open, the trial is not yet finalized. Memorials will take place, no doubt, protests and commemorations.

Yesterday, January 26, 2011, gay rights activist David Kisule Kato was brutally murdered in Mukono, Kampala, Uganda. Kato was the advocacy officer for Sexual Minorities Uganda. Along with Julian Pepe Onziema and Kasha Jacqueline, Kato had recently won a case against Rolling Stone, restraining it from publishing photos and names of gay men and lesbian women. The High Court ruled that the tabloid violated the rights to privacy and safety. This time the news of the murder spread quickly. The Kampala police claimed, almost immediately, that they’re on the case.

In both instances, and so many others, the assault is on the right to public being, the right to access as gay men and lesbian women, to public spaces, to common and shared experiences, to mutual recognition.

Brenda Namigadde is a woman from Uganda. She fled Uganda in 2003 after her house was destroyed and her life was threatened … because her life partner was a woman. Namigadde fled to the United Kingdom, where she sought asylum. She was turned down, because of insufficient proof of `being lesbian’. Now Namigadde sits in Yarl’s Wood, and awaits, in terror, to be deported to Uganda.

One way to honor the memory of Zoliswa Nkonyana, of David Kato, of all the other gay men and lesbian women who have been brutalized, tortured, murdered, for the sin of being gay in public, for the sin of sharing their love in the common and shared spaces, is to make sure that Brenda Namigadde and other gay and lesbian asylum seekers are not transported back to the House of Death. If not, then Zoliswa Nkonyana, David Kato, and all the others, they’re just another murder.

 

(Mosaic of Zoliswa Nkonyana by Ziyanda Majozi. Thanks to inkanyiso.org)

Uganda is … a jambula tree grows in Kampala

Jambula Tree” is an award winning short story written by Ugandan writer Monica Arac de Nyeko. It won the 2007 Caine Prize for African Writing, the preeminent prize on the continent for short fiction.  Arac de Nyeko is the first and thus far the only Ugandan to have won the coveted prize. Arac de Nyeko is also a member of FEMRITE, the Ugandan Women Writers’ Association.

“Jambula Tree” tells the story of two adolescent girls, Anyango and Sangu, who, for a time at least, `prefer’ one another. When their love is discovered, Anyango is sent abroad to boarding school, Sangu stays behind and becomes a nurse who leads a solitary life. The story is a letter written, perhaps delivered, perhaps never sent, by Sangu to Anyango on her return.

Their love is a jambula tree: “It had grown so tall. The tree had been there forever with its unreachable fruit. They said it was there even before the estate houses were constructed. In April the tree carried small purple jambula fruit which tasted both sweet and tang and turned our tongues purple. Every April morning when the fruit started to fall, the ground became a blanket of purple.”

The jambula tree is a real tree with real fruit and real cycles, and it is also the possible, the dream of shared love that extends in time to before the constructed spaces of human society and perhaps will continue beyond the lifetime of those spaces. It is part of the world, part of the earth, part of the sky, part of our story.

And yet …

“According to the framers of the Bill, a girl who prefers a girl is more dangerous to the society than officials who robbed millions of dollars meant to treat aids, malaria and tuberculosis patients in 2004,” wrote Joachim Buwembo in The East African, earlier this week.

Joachim Buwembo is a journalist of some renown, who has lived, worked and written in East Africa for decades. Currently a Knight International Journalism Fellow, working in Tanzania to improve coverage of poverty and development issues in that country, Buwembo has Managing Editor of The Monitor; founder of the Tanzanian newspaper, The Citizen; Kampala Bureau Chief for The East African; and editor of The Sunday Vision. Before that, he was a high school teacher in Uganda and Kenya. He has dedicated his life has to education through critical journalism and national debate. Joachim Buwembo is, by all accounts, a knowledgeable man, an experienced man.

Yet, with all that experience and knowledge, until recently Joachim Buwembo had had no opinion – good, bad or indifferent – about gay men, lesbians or homosexuality and had no reason to have an opinion. But times have changed: “Today, a Ugandan cannot run away from giving an opinion about homosexuality, after the national parliament was petitioned in a formal motion to prescribe draconian measures including the death penalty for the act.”

In this week’s op-ed piece, “Why we cannot turn a deaf ear to Uganda’s homosexuality Bill”, Buwembo uses reason to take apart the will to kill that underwrites the Bahati Bill. He has two main points. First, any addition to a penal code presumes a crime that can be judged, based on evidence and knowledge. In Uganda, very few can judge gay men, lesbians or homosexuality because very few actually have sufficient information, and even fewer know what the actual crime is. Second, there are real criminals and scoundrels about, men and women who have massacred and who have plundered. They go free.

That is Buwembo’s argument. Some see the argument as a bit of sanity and calm in a season of national gay panic and anti-gay hysteria. Others hear and read his as a `dispassionate voice…amidst all the nonsensical hype.”

But Buwembo is also a storyteller. He tells two stories. The first is the story of a dialogue: “In my many years of existence, I first recognised a homosexual only three years ago. I say ‘recognised’ and not ‘identified’ because I only have her claim as ‘proof’.” Where do nuanced differences between recognition and identification sit in the pogrom that is being planned for gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and intersex Ugandans, and for their friends and loved ones? Who will adjudicate identity? Who will send Joachim Buwembo to prison for not reporting on a woman who claimed a lesbian identity as her own?

The second is the story of  two girls, the dangerous ones, the girl who prefers a girl, the girl who is preferred by a girl. I have been thinking of those two girls since I first read of the Bahati Bill and, even more, since I first read the Bill itself. For its target is the jambula tree, and all those who tell or read its stories.

The Bahati Bill violates human rights. At the same time, it attempts to silence the stories and murder the storytellers. Not the gay, nor the lesbian, nor the straight, not the this nor the that storyteller, but all storytellers. It means to stifle and kill creativity and creation itself. Who will send Joachim Buwembo and Monica Arac de Nyeko to prison, or to the gallows, for having written human stories of human spirit, love, and being?  Would we not rather taste of the purple fruit of the earth than swim, and drown, in the red blood of our sisters and brothers?

 

(Photo Credit: http://www.grizeldaholderness.co.uk)

Brunt: somewhere between rights and reconciliation, women

Yesterday was 16 December 2009. In South Africa, it’s the Day of Reconciliation. President of the Republic of South Africa Jacob Zuma spoke, in Tshwane, about reconciliation. The President spoke at length about the military, about veterans and about serving members of the South African National Defence Force. Reconciliation.

Seven days earlier, 10 December, was Human Rights Day. President of the United States Barack Obama spoke in Oslo, Norway, as this year’s Nobel Peace Laureate. He spoke of just war. Peace.

Both presidents spoke of responsibility. For one, it was the responsibility of nation building, for the other the responsibility of peace. This was a week then that began with war as peace and ended with the military as agent of reconciliation.

Women know better. Women `bear the brunt’ of these speeches.

Women often bear the brunt of poverty and human rights abuses; but as activists they use these roles to trigger positive social change”. Women bear the brunt of poverty because they are the target of discrimination, oppression, exploitation, violence. Here’s how Amnesty describes the world of women: “Over 70 per cent of the world’s poor are women. Women earn only 10 per cent of the world’s income but do two thirds of the world’s work. Three quarters of the world’s illiterate are women. Women produce up to 80 per cent of the food in developing countries but own only one per cent of the land.”

Treated as objects, women refuse to be abject. Around the world women are mobilizing, gathering, celebrating, organizing. Women like Ugandan human rights activists Jacqueline Kasha, Solome Kimbugwe Nakawesi, Sylvia Tamale, speaking out and organizing against the homophobic bill in Uganda’s parliament; or Val Kalende, an out lesbian in Uganda who has the courage to speak truth to power, and the truth is she simply wants to live a full and joyful life.

Women like Terra K, Joan S, Michelle M, pregnant women prisoners in the U.S. struggling for decent health care and for decency and dignity. Women like Nepalese widows Bhagwati Adhikari, Lily Thapa, Rekha Subedi, Nisha Swar, members of Women for Human Rights who reject the oppression of widows and of all women.

Women like Annise Parker, new mayor of Houston and first elected out gay mayor of a major U.S. city, or Elizabeth Simbiwa Sogbo-Tortu, campaigning to become the first paramount chieftain in the country.

Women like Zimbabwean activist Kuda Chitsike, women who dare to organize, women who dare to win.

These are a few women who were reported on during the week that began with a peace speech justifying war and ended with a reconciliation speech focusing on military well being.

We found out this week that, in KwaZulu Natal, urban women `bear the brunt’ of AIDS: “The face of HIV/AIDS in KwaZulu-Natal is a woman in her thirties living in eThekwini, according to a study released this week. Urban women in the province are far more likely to be HIV positive than their rural sisters, while over half (54%) of all pregnant women in their thirties were HIV positive….Despite levels of poverty being higher in the rural districts, social scientists believe that there is more social cohesion in rural communities that protects against women against HIV.…People living in informal settlements have the highest HIV prevalence.” How do you reconcile the urban and rural sisters? Call in the military?

We found out this week that, in Honduras, women `bear the brunt’ of human rights abuses at the hands of the coup regime, and the Obama regime is doing little to stop that: “Repercussions from this summer’s coup in Honduras are far from over….The brunt of …abuses is borne by the women….Women make up the majority of the vast resistance movement in Honduras, playing a critical leadership role in civil disobedience and citizen protection. For their tireless and courageous support of democracy, they have received death threats and been attacked with nail-studded police batons, tear gas, and bullets. Detained by police or military for hours and even days without charges or access to legal counsel, women have been deprived of medicine, food, and water. At least two cases have resulted in death. Lawless violence against women has pervaded Honduras since the coup.” When war is peace, violence against women is national security.

This is the logic of the brunt, of the sharp blow, the assault, the violence, the shock, the force. Women `bear the brunt’ because men understand peace and reconciliation as military engagements, from the bedroom to the boardroom and beyond. Women are meant to inhabit the space between hollow rights and empty reconciliation, And beyond? As one necessarily anonymous writer opined recently, looking at the current situation in Uganda, “You want gay rights? Get more women elected.” You want real peace, real reconciliation? Look to women’s organizing histories, stories, lives.

Today is 17 December. A new week begins.

 

Val Kalende

Uganda is … Who is in our hearts of hearts?

Sylvia Tamale

The Rev. Gideon B. Byamagusha is a person of courage, a person of the hearts of hearts. Byamagusha is an Anglican priest in Uganda, in a parish outside of Kampala. In 1992, Byamagusha announced that he was living with HIV. He was the first African religious leader to do so. In 2003 he founded the African Network of Religious Leaders living with or personally affected by HIV/AIDS, or ANERELA. By the end of 2006, ANERELA numbered over 2000 members in 39 African countries. In 2006, Rev. Byamagusha started a shelter for AIDS orphans. In May of this year, Rev. Byamagusha was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize. He lives today with his wife and three children.

He lives today, and in today’s edition of the Sunday Monitor, he writes: “No one really knows how many homosexuals , tri-sexuals, bi-sexuals, hetero-sexuals and non-sexuals we are in Uganda. What is known is that these sexualities are certainly not new ways of life.”

We are … homosexuals, tri-sexuals, bi-sexuals, hetero-sexuals and non-sexuals. We are.

On Thursday, November 19, Los Angeles County reported a 21% increase in crimes against gay, lesbian, bisexuals and transgendered people. The report noted that sexual-orientation hate crimes were more likely to be more violent than hate crimes based on racism or religious hatred.

Friday, November 20, marked the eleventh Annual International Transgender Day of Remembrance. The Transgender Day of Remembrance began in 1999, to commemorate, mourn, and protest the 1998 murder of Rita Hester, a transgender woman of color in Boston

Last year, in Yeoville, a neighborhood of Johannesburg, South Africa, Daisy Dube was brutally murdered, shot, when she and her friends asked three men in an car to stop calling them “isitabane”, a Sepedi slur against LGBT people.

A little over a week ago, on November 13, in Puerto Rico, 19-year-old Jorge Steven López-Mercado, was killed, beheaded, dismembered, and his remains were set on fire, because he was a man dressed in woman’s clothing.

Tara Sawyer sees November 20 as “an opportunity for all of us to stand up to end violence against all women….Some counts have the average number of murders of transgendered people at 19 per month! Or put another way, 1 in 12 of us in America will be murdered. But we as transgendered people are the only ones counting, in pretty much every country across the world. I’m a transgendered sex worker, and I want to not get killed for who I am or what I do. As our death count rises, I beg that you consider your prejudices around gender, and let us live in peace. I’m literally begging for my life.”

We are the only ones counting. Let us live in peace. I’m literally begging for my life.

In Uganda, homosexuality was already criminalized, and that was not enough. A new bill proposes death. Remember, sexual orientation crimes are likely to be the most violent, especially when perpetrated by the State, by Society, by Large Structures. The people must be protected, Society must be defended, the Nation must be preserved. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people must learn to die, must learn to beg for life … and then die.

Die … or dialogue? On Wednesday, Makerere University hosted a public dialogue between Sylvia Tamale, well-known human rights, women’s rights, sexual minorities rights’ feminist lawyer, and Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, Executive Director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of people living with HIV/Aids in Uganda. Major Ruranga has been living openly with HIV since he announced his HIV status on World Aids Day, 1993. Before his promotion to his current rank, he was known as Captain Condom. There are many courageous people in Uganda.

Tamale opened her remarks with an invocation to dialogue: “I would like to thank the Human Rights and Peace Centre for inviting me here this afternoon to share my views on this bill.  It is great that HURIPEC organized this to be a dialogue and not a debate because debates have a tendency to polarize and divide along irrational gut-level responses.  A dialogue, on the other hand, usefully sets the stage for people to listen to each other with understanding, tolerance and helps build bridges.  I hope that this public dialogue will mark the first stepping stone for all of us to embark on a rewarding journey of mutual respect, simple decency and fairness.”

Stepping stones or stones of violence? It is not enough to put down the stones. Something must be built, an open bridge, an open road, an open and shared journey.

She concluded her remarks with an oblique return to the theme of dialogue: “Do we really in our hearts of hearts want our country to be the first on the continent to demand that mothers spy on their children, that teachers refuse to talk about what is, after all, “out there” and that our gay and lesbian citizens are systematically and legally terrorized into suicide?  Ladies and gentlemen, you may strongly disagree with the phenomenon of same-sex erotics; you may be repulsed by what you imagine homosexuals do behind their bedroom doors; you may think that all homosexuals deserve to burn in hell.  However, it is quite clear that this Bill will cause more problems around the issue of homosexuality than it will solve.  I suggest that Hon. Bahati’s bill be quietly forgotten.  It is no more or less than an embarrassment to our intelligence, our sense of justice and our hearts.”

What is in our hearts? Justice? Love? Who is counting our deaths, who is opening our spaces, who is charting our journey? Who is in our hearts of hearts? Let us live in peace. I am literally begging for our lives. We are …

(Photo Credit: The Sunday Monitor)

Uganda is … Are you now or have you ever been …?

Speciosa Wandira

Speciosa Wandira was Vice-President of Uganda from 1994 to 2003, and was actually the first woman Vice-President on the continent. She is also a physician, and her story provides insight into the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passing through the Ugandan Parliament.

Dr. Wandira was once married to an engineer named Kazibwe. They had been married for some time. In  2002, she publically took on the taboo subject of domestic violence against women in Uganda. She revealed in public that she had been battered.

She was a 48-year-old woman then, a mother of four, speaking before Parliament on International Women’s Day, and she simply told the truth. She had endured abuse for three decades, she had suffered too much and for too long. She filed for divorce, and was finally granted it. The process was so time consuming and exhausting that she stepped down from government in 2003, but she had opened a full debate, in Uganda and on the continent, concerning marital rape, women’s rights in divorce settlements, property rights, and some regulation of polygamy.

On November 11, 2009, some seven years later, the Ugandan Parliament passed a Domestic Violence Bill. Women activists, feminists, civil society have welcomed the passage into law. It is a positive step … that took seven years and actually much longer. Imagine climbing stairs in which each step takes (a) a prominent leader to intervene and (b) seven years.

At the core of the debate concerning the Domestic Violence Bill was masculinity. What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a man in Uganda? What does it mean to be an African man? These were the questions posed. These are the questions that underline the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, a bill that would punish homosexuality, the hint, the aroma, the aura of homosexual anything, by death. Are you now or have you ever been … ?

Speciosa Wandira is also one of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation.

The Champions for an HIV-Free Generation are a group of African leaders committed to “meeting the challenge of AIDS”. They number ten: Festus Mogae, former president of Botswana; Kenneth Kaunda, former president of Zambia; Joaquim Chissano, former president of Mozambique; Benjamin Mkapa, former president of Tanzania; Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town; Edwin Cameron, currently a Justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa; Miriam Were, chairperson of the Kenyan National Aids Control Council; Joyce Mhaville, chairperson of the Steering Committee of the African Broadcast Media Partnership Against HIV/AIDS (ABMP); Liya Kebede, Ethiopian model and Goodwill Ambassador for the World Health Organization’s maternal and child health program; and Speciosa Wandira Kazibwe.

It was reported yesterday, Sunday, November 15, that, at the end of October, Festus Mogae, chairperson of the Champions for an HIV-Free Generation, sent a letter to Uganda’s President Museveni. In that letter, President Mogae charged that “the draft HIV/Aids Prevention and Control Bill 2008 and the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill could have a chilling effect on HIV/Aids prevention efforts.” The problem is the pandemic. Are you now or have you ever been…HIV+?

But what if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is linked instead to the Domestic Violence Bill? According to some, “40% of crimes committed in 2008 were crimes of passion or related to domestic violence”. Others suggest that 68% of Ugandans have suffered domestic violence. When it comes to domestic and sexual violence, it’s women and children first.

The stew of discrimination, state persecution and execution of human beings provided by the Bahati Bill is an all too familiar one, especially to those who live and struggle with domestic and sexual violence. It’s part of a continuum. Here’s an example.

On Wednesday morning, a radio call-in show in Kampala had birth spacing and family planning as its theme. According to one report, the topic in fact was man: “Let no one confuse us, we want many children. Every man should not consider himself done until they have got 80 children,” said a caller into Impact FM’s morning show on Wednesday. “How can you a Muganda man, say that you have only two children, it is a shame. You have become a mzungu (white man),” said another…. Though women bear the brunt of big families and frequent pregnancies, the callers were mainly men and almost all of them were calling for large families. Listening in, I wished children grew on trees so that whoever wanted many could go and pluck them. Sadly, that is not the case. A woman, somewhere, has to risk her life to bear children in Uganda. According to statistics, a Ugandan woman has a one in 27 lifetime chance of dying during the process of getting a baby. This is compared to a one in 8,000 chance in the developed world — yet the men were calling for 60 or 80 children per man. At an average of seven children per woman in Uganda, this means each man would need at least 10 women to achieve this feat. Uganda is an agricultural country and 80% of the production is by women. If these same women are going to be pregnant seven times in their lives, when will they get time to look after their babies and also contribute to their family development?”

You want only two kids, are you a mzungu?” Are you gay? Are you a lesbian? Are you a woman? Are you a wife? Are you a mother? Are you a man? Are you a man? Are you a man? Are you now or have you ever been …?

(Photo Credit: The Daily Monitor)

Uganda is … “under attack”

Uganda is under attack and, as always, it’s the mothers of the nation who are to blame.

An Anti-homosexuality Bill has been tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. Many have risen to denounce and oppose it, both within the country and from across the globe.  Many others have risen to support it. Some in the Church have argued in favor of the capital punishment in the Bill, others have argued for life imprisonment. The ones arguing for life imprisonment are actually considered to be in opposition to the Bill. After all, in Uganda “homosexuality is already an offence under the Penal Code of Uganda as is same-sex marriage, which is prohibited by the Constitution.”

This is the logic of being-under-attack. As Michel Foucault put it, “Society must be defended”, and you, sir, madam, are not of society. You are a threat. Equally, you as a threat are a race, or better a sub-race. LGBTI people are being described as a public health threat, a moral threat, a national security threat, a spiritual threat, a pathogen. When, for example, the Archbishop of Uganda rallied his flock last year to protect him from the threat of the gay community, what did he say? ““The team of homosexuals is very rich, Archbishop  Henry Luke Orombi said, “They have money and will do whatever it takes to make sure that this vice penetrates Africa. We have to stand out and say no to them.” Sound familiar? If not, go to Nazi propaganda, especially in its early and middle years,  and see how the Jews, the Roma, the homosexuals and the disabled were described. Wealthy, a penetrating vice, infectious and infesting. Vermin.

The Bill was put forth and its campaign is spearheaded by Ugandan MP David Bahati. Some describe this whole situation as a convenient distraction for the government. Others see this as yet another sign that the government is filled with “purveyors of hate, who have no qualms about killing those who disagree with them or are unlike themselves. No doubt, they are more dangerous to the people of Uganda, than gays and lesbians.”

Not the good MP Bahati, however. He explains, in an interview published Sunday, November 1, that Uganda is under attack from the evil of homosexuality, that the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a nice piece of legislation. It is a consolidation of values of Ugandans and the country at large. It aims at holding the integrity of Ugandans high in the sky.” The nation is under attack, and now, so is Bahati: “ever since we tabled this Bill, we have come under attack. People have argued that we are promoting a hate campaign against homosexuals. And these attacks are coming mostly from civil society members who claim that homosexuality is a human right.

“These same groups have persistently continued to place this evil in the category of human rights. They have rallied people to resist the Bill. They argue that we are targeting homosexuals, we hate them. But some of the people behind these messages are mothers and respectable people in our country.

“Can you imagine mothers who are supposed to protect their children from abuses like sodomy are the very people protesting this Bill? Instead of protecting their children they are up in arms supporting abusers of these children! People who support this evil have endlessly started to threaten us.”

This is the logic of national-being-under-attack. What is at stake here? Motherhood. Mr. Bahati simply wants to save the mothers of Uganda … from themselves.

This is the all too familiar logic of being-under-attack, of protection and security. Hate is called love, violence is called peace, victims are called perpetrators, and love itself is called evil.

Remember the Call to Action: “Denounce this bill through a protest at a Ugandan Diplomatic Mission in your country on November 9th 2009, where applicable. Urge the Government of Uganda to reject this Bill in its entirety.” Uganda is…not under attack.

 

(Photo Credit: Uganda Beat)

Uganda is … A plea, a prayer, a demand, an invitation

An anti-homosexuality bill has been tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. Many have risen to denounce and oppose it, many others have risen to support it. Remember that in Uganda, homosexuality is already a criminal offense. This `homosexuality’ is defined as engaging in same- sex sexual relations or being identified as such. The new proposed legislation adds a possible death sentence, and other niceties.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, SMUG, and Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UGANDA, have issued A CALL TO ACTION. It reads, in part:

“DENOUNCE THE ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL IN THE PARLIAMENT OF UGANDA. PROTEST AT THE UGANDA DIPLOMATIC MISSION IN YOUR COUNTRY

Dear Partners, Allies and Friends,

As you already know, the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.” was recently tabled before the Parliament of Uganda. The Bill’s provisions are draconian and among them are;

• Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in some circumstances the death penalty;

• Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $ 2,650.00 or three years in prison;

• Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties;

• And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.

• Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual
and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts
to combat the spread of HIV;

• All of the offences covered by the Bill as drafted can be applied to a Ugandan citizen who allegedly commits them – even outside Uganda!

The existing law has already been employed in an arbitrary way, and the Bill will just exacerbate that effect. There is a continued increase in campaigns of violence and unwarranted arrests of homosexuals. There are
eight ongoing cases in various courts. Four accused persons are unable to meet the harsh bail conditions set against them. As a result, Brian Pande died in Mbale Hospital on 13th September, 2009 as he awaited trial.

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) calls upon you our partner, ally and/or friend to action. Denounce this bill through a protest at a Ugandan Diplomatic Mission in your country on November 9th 2009, where applicable.
Urge the Government of Uganda to reject this Bill in its entirety….

Thank you for standing in solidarity with the Uganda LGBTI community.

For more information, please contact:

Frank Mugisha 
fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org Tel: + 256 772 616 062

Valetine Kalende   vkalende@faruganda.org                  Tel: +256 752 324 249”

Any person alleged to be homosexual, any parent, any teacher, any landlord or landlady, any doctor or nurse or caregiver, any neighbor, any stranger.  Everyone, everywhere. Anyone, anywhere. A landscape of allegations, a horizon of torture and death.

Freedom and Roam Uganda, FAR-UG, says its vision “is to build an organization, which will strive for the attainment of full equal rights of lesbians, bisexuals, Transgender and Intersexual (LBTI) women as well as the removal of all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation and Empower LBTI women.” Its mission is “to empower, lobby and press for the recognition of same sex relationships, especially lesbians in Uganda and thereby attain full equal rights and freedom in all aspects of life.”

Its aims and objectives include the following: “To integrate a legal, ethical and human rights dimension into the response to discrimination based on sexual orientation and also to equip them for full participation in the political, social, economical and health set up of Uganda. To create, raise and promote awareness of discriminated causes and effects in regards to LGBTI (lesbians, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersexuals) persons especially LBTI (lesbian bisexual, transgender and Intersexual) women in Uganda….To raise self-esteem among LBTI women in our society. To provide education, homes, jobs as well as health resources to the needy in this cause….To bring LBTI women in Uganda and those outside our borders together in order to build one great family. To advocate for the establishment of a legal framework to reach those in society that are legally and socially marginalized. To educate the general public on issues of human rights within the context of sexual orientation.”

Freedom and Roam Uganda is “the only all Lesbian, Bisexual Women, Transgender  and Intersex women’s organization in Uganda.”

Sexual Minorities Uganda has a vision, “a liberated LGBTI people of Uganda.” Its mission “is to oversee and support member organizations to achieve their objectives aimed at LGBTI liberation.” SMUG has five objectives: “1. To advocate and lobby through coordinating efforts with local and international partners for the equality of all Ugandan irrespective of gender, age, sexual orientation, social status or creed. 2. To build and strengthen visibility through media and literature. 3. To fight against HIV and AIDS in LGBTI, MSM and WSW community. 4. To speak out on gender-based violence e.g: Homophobia 5. Empower activists through trainings on leadership, social entrepreneurship etc.” SMUG breaks its activities into five categories: “1. Litigation. 2. Research and Documentation. 3. Media Campaigns and debates. 4. Awareness and Outreach. 5. Mainstreaming with civil society and NGOs with similar goals.” Sexual Minorities Uganda concludes its introduction of itself to the world with this:

LET US LIVE IN PEACE

Is it a plea or is it a prayer, a demand or an invitation? Yes to each, yes to all, together.

Together

LET US LIVE IN PEACE

 

(Photo Credit: The Feminist Wire)