Poland has violated the right to respect for a private life by failing to offer legal recognition for same-sex couples, the European Court of Human Rights said on Tuesday, putting pressure on Donald Tusk’s new government to quickly change the law.
Ten Poles argued that the vast majority of Council of Europe member states offered same-sex couples a right to marry or to enter into registered civil unions, and asserted that they were disadvantaged, for example in the fields of taxation, social rights and family law.
“The Court considered that the Polish State had failed to comply with its duty to ensure that the applicants had a specific legal framework providing for the recognition and protection of their same-sex unions,” it said in a statement.
“That failure had resulted in the applicants’ inability to regulate fundamental aspects of their lives and amounted to a breach of their right to respect for their private and family life.”
The case dates back to the rule of the nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which was effectively ended after eight years on Monday when parliament backed a new pro-European government under Tusk to take power after October’s election.
PiS says that extending marriage and adoption to gay couples threatens traditional family structures and is harmful for children. It also says that teaching about LGBTQ issues in schools results in children being sexualized.
Tusk had said during the election campaign that his party would introduce a provision for same-sex partnerships and he considered it a priority.
As a sign of his government’s dedication to fighting discrimination, Tusk’s cabinet will be the first to include a minister for equality, Katarzyna Kotula, a politician from the New Left party forming part of his pro-European coalition.
“It’s a good day. The time of discrimination is coming to an end. We know that we are all different, but we are equal. We will ensure equality for all — which is guaranteed by … the Constitution,” she wrote on social media platform X.
Tusk will face a vote of confidence in parliament later on Tuesday and his government could be sworn in on Wednesday morning.
ECHR rulings are binding on members of the Council of Europe, an organization separate from the European Union, but some remain outstanding for years.
The Love Does Not Exclude Association which supported the applicants in court said the ruling would result in “serious pressure” on the government to introduce same-sex partnerships.
“Since the new government wants to rebuild Poland’s reputation … and prove that the rule of law crisis has ended, it will not be able to ignore the voices of international bodies such as the tribunal,” it said in a statement.
When I first started questioning my sexuality and identity, I didn’t feel butterflies. I didn’t feel excited or even the strong desire to understand more about these new feelings. I felt scared. Terrified even. I knew that even the first tendrils of these thoughts had the capability to unravel my entire life.
And unravel it they did. My past world had revolved closely around my community and my family. When you grow up in a Pakistani Muslim household as I did – and strictly Muslim at that – there is often a great reverence and respect placed upon relatives and elders, and also a strong emphasis placed on the importance of blood ties and family.
I grew up thinking of myself as a boy. In a world where men had certain duties and roles, my entire life and my outlook on the world was shaped by these men and the power they held.
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Transness brought a real loneliness, and my world fell apart. My family withdrew from me, but I also shrank from their touch. Since then, I have found it hard to find community that I can really relate to.
So imagine my delight at finding Club Kali.
Club Kali emerged in the 90’s club scene in London, 1995 specifically, out of an intense need to develop an environment of freedom, dignity, and beautiful brown magic in the closeted doorways and rain-soaked paving stones of the city.
The struggle to build a space for Desi people, even without the added layers of queer identity, was intertwined with the tail end of 70s and 80s political movements for equality that were cloaked in political blackness and the strong stereotype of “queerness” being equated with whiteness.
This struggle drew together two incredible Desi women – DJ Ritu and Rita.
Ritu and Rita met at the Shakti Disco, a venue in the London Lesbian & Gay Centre (LLGC) in Farringdon (a community center in London), where Ritu was the DJ. When Shakti closed, Ritu – by day a full-time youth worker – knew something was needed to replace one of the few scenes where intersectional Desi queer people could connect with a culture that often relied on the family love they had lost. For Rita – by day working with victims of Domestic Violence – her love of music was key to this future they wanted to build.
Ritu spoke with LGBTQ Nation about the first time she met Rita: “Rita walked into my DJ booth at the LLGC and asked for an Abba track to be played. I thought she was gorgeous. This thought was unrequited for about 3 years! But we became friends and then a couple. Eventually, we simply became business partners that created the two [of the] longest-running Asian club nights in the world. Club Kali since 1995 and our straight Bollywood club, Kuch Kuch Nights since 2000.”
Music and dance are strong reminders of the past, used as key tools in many cultures to teach the stories of ancestors and morality, but they are also important for self-reflection, self-love, and community care. Queer Desi communities called out for the magic of their culture to be intertwined with the newer aspects of London nightlife, in a time where community care was all but essential.
As Ritu explains, “Last century, being LGBTQ+ was an isolating, lonely, experience of feeling confused and ‘othered’. We had very few positive images of people like us in the media, particularly women. There were almost no South Asian role models – queer or non-queer. Everything associated with who we thought we were, was negative, and of course the intersectional racism, sexism, and homophobia was difficult. Eventually, I found a ‘gay scene’ in 1985, went on my first Pride march, and a few years later, became a founding member of a new South Asian LGBTQ organization, Shakti”.
DJ Ritu is a pioneer in this sense, and Rita is right up there with her. They dragged a biased world into a new age of music by never forgetting their roots but also never feeling the need to sacrifice all they had learned from their time in the UK music scene.
Ritu says that Kali itself was born specifically out of a need for safety, but also the need for a multicultural, multi-faith space that celebrated South Asian music. She says as a DJ, her magic is in the bringing together of diverse cultures through the power and joy of music, culminating on the dance floor. Through her work with Club Kali and her many other venues, she has provided a proper performance space for new artists and drag acts, and even hosted high-profile Brit Asian stars like Rishi Rich, Juggy D, and Jay Sean.
Pushing boundaries, fighting hate
To take it upon yourself to walk a path so hard is awe-inspiring, but unfortunately very common within the Desi Queer community. Many of us even now are forced, through the “othering” of ourselves as individuals and as a community, to walk alone. And while that is changing, I was keen to ask Ritu, along with Club Kali’s Community Engagement Officer Sakib Khan, what they think of the evolving world, and if they think we are on a track to more freedom and autonomy for queer Desi youth.
Ritu sees a bright future ahead, stating that Club Kali and its members and team, trailblazed and created new pathways for so many others to follow. She says that as soon as Kali was held up as a baton for others to see, many new and similar clubs opened. She spoke warmly of Zindagi – a club founded in 2003 for queer people in Manchester, that plays a colorful mix of the latest Bhangra, Bollywood tunes, Arabic music, RnB, HipHop and Dance, which she says is “furthering the boundary of clubbing.” She also praised the acclaimed Saathi club night in Birmingham. “Authenticity is key,” she said, “It must come from the heart.”
Sakib agrees, saying: “There are more events now than when Kali started, nightlife has changed a great deal in the 28 years since Kali began and there is greater visibility of LGBTQ+ people of color and from the South Asian diaspora, which is wonderful to see. Also, the change in legislation across the globe, particularly in India, has begun to shift attitudes. People have digital channels as a way of connecting and finding community. All of these are positives and with each generation comes a change in attitude”.
So we’re going strong, and now more than ever, with dangerous legislation on trans people finding its way into politics around the world, a space of safety and community for marginalized queer people is desperately needed. I pointed this out to Ritu, emphasizing my anger and pain as a generation of trans youth building our own new worlds, and she agreed strongly that while things are looking up in many areas, a huge push overall is needed.
“I wish we could do more… Because there’s such a huge need for it. But sadly, no – there aren’t enough spaces for queer Desi youth being made. Club Kali is limited in how much help and support we can offer to people at the moment. There certainly does need to be more funding for specialist organizations that can offer other services”.
Even so, it’s inspiring to see such strong figures exist in a world I thought I would never have and to see how much love and strength they have cultivated and nurtured for our community. Club Kali was established to offer shelter, and it would seem – through incredible platforms in dance, performance art, music, and even film – that it has developed into a godmother of the queer Desi clubbing scene.
Until the repeal of the Buggery Act in 1861, gay sex was a capital offense in England, forcing queer people out of public life. However, even during the extremely hostile environment before the repeal, ‘Molly Houses’, often coffeehouses, pubs or taverns, were created where queer people could meet and socialize.
Named after the slang term molly, which was usually used to refer to effeminate, homosexual men, Molly Houses quickly became the go-to meeting place for queer men in 18th-century England.
In court records from a buggery trial in 1724, a policeman named Joseph Sellers who visited a Molly House reported seeing “a company of men fiddling and dancing and singing bawdy songs, kissing and using their hands in a very unseemly manner.”
What is clear from reports at the time, typically from testimonies given in court cases, are the mock rituals the Mollies would perform. From adopting a female persona, alongside a feminine name and mannerisms, to cross-dressing on Festival Nights and conducting mock births and marriages.
Many of the sexual encounters and rituals were comedic in nature and were aimed at making a masquerade of straight conventions and parodying aristocratic manners.
“They were a forum for comedy and performance, where the whole idea of what’s true and natural gets called into question,” explains Matt Cook, the UK’s first Professor of LGBTQ+ History at the University of Oxford. “They served an important function for people to play with convention, ritual and to explore, have sex and socialize.”
The rise and fall of Mother Clap’s Molly House
Found on Field Lane in Holborn, central London, Mother Clap’s Molly House was arguably the most well-known and infamous molly house in 18th-century London. Run by Margaret ‘Mother’ Clap, this venue regularly accommodated dozens of men with beds being placed in all the rooms, thanks to Mother Clap.
The popularity of Mother Clap’s would ultimately prove to be its downfall, with a member of the puritan Society for the Reformation of Manners, Samuel Stevens, going undercover at the club to expose the patrons.
After visiting Mother Clap’s on November 14th 1725, Stevens said he saw men making love to one another and kissing in a lewd manner. “Then they would get up, Dance and make Curtsies, and mimick the voices of Women. Then they’d hug, and play, and toy, and go out by Couples into another Room on the same Floor, to be marry’d, as they call’d it.”
Police constables descended upon Mother Clap’s in February 1726, blocking all exits and arresting forty men. While most were released due to a lack of evidence, Mother Clap herself and a handful of customers received fines and prison sentences and were put in the pillory.
Three guests, Gabriel Lawrence, William Griffin, and Thomas Wright, were found guilty of buggery and hanged on May 9th, 1726.
The limits of inclusion
A handful of other Molly Houses have been identified in London and other cities, including Plump Nelly’s Molly House in London’s Smithfield and a public house on the edge of Warrington, a town near Manchester.
There is no question that the legal climate at the time when Molly Houses existed was deeply repressive towards men who had sex with men. Yet, for Cook, the lack of a distinct homosexual identity during the 18th and 19th centuries makes it a challenge for historians today to say exactly what motivated Molly House patrons.
“There was still a sense of it being an act rather than an identity. We don’t know really what the people who went to the Molly Houses were thinking of themselves,” he explains.
While there are mentions of upper-class men visiting, or slumming it, in Molly Houses, Cook warns against viewing Molly Houses as utopian environments, where class differences in 18th century England simply disappeared.
“If you just look at who was arrested and prosecuted, there are no upper-class men there. I think it’s a mistake to think of them as kind of all-inclusive spaces – I don’t think they functioned like that at all.”
Relying on unreliable storytellers
Despite only being open from 1724 to 1726, Mother Clap’s Molly House and its eccentric owner managed to create a sanctuary in a deeply repressive society. Even its raid and subsequent arrests helped provide historians today with unrivaled insights about gay life in England centuries ago.
The vast majority of primary sources about the Molly Houses are related to court cases or pamphlets distributed at the time. Much of the historical record comes directly from people who infiltrated Molly Houses undercover and then testified in court against customers.
“Often the only times when marginalized lives get reported on is when the law gets involved,” says English playwright Mark Ravenhill, who wrote the 2001 play, Mother Clap’s Molly House, set in part in 1720s London. “The facts available to us have been slightly distorted because they’re all from the prosecution, who are trying to shut down the houses.”
The growth of Molly Houses from around 1690 to 1726, and the following crackdown, interested Ravenhill and led him to set his play in the 1720s.
“After reading the material, I just thought it’s such a fascinating history. But there also seemed to be a very inherent theatrical element to the stories – I could easily see them on a big stage with lots of costume, music and dancing.”
Despite the immense importance these places had in allowing queer people to be themselves and in the process create a distinct subculture, their existence is still not widely known.
“People still on the whole haven’t heard about these places,” concludes Ravenhill. “As soon as you start to tell them about that culture, it just blows their mind and they want to know more about Molly Houses.”
In Jordan, one of the few countries in the Middle East where same-sex relations do not incur a criminal penalty, the government has initiated a crackdown on LGBTQ+ activists in a coordinated campaign of intimidation.
According to a report released by Human Rights Watch on Tuesday, interviews with 13 prominent LGBTQ+ activists in the country reveal tactics of intimidation and abuse forcing activists to cease their advocacy work or flee the country altogether.
Russia’s Supreme Court declared all LGBTQ+ supporters as “extremists.” Now a Russian company is tracking queer-friendly businesses.
In the past, Jordan has promoted itself as a modernizing influence among Middle Eastern nations compared with its neighbors. The country’s sodomy laws, dating back to British rule, were repealed in 1951.
“Jordanian authorities have launched a coordinated attack against LGBT rights activists, aimed at eradicating any discussion around gender and sexuality from the public and private spheres,” said Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Security forces’ intimidation tactics and unlawful interference in LGBT organizing have driven activism further underground and forced civil society leaders into an impossible reality: severe self-censorship or fleeing Jordan.”
The report details how Jordan’s General Intelligence Department (GID) and the Preventive Security Department of the Public Security Directorate have interrogated LGBTQ+ activists about their work, intimidated them with threats of violence, arrest, and prosecution, and forced activists to shut down their organizations.
Some activists have been kidnapped without legal cause and interrogated overnight.
Other tactics have included smearing activists online based on their sexual orientation and deploying other social media users to out activists online and incite violence against them.
In addition to interviewing 13 LGBTQ+ rights activists and others associated with the Jordanian LGBTQ+ community, HRW reviewed statements by government officials, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals, as well as visual media provided by activists documenting incidents of online harassment against them in public social media posts.
One victim, the director of an unnamed LGBTQ+ center, says he was forced into a car by authorities and interrogated overnight. GID agents called his parents and outed him, he said. Others detailed the forced cancellation of events in Amman, the Jordanian capital, and multiple instances of online harassment.
All of the activists targeted described the intimidation as a serial effort, with each of them summoned for interrogation multiple times. Three of the activists described interrogations by the governor of Amman, who interviewed them after they preemptively canceled the screening of a film depicting gay men.
Two organizations’ directors said they were forced to shut down their offices and flee the country following official intimidation.
“We arrived in a foreign country without any plan or support,” said one organization leader who fled with his boyfriend. “We had no choice. Since I fled Jordan, I consistently wake up screaming in terror. It has been the hardest experience I have ever been through.”
One LGBTQ+ activist who has remained in Jordan described her current reality: “Merely existing in Amman has become terrifying.”
The United States on Monday expanded a visa restriction policy on Ugandan officials to include those it believes are responsible for undermining democracy and repressing marginalized groups in Uganda, while also announcing a new visa restriction policy for officials in Zimbabwe.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the visa restrictions and mentioned, among others, the marginalization of groups like the LGBTQ community in Uganda and civil society advocates in Zimbabwe. Blinken’s statements did not name any official.
Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ law, considered one of the harshest in the world, was enacted in May and carries the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” an offense that includes transmitting HIV through gay sex.
In June, the U.S. State Department imposed visa restrictions on Ugandan officials after the passage of the law. The State Department also previously put visa restrictions on Ugandan officials following the country’s 2021 elections, which it called “flawed.”
“Today, I am announcing the expansion of the visa restriction policy to include current or former Ugandan officials or others who are believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Uganda or for policies or actions aimed at repressing members of marginalized or vulnerable populations,” Blinken said on Monday.
“These groups include, but are not limited to, environmental activists, human rights defenders, journalists, LGBTQI+ persons, and civil society organizers.”
Blinken also announced a new visa restriction policy for those he said were undermining democracy in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa won a second term in a disputed vote in August, which the opposition described as a “gigantic fraud” amid criticism from election observers who say the election failed to meet regional and international standards.
“Anyone who undermines the democratic process in Zimbabwe — including in the lead-up to, during, and following Zimbabwe’s August 2023 elections — may be found ineligible for U.S. visas under this policy,” Blinken said.
In a world that is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of embracing diversity and acknowledging the stories of marginalized communities, Nigeria stands as a complex backdrop. Despite a long history of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment and legislation, the country has seen the emergence of organizations like Obodo Nigeria, which is dedicated to celebrating and conserving Africa’s queer history. “We are an organization that uses art and technology as a medium for advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights in Nigeria,” Matthew Blaise, founder of Obodo Nigeria tells LGBTQ Nation.
Nigeria, like several other African nations, has been caught in the grip of anti-LGBTQ+ hostility. The Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act, passed in 2014 by former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, is a testament to the stigma LGBTQ+ endure, as it criminalizes same-sex relationships and activism. This legislation not only infringes upon the basic human rights of LGBTQ+ individuals but also perpetuates a culture of fear and secrecy, making it difficult for queer individuals to express themselves openly.
But for centuries, diverse sexual orientations and gender identities have existed within African communities, contributing to the vibrant tapestry of African cultures. However, the pervasive stigma, discrimination, and criminalization of homosexuality have silenced these narratives for far too long.
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One of the many facets from which homophobia stems is the idea that homosexuality is very much a Western import. Amidst these challenging environments and narratives, Obodo Nigeria has positioned itself as an avenue to educate folks on the history of homosexuality in Africa through the lens of art.
Obodo, which means “village” in several Nigerian languages, embodies the idea of inclusivity and community. The organization employs various artistic mediums – including art, literature, music, and theater – to tell the stories of African LGBTQ+ individuals who have often remained invisible.
Earlier this year, Matthew Blaise and their team organized an exhibition called Awa Ni Bi. It spoke to how homosexuality did not originate in the West.
“A few months ago,we held this exhibition called the Awa Ni Bi exhibition, where we showcased the works of artists, like Rachel Seidu, Alexandra Obochi, Yagazie Emezi, Daniel Obasi, and a host of others,” Blaise says. In order to achieve this, they used the three-day event to host exhibitions, panel discussions, intimate gatherings, and zine workshops, which contained ancient contexts of queerness and its longstanding relationship with the African continent. One of these panels, for example, discussed the Orishas, ancient gods from the western part of Nigeria that were largely non-binary.
Art is a powerful tool for social change and activism, and Obodo Nigeria utilizes it to challenge prevailing stereotypes and misconceptions surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals in Africa. By showcasing the artistic talents of queer Africans, the organization not only provides a platform for self-expression, but it also fosters a sense of pride and unity within the LGBTQ+ community. In presenting these stories in an accessible and relatable manner, the organization encourages empathy and understanding, gradually breaking down the walls of prejudice and discrimination.
Acknowledging and celebrating Africa’s queer history is not only an act of social justice, but also an essential step towards a more inclusive and accepting society. “The LGBTQ+ community has always existed within African communities, contributing to the continent’s cultural wealth,” Blaise shares, “and by silencing our stories, they’re depriving themselves of a deeper understanding of our own history and diversity.”
Organizations like Obodo Nigeria remind us that queer Africans are not a recent import but rather a vital part of our shared heritage. Embracing this history allows us to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity, challenging harmful stereotypes and fostering an environment where all Africans can live authentically. In a nation where anti-gay sentiments have often overshadowed the voices of LGBTQ+ individuals, Obodo Nigeria serves as a catalyst for change. The organization stands as a testament to the resilience and strength of the LGBTQ+ community in Africa.
Police searched venues across the Russian capital, including a nightclub, a male sauna, and a bar that hosted LGBTQ+ parties, under the pretext of a drug raid, local media reported.
Eyewitnesses told journalists that clubgoers’ documents were checked and photographed by the security services. They also said that managers had been able to warn patrons before police arrived.
The raids follow a decision by Russia’s Supreme Court to label the country’s LGBTQ+ “movement” as an extremist organization.
The ruling, which was made in response to a lawsuit filed by the Justice Ministry, is the latest step in a decadelong crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights under President Vladimir Putin, who has emphasized “traditional family values” during his 24 years in power.
Activists have noted the lawsuit was lodged against a movement that is not an official entity, and that under its broad and vague definition authorities could crack down on any individuals or groups deemed to be part of it.
Several LGBTQ+ venues have already closed following the decision, including St. Petersburg’s gay club Central Station. It wrote on social media Friday that the owner would no longer allow the bar to operate with the law in effect.
Max Olenichev, a human rights lawyer who works with the Russian LGBTQ+ community, told The Associated Press before the ruling that it effectively bans organized activity to defend the rights of LGBTQ+ people.
“In practice, it could happen that the Russian authorities, with this court ruling in hand, will enforce (the ruling) against LGBTQ+ initiatives that work in Russia, considering them a part of this civic movement,” Olenichev said.
Before the ruling, leading Russian human rights groups had filed a document with the Supreme Court that called the Justice Ministry lawsuit discriminatory and a violation of Russia’s constitution. Some LGBTQ+ activists tried to become a party in the case but were rebuffed by the court.
In 2013, the Kremlin adopted the first legislation restricting LGBTQ+ rights, known as the “gay propaganda” law, banning any public endorsement of “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors. In 2020, constitutional reforms pushed through by Putin to extend his rule by two more terms also included a provision to outlaw same-sex marriage.
After sending troops into Ukraine in 2022, the Kremlin ramped up a campaign against what it called the West’s “degrading” influence. Rights advocates saw it as an attempt to legitimize the war. That same year, a law was passed banning propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” among adults, also, effectively outlawing any public endorsement of LGBTQ+ people.
Another law passed this year prohibited gender transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care for transgender people. The legislation prohibited any “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records.
Russian authorities reject accusations of LGBTQ+ discrimination. Earlier this month, Russian media quoted Deputy Justice Minister Andrei Loginov as saying that “the rights of LGBT people in Russia are protected” legally. He was presenting a report on human rights in Russia to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, arguing that “restraining public demonstration of nontraditional sexual relationships or preferences is not a form of censure for them.”
The Supreme Court case is classified and it remains unclear how LGBTQ+ activists and symbols will be restricted.
Many people will consider leaving Russia before they become targeted, said Olga Baranova, director of the Moscow Community Center for LGBTQ+ Initiatives.
“It is clear for us that they’re once again making us out as a domestic enemy to shift the focus from all the other problems that are in abundance in Russia,” Baranova told the AP.
Law enforcement authorities in Nigeria are using the country’s same-sex prohibition law to target the LGBTQ community while ignoring abuses against them, rights groups and lawyers say, in the wake of fresh mass arrests of gay people.
Mass arrests and detention of queer Nigerians that continued this week were done without proper investigations and could further expose them to danger amid the anti-LGBTQ sentiments in Africa’s most populous country, rights groups said.
The country’s paramilitary agency on Monday announced the arrest of more than 70 young people — 59 men and 17 women — in the northern Gombe state, accusing them of “holding homosexual birthdays” and having “the intention to hold a same-sex marriage.”
Following a similar detention of more than 60 people at what the police called a gay wedding in the southern Delta state in August, the arrests show “an uptick in this trend of witchhunt and gross violation of human rights” of the individuals, Isa Sanusi, director of Amnesty International Nigeria, told The Associated Press.
The arrests also suggest states are emulating one another “to get accolades” under the law, according to Anietie Ewang, Nigerian researcher with the Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division. She said concerns highlighted by the organization in a 2016 report — about the abuse and stigma that gay people face in Nigeria — have remained.
Nigeria’s Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act of 2013, which has been condemned internationally but is supported by many in the country of more than 210 million people, punishes gay marriage with up to 14 years in prison and has forced many Nigerian gays to flee the country, according to human rights activists.
Arrests under the law have been common since it came into effect but the largest mass detentions yet have been in recent weeks in which some of the suspects were falsely accused and subjected to inhumane conditions, according to lawyers and rights groups.
After dozens were arrested at what the police called a gay wedding in a Delta state hotel, the suspects were paraded in front of cameras in a live social media broadcast despite a ruling by a Nigerian high court last year that pretrial media parades violate the nation’s constitution.
One of those paraded said he was at the hotel for another engagement. Another suspect said he does not identify as a gay individual and was arrested while on his way to a fashion show.
In Gombe, where the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) said its personnel arrested people who “intended” to organize a gay wedding, the prime suspect identified as Bashir Sani denied the allegation.
“There was no wedding, only birthday,” he said in a broadcast aired by local media.
Among those arrested were the photographer and the disc jockey at the event, Ochuko Ohimor, the suspects’ lawyer, told The Associated Press.
It is part of a trend that shows how the anti-gay law is being “exploited” without due process, said Okechukwu Nwanguma, who leads the Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre, which advocates for police reforms in Nigeria.
One evidence of such a flawed process, lawyers said, is the failed trial of the 47 men arrested in 2018 and charged with public displays of affection for members of same sex at a hotel in Lagos. A local court dismissed the case in 2020 because of what it described as the “lack of diligent prosecution” after the police failed to present some witnesses.
“They (law enforcement authorities) are exploiting the law to target people whether or not they are queer … There is a tendency to target them based on assumptions or allegations, not based on any investigation,” said Nwanguma.
Such blanket arrests and media parade are not only discriminatory but also pose a high risk of further endangering people for their real or perceived sexual or gender orientation, said Amnesty International’s Sanusi.
“Since the signing of Same Sex Prohibition Act into law in 2014 attacks, harassment, blackmail and extortion of the LGBTQ+ community is rising, at disturbing speed. The Nigeria Police should be prioritizing keeping everyone safe, not stoking more discrimination,” he said.
Police spokespersons at the Nigeria Police Force headquarters and at the Delta state command did not respond to enquiries from the AP to speak on the arrests and on the allegations about the lack of due process in handling such cases.
Lawyers also spoke to the AP about instances where the police failed to act in handling cases of abuse against the LGBTQ community in Nigeria.
In 2020, David Bakare, a gay person, petitioned the police about a group of men who beat him up after he shared a video of himself dancing. The suspects were freed on bail after which they continued to threaten Bakare to withdraw the petition, a copy of which his lawyer shared with The AP.
Bakare then petitioned the police a second time to alert them that his life is in danger but no action was taken in response, he said. He had no choice but to flee to another part of Lagos.
“Since you can’t trust the police to do the necessary things, those guys will come again,” the 26-year-old said of his abusers.
The problem of delayed justice is not new in Nigeria where the criminal justice system has been criticized as corrupt. But it is far worse for groups such as the LGBTQ community seen to be vulnerable, said Chizelu Emejulu, an activist and lawyer who has handled many cases involving queer people.
“When we get the perpetrators arrested, the consistent thing we have noticed is that people always claim their victims are queer and once they say that, the police begin to withdraw from these cases,” said Emejulu.
“What the LGBTQ community in Nigeria is asking for is to be left alone to live their lives,” Emejulu added.
The Uzbekistan government should urgently act on recommendations made on November 8, 2023, during its fourth Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of its human rights record at the UN Human Rights Council, Human Rights Watch said today. The government should take particular action to uphold the rights of human rights defenders, journalists and bloggers, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.
Several UN member states also said that Uzbekistan should ensure accountability for human rights abuses during protests in 2022 in Karakalpakstan, an autonomous region of Uzbekistan.
“The range and scope of concerns and recommendations that governments expressed during Uzbekistan’s review shows just how much work Uzbekistan has to do to meaningfully improve human rights conditions in the country,” said Mihra Rittmann, senior Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s important for Uzbekistan to act upon all the recommendations and not to pick and choose among the issues raised.”
All UN member states participate in the UPR process, a comprehensive review of the human rights record of each UN member state every four and a half years. The country under review, local and international organizations, and the UN itself can provide written input to inform the review process. Human Rights Watch submitted a briefing on Uzbekistan’s human rights record in March.
The Uzbekistan government claimed that out of 198 recommendations received at its last review, in 2018, it had fully implemented 171. At the review, countries praised Uzbekistan, including for ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, criminalizing domestic violence, and progress in eradicating forced labor in the cotton fields since its last review.
Yet, despite noting improvements in Uzbekistan’s law, countries from across all regions called on Uzbekistan to take concrete action to end gender-based violence, to uphold the rights of women and children, and to uphold the rights of people with disabilities.
Over a dozen UN member states urged Uzbekistan to improve the environment for nongovernmental organizations and to better protect the rights of human rights defenders, including streamlining the burdensome registration process for civil society groups. At the review, the Uzbekistan delegation dismissed the criticism. Human Rights Watch and other rights organizations have documented that the registration process is a barrier to independent human rights groupscarrying out their activities in Uzbekistan.
It is disappointing that other countries that had previously urged Uzbekistan to carry out an independent investigation into the human rights violations committed during the Karakalpakstan events, including the United States, the United Kingdom, and EU member states other than the Czech Republic, did not reiterate that call during the review process, Human Rights Watch said.
Over a dozen countries commented on rights issues pertaining to sexual orientation and gender identity, urging the Uzbekistan government to decriminalize consensual same-sex conduct and stop subjecting detainees in prosecutions of gay men to forced anal exams, an abusive practice that constitutes cruel, degrading, and inhuman treatment that can rise to the level of torture and sexual assault under international human rights law.
The Uzbekistan government supported all the recommendations expressed by states, except for the 15 recommendations related to the rights of LGBT people. The government official’s reference to “generally accepted norms” to deny LGBT people’s rights deflects responsibility for abusive state practices and laws that exclude LGBT people from accessing their basic human rights, Human Rights Watch said.
With a notable increase in prosecutions of bloggers and journalists in the last two years, 14 countries spoke to the worrying situation for media freedom in Uzbekistan, making recommendations that Uzbekistan should create a “safe environment” for journalists, bloggers, and media workers, and ensure they can “work free from intimidation” both online and offline. Norway urged Uzbekistan to “immediately grant pardons” to all imprisoned journalists, bloggers, and activists.
Multiple countries also urged Uzbekistan to investigate allegations of torture, and to hold those responsible for torture and other forms of ill-treatment accountable, with a view of ending impunity. Many countries, including Brazil and Maldives, recommended that Uzbekistan ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture.
“Given how serious the human rights situation is in Uzbekistan, it’s important for UN member states to follow up with the Uzbekistan government directly,” Rittmann said. “The work begins now to ensure that Uzbekistan takes concrete, meaningful action to advance the human rights of everyone, including LGBT people, in line with the UPR recommendations and international human rights law.”
When he made the tough choice to flee Uganda, in the wake of the country’s draconian anti-LGBTQ+ law being passed, activist Henry Mukiibi thought: “What have I left behind?”
Mukiibi, the executive director of LGBTQ+ group Uganda’s Children of the Sun Foundation (COSF), has been on the run and living in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, since earlier this year, after receiving information that the authorities at home wanted to arrest him under the new anti-homosexuality legislation.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was enacted in May and carries the death penalty for certain same-sex acts, has unleashed a torrent of abuse against LGBTQ+ people in the country. Several queer individuals have beenarrested. Others, including Mukiibi, managed to escape as their government enacted one of the harshest anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world.
Mukiibi tells PinkNews that the situation in Uganda is worse than it has ever been.
COSF’s services, which provide healthcare and legal assistance as well as shelter for vulnerable people, including members of the LGBTQ+ community, have been affected by the legislation.
Mukiibi says he witnessed people become “so homophobic” that they “started attacking” COSF committee members, “beating them because of who they are”.
He adds: “What we did was ask the people who are close to them to bring them to the clinic, and we are giving them healthcare services to see that they get treatment.
“Evictions have become too many because the bill had a phrase which said landlords should not give LGBT people shelter or houses to rent. Many people were evicted.
“Those whose landlords knew their identities, they were evicted because the landlords fear they will also be taken to prison.
“We welcomed those people into our shelter, but unfortunately, our shelter’s landlord wrote me an eviction letter since they know I’m a queer person.”
Under Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, queer people can face life imprisonment or even the death penalty in cases involving so-called “aggravated homosexuality”, which can include having sex with a minor or vulnerable person, having sex while HIV-positive or engaging in incest.
Someone simply advocating for LGBTQ+ rights could be jailed for 20 years, and individuals renting to LGBTQ+ people face up to a seven-year prison sentence.
Mukiibi says life is really hard in Nairobi as he waits to be resettled in another country. While fearing for his own safety, he still thinks about the LGBTQ+ community trying to survive in Uganda.
“If I’m evacuated, what am I leaving behind?” he asks. “They have this saying: ‘I cannot be a hero twice’.
“I’m also trying to see that we are working remotely so our community members get the services they need. The reason I came up with the idea of the clinic was that sometimes the LGBT community are discriminated against in facilities, and I recently witnessed it.
“People went [to] healthcare providers who are preaching to them to beat homosexuality out of children.”
Even before the Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed this year, LGBTQ+ people faced severe discrimination in Uganda
Uganda was already one of several African nations where it’s illegal to be queer and enacted a previous anti-homosexuality act in 2014. The courts struck it down, although being LGBTQ+ remained illegal because of previous legislation, according to Human Rights Watch.
Many in the Ugandan LGBTQ+ community have sought safety in Kenya, only to find they face discrimination there too.
Dhalie Bulyaba, the director of Safe Place International’s global family initiative, decided to leave Uganda and go to Kenya because they “wanted to find a place that wouldn’t question [them] about the way [they] dress, or ask for an explanation about how [they] identify”.
But they realised that seeking asylum and appealing to authorities “forces outings” of LGBTQ+ people.
“Kenya has one of the largest refugee populations in Africa,” Bulyaba says. “They receive a lot of people from Somalia, Sudan, the [Democratic Republic of the] Congo and other war-torn areas, so when you say you are coming from Uganda, they are confused.
“They will ask: ‘Why are you here? There is no war in Uganda’. You are forced to out yourself and hope for their mercy because Kenya also criminalises homosexuality.
“It’s hard enough to fight for your rights in your own country.”
LGBTQ+ people are criminalised in Kenya, and same-sex sexual activity between males carries a maximum penalty of 14 years’ imprisonment.
Sulah Mawejje, Safe Place International Dream Academy Kenya country director, says the World Bank and other organisations “need to be more proactive and less reactive” because they know the anti-LGBTQ+ movements in Africa are being funded by foreign organisations.
“Why have they waited for something like this anti-gay bill to pass before they impose sanctions and try to stand up to the government?” he asks.
“We could have prevented people being forced to flee and being forced to go through the very difficult process of becoming a refugee.”
Mawejje, a part-time interpreter for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, adds that he’s “much more than a refugee, a person who has faced unspeakable discrimination” while fleeing Uganda.
“There is another side to me, like many refugees, that the media doesn’t get to, I’m the life of the party,” he says. “I love being bold and challenging.”