South Africa and Xenophobic Attacks: Simply No Justification

On March 20, 2015, xenophobic attacks broke out in Durban, South Africa, some disgruntled South Africans turned on their neighbours, viciously attacking foreigners, mostly immigrant black Africans. This set in motion a wave of anti-immigrants attacks. The locals accused migrants of taking local jobs. They wanted the foreigners out of their country. Since the attacks, many deaths have been recorded and thousands of foreigners have fled for their lives, with many rendered homeless and in hiding.

A Mozambican man, Emmanuel Sithole was stalked, stabbed and murdered on the streets by vicious South Africans, According to reports, many including policemen watched while he pleaded for his life.

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The Nigerian consul-general in South Africa, Uche Ajulu-Okeke said  –

Nigerian nationals living in South Africa have suffered a slew of property damages and losses including burned businesses, looted shops, scorched cars and stolen vehicles.

“Nigerians have compiled damage to their property and it is totaling about 1.2 million rand or N21 million, which will be sent to the federal government for further action,”

“I have also visited the site of the attacks in Johannesburg to assess the damage, and it was enormous.”

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Congress of South African Trade Unions issued a joint statement

to condemn the reckless violent attacks on African working people and nationals in South Africa with unacceptable resultant avoidable destruction of lives and properties”.

We believe that African workers have a right to seek legitimate work anywhere in the continent based on the dream and ideals set by the founding fathers such as Kwame Nkruma, Julius Nyerere, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nelson Mandela among others.

The xenophobic attacks in South Africa is a reflection of the crisis of governance in Africa as reflected by the worsening poverty and unemployment rate in the continent.

Following these xenophobic attacks, many African nationals are calling for political and economic sanctions against the government of South Africa.  The image of South Africa has indeed plummeted amongst its fellow Africans.

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However, the South African Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Lulu Mnguli has promised that the interest of Nigeria would not be hurt by criminals’ activities in South Africa. Mnguli said that since Nigeria played a key role in helping South Africa to get freedom, it would be wrong for Nigerians to be attacked in that country by any group of persons.

Well, I remember the days when the plight of South Africa was the rallying call for unity and freedom amongst fellow Africans. I grew up to great songs of freedom by great African musicians, all calling for the end of apartheid in South Africa.

I remember these days in Nigeria when volunteers visited our classrooms with collection boxes, to ask for donation to aid the fight against Apartheid in South Africa. Like many other eager schoolchildren, I used to gladly donate my lunch money. Nigerian civil servants had part of their monthly salaries deducted to a fund that was established to help South Africans fight Apartheid.

Nigerians of my generation grew to love South Africa. We grew up rooting for its freedom. Many of us learned to stand up against oppression by watching with horror the apartheid situation in South Africa and with determination to fight against apartheid and racism.

I understand that South Africans do not owe any African national for the support they were given during the difficult apartheid era; however, it is good ethic to not repay kindness with malicious hatred.

There are two words I learnt  from situations in South Africa and these words are Apartheid and Xenophobia.

Xenophobia in South Africa did not just manifest overnight, it had been palpable for some time now. In 2008, there was a spate of xenophobic violence that left about 67 people dead. Just before this horrible new spate of xenophobic attacks broke out, I was discussing this very issue with a Nigerian friend who chose to do her PhD in South Africa. I expressed concerns about how Nigerians are perceived or treated by South Africans. They tend to see Nigerians as enemies; even diplomatic relations are tinged with underlying mistrust and ego issues. I just can’t seem to put my fingers on it but it is fair to say that, based on my observations as a Nigerian, I wouldn’t hurry to take up any fully paid PhD scholarship in South Africa.

This recent outbreak of anti-immigrants violence has been attributed to the inciting, irresponsible and provocative comments of the Zulu King, Goodwill Zwelithini. He was quoted as saying

 “As I speak, you find [foreigners] unpleasant goods hanging all over our shops, they soil our streets. We cannot even recognise which shop is which … there are foreigners everywhere. “We ask foreign nationals to pack their belongings and go back to their countries.”

President Jacob Zuma’s son was also in the spotlight for making inciting statements.

These reckless utterances by public figures must be thoroughly condemned. They should have been thoroughly condemned and actions taken to bring home the point that such utterances are not welcomed and would not go unpunished. Unfortunately, these utterances were not seriously tackled, and it ended up fuelling the already boiling state of Xenophobia in the country.

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It is however disheartening that some people have decided that the entire blame for these horrendous xenophobic attacks must be laid at the feet of colonialism, capitalism and all the ism/schisms out there.  Let us get something straight, regardless of the inciting factor, in the end only these murderous barbarians are responsible for the xenophobic attacks.

We are always quick to let despicable humans who commit crime against humanity hide under ism/schisms. A misogynist guy goes on a killing spree because women turned him down, well, poor chap, let’s blame misogyny for messing with his mind!

A sadistic guy raped a woman, posted it online and the victim becomes the object of ridicule, well let’s blame patriarchy, after all these men are just as much victims of their environment as the women. They could not help being that way, because, well, patriarchy!

Yes, patriarchy, misogyny, sexism, racism all plays their part in shaping minds and our daily interactions; they are even institutionalised systemic mode of oppression. However, when people are influenced by these fucked up mind-sets and commit atrocities, we can’t just blame the imaginary devil or the very real messed up ideologies that breed such attitudes.

We can and must call out the institutions that fuel such mind-sets, however let us not hesitate to put a face on the human criminals. These horrible institutionalised oppressions are not excuses and must not be used to mitigate atrocities committed by sane adult humans.

The person who hacked his neighbour to death is first and foremost a human being, let’s put a face on that barbarian, not just a sick ideology!

Colonialism was a conquer, divide and rule evil that set neighbours against one another and created borders and barriers to further protect colonial interests.  Capitalism breeds uncontrollable greed, and gets people competing for a living wage in unfair manners. Hard economic policies make us view our fellow humans as competitors for scarce resources, portraying them as obstacles to our progress and making  them our enemies. However, it takes a barbarian to set alight another human being just because the person is perceived as competition for scarce jobs. We cannot just blame these atrocities on colonialism or capitalism.

These barbarians have not only lost their sense of history but are a living example of man’s inhumanity to man when greed is given a free reign. Slavery, Religious wars, Racism, Sexism, Tribalism, Homophobia, Biphobia, Transphobia, Apartheid, Nigeria’s “Ghana Must Go” era , Garrissa killings, Boko Haram, Durban killings, South Africa and its rising Xenophobia…all these and more makes it hard not to lose hope in our shared humanity.

Greed is a strong driving force for hatred and a reliable tool of capitalism. Remember, the world has enough for everyone’s needs but not enough for everyone’s greed. However, not all the greed and ignorance flying around should take away our humanity and hope for a better world.

The hypocrisy is galling. In the 80s, Nigeria had its 5 minutes of malady when it started deporting Ghanaians from Nigeria with the slogan “Ghanaians must go”. The Ghanaians were accused of taking jobs from Nigerians. Thankfully, it did not manifest in physical cruelty, nevertheless, it was dehumanising for Ghanaians.

If only we took time to shine an unbiased light at our actions, we might be appalled at how similar some of us are to those we condemn. In the diaspora, Africans are quick to complain (as we should) about the way migrants are treated with scorn, but back home, we are always the first to put a tag on our neighbours based on their tribe. Nothing justifies Tribalism, Xenophobia, or Racism.

It is horrific and very depressing. I am not surprised about the Xenophobia in post-apartheid South Africa, it has always been palpable, but I was surprised that it would once again manifest itself in such physical cruelty. Humans seem to ignore the lessons of the past when they allow ignorance and greed to reign supreme.

One thing that we all need to be clear about is that there is no excuse or justification for these xenophobic attacks. We can pontificate all we like about economy policies but nothing would make visiting our anger on innocent people the right thing to do.

While discussing this on my FB wall, a comrade postulated –

“This whole nonsense needs to be put at the feet of the ANC who failed to transform the economy of South Africa in the interest of the mass of the people. Transformation of the economy was swept under the carpet by Mandela and co all in the name of “national unity”. What you refuse to deal with will come back and bite you when you least expect it. They accepted a truncated liberation that left control of the economy in the hands of whites whilst a few blacks, the struggle veterans like Tokyo Sexwale, Patrick “Terror” Lakota and Cyril Ramaphosa have become extremely rich through the so-called black empowerment programmes.”

Nope, i won’t put “This whole nonsense” at the feet of the ANC, the blame for the murders is on the murderers. We can recognise that capitalism fuels greed but policies we do not agree with are not excuses to go on a killing spree.

No, Mandela and the policies his cabinet pursued are not responsible for the death of these foreigners in South Africa, Xenophobia is. Nationals of any country can be homeless and poverty stricken, it still does not justify killing immigrants because of what they perceive as ‘taking their jobs’.

These killings are crimes against humanity. And we should not gloss over crimes against humanity. These are barbaric, inhumane and have no place in any civilised society. The murderers must be totally blamed and condemned. Economic policies are not justification for committing heinous acts, please , let us not use this to minimise the atrocities of the murderers or hide the faces of the criminals.

These murders were not about class struggle or revolution. They are not about who planted the seeds of discord, level of poverty, unemployment or inequality. We cannot in the name of class struggle, keep making excuses for people, be they poor or rich, for atrocities they commit against humanity.

We are not in the Dark ages. We are not living in an era where life was nasty, brutish, and short. Yes, Zuma’s’s son made some inciting comment and some political groups might be planting seeds of discord to topple the ruling party, but in what part of planet earth is that not happening? Unfortunately, this is what competitive politics is all about. We cannot use these as excuses to ‘reason’ away these atrocities.

It was not Zulu’s king or phantom political parties who threw petrol bombs into foreigners’ shops and burnt humans alive. It was humans. Humans like you and me. These aren’t controlled robots, they are adult human beings with a mind of their own.

No matter the incitement, no matter the economic disparity, it is never justifiable to throw bombs into people’s houses just because we think they are taking away our jobs,  different than us, don’t practice our religion, or because they are gays, bisexuals or Trans. It does not matter whether it was politicians, holy book, or God that told us to kill; ultimately, we are responsible for the bloods of people we murder in cold blood.

Nigel Farage and his UKIP crew can spew all the nonsense they want about immigrants, but, no sane person would justify killing immigrants just because UKIP thinks they are draining UK’s economy.

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I am so fed up of pontificators who only choose to see statistics and not see the humans behind the statistics. Condemning the murders is not a debate about the pros and cons of Capitalism or Socialism.  I am a socialist, and i understand the part capitalist greed plays in this. However, socialism does not rob me of my humanism, if anything, it strengthens it.

We cannot minimise the blame of these barbarians because of some warped need to pontificate about economic policies. Class struggle does not justify racism, sexism or Xenophobia. And it definitely does not justify cold blooded murders of innocents.

Nothing justify killing another just to take out our economic or political frustrations on innocent people. It does not matter whether it was fellow Africans or whites that were killed. No one, regardless of their nationality or race deserves to be murdered as a means of expressing economic frustrations. No amount of frustration or provocation can minimise the culpability of these xenophobic murderers.

Instead of all the pontifications and postulations, we must learn empathy because empathy is much more likely to improve human relations than any political pontifications we engage in.

I see the humans who are the victims of the criminals and I see the criminals who commit the crimes. These criminals cannot hide behind any justification. Only arseholes justify cold-blooded murders.

When we say things like- “I don’t approve of the xenophobic attacks BUT poverty is rampant amongst black South Africans, the economic policy is bad, there is inequality…” , we are in a way, justifying the murderous, heinous actions of these killers.

NOTHING, and i say NOTHING, absolves the murderers of the blame.

These excuses can be compared to that made by rape apologists, a pattern that goes, “I don’t approve of the rape BUT…”

Yeah, that BUT, that hesitation, that finding loophole to take part of the blame from the criminals, is exactly where political apologetics is invoked to play with human lives.

Any leader or political party who incites hate must be called out or even dealt with. Nigel Farage and his UKIP cohorts are often called out on their racist comments on immigrants. Muhammadu Buhari was called out when he incited his supporters in the north to go on a killing rampage with his irresponsible utterances after he lost the presidential elections in 2009. Religious leaders who incite hate against gays are often called out or even charged under the law.

We can condemn the leaders who incite the killings and at the same time totally condemn barbarians who go on a killing rampage.  There can be a two-sided parallel approach to an issue. What i do not agree with is the attempt to shift part of the blame from the criminals.

The criminals are wholly responsible for their crimes against humanity.

The leaders are also wholly responsible for inciting hate.

Blaming one must not necessitate a share of blame or taking part of the blame away from the other.

If i chose to focus a post on the barbarians who petrol-bombed foreigners and burnt innocent people alive, i should not have to qualify it with  “BUT the leaders must share part of the blame.”

If I chose to, I can make another post condemning the leaders for their inciting comments and poor economic policies. I do not see why such barbaric criminals must have a “BUT argument” to take away from their blame.

As a woman, I am used to the “I don’t support the criminals BUT…”  arguments from sexist apologists, especially rape apologists. This is probably why I have such disdain for the “I don’t support the criminal BUT..” poor excuse of an argument.

For example, rape apologists will always find a reason to blame the victim for the crime of the rapist. They say shits like “I don’t support the rapist but the woman should not have worn that short dress” or “I don’t support her murderer but why did she drink when she was with a stranger”.

I do not think rapist, paedophiles, homophobes or xenophobes who intentionally go out to cause harm to others deserve to have any part of the blame taken away from them.

Also, an attempt to absolve xenophobic attackers from any part of the blame is as bad as trying to absolve rapists from any part of the crime.

The xenophobic attacks might be orchestrated from high up but nothing, not even incitement by leaders, greed, or economic policies justify the actions of these murderers.

It is unfortunate that some comrades feel the need to paint these xenophobic attacks as a class revolution or an act of economic rebellion to unfavourable economic policies.

To quote a comrade  “whilst we need to condemn the killings, we also need to understand what is happening and why people see the need to act in such a barbaric manner”.

The fact is NO ONE NEEDS to act in such barbaric manner. Not the comments of leaders, not the poverty, or bad economic policies justify any sane adult to go hack another human being to death.

These criminals are not the victims. Their grievances against immigrants cannot be used to justify crimes against humanity.

These thoughtless killings hurt but I will not let it send me into depression. I won’t sacrifice my hope and love on the altar of their greed and ignorance. In the fight for our humanity, hate won’t win as long as we have a strong sense of social justice and are committed to creating a better world in our daily actions. Every little helps, let’s do our part to spread Love, not Hate.

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Periods: The Shame and Shaming

I am not a fan of the menstrual cycle but i understand it is a natural part of making new human lives and this is great. If there was any intelligent designer, aka God, women wouldn’t need to bleed every month for new human lives to be possible, and this is one reason i can say God is not a woman.

It is sad that the society portrays menstruation as an obscene, dirty thing women should be ashamed of. As a teenager, I was scared and ashamed to go into chemists’ shops to purchase sanitary pads and it did not help that the people behind the counters were usually men. Most times, I found myself going from one shop to the other, praying and hoping there would be a woman behind the counter. If the shame i felt could kill, i would have died at the spot!

Thanks to feminism and the liberation it brings, I now buy my sanitary pads and tampons with pride. Gone are the days I made extra efforts to keep my sanitary pads hidden under the bulk of my shopping, now i make a point of not hiding it under any grocery/shopping. This ‘little’ act feels like liberation from century old shackles.

Also in an effort to demystify the myths, break the taboo and shame associated with menstruation, I discuss openly with my son about any menstrual related problems i have.

Growing up, the time I ever had to talk about my periods with my parents or the adults around me, including class teachers, was all about the lecture and stern reminder that with menstruation comes the risk of pregnancy. I remember getting my first period and immediately told it was a warning not to mess around with men. Subsequently, having my periods right on schedule every month was a way of confirming to the adults around me that I was not sexually active or at least not pregnant. My periods became a way for people around me to police my body and sexual activities. Growing up in a society where sex education is almost taboo, my monthly periods seemed like the inaudible way of saying, “Hey, I am not pregnant!

There is also the unfortunate religious stigma surrounding menstruation. In many religions, including Christianity under which I was brought up, menstruation is viewed as a dirty thing to be avoided. A menstruating woman is referred to as unclean and is forbidden from entering the House of God or going near temples. The bible in Leviticus 15:19 says,

“When a woman has a discharge, and the discharge in her body is blood, she shall be in her menstrual impurity for seven days, and whoever touches her shall be unclean until the evening. And everything on which she lies during her menstrual impurity shall be unclean.”

Yeah, WTF is the appropriate response!  At the time, I was an ardent churchgoer and i remember feeling sad when i could not attend church services with my family, due to the monthly ‘curse’.

Religion further entrenches the stigma attached to menstruation. Menstruating women are made to feel unclean, dirty, unworthy and a freak just because they bleed from the vagina every month.

Never mind the science behind it.

Never mind that is what makes procreation possible.

Never mind that it signifies an important part of keeping the human race alive.

Never mind that it ensures the continued survival of our species because as far as religion and patriarchy are concerned, a menstruating woman is yet another example of why women are the ‘weaker’ sex.

Is it any surprise that women have learned to be ashamed of that time of the month?

Is it any surprise that many men go “Eew”, pull a disgusted face at the mention of menstruation?

Is it any surprise that it is considered ok to post a picture of a bloodied nose or advertise a bleeding gum to sell mouthwash, but it is not ok to post a picture of a woman with a spot of menstrual stain?

Is it any surprise that Instagram would categorise a picture of a woman asleep with a spot of menstrual blood on her pyjamas and menstrual stains on bed-sheet as an obscene image that must be taken off its site, even though most women have had this experience?

Is it any surprise that some people would report this image as obscene? tumblr_nlr1zr1zrg1sn0z5fo1_1280

Source- Rapi Kaur

 

When Rupi Kaur, a student at the University of Waterloo, Canada, posted the above image which is a part of her photoseries project on Instagram, it was deleted by Instagram, citing violation of ‘Community Guidelines’.

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Rupi kaur responded with:

Thank you @instagram for providing me with the exact response my work was created to critique. you deleted a photo of a woman who is fully covered and menstruating stating that it goes against community guidelines when your guidelines outline that it is nothing but acceptable. the girl is fully clothed. the photo is mine. it is not attacking a certain group. nor is it spam. and because it does not break those guidelines i will repost it again. i will not apologize for not feeding the ego and pride of misogynist society that will have my body in an underwear but not be okay with a small leak. when your pages are filled with countless photos/accounts where women (so many who are underage) are objectified. pornified. and treated less than human. thank you.

This image is a part of my photoseries project for my visual rhetoric course. you can view the full series at rupikaur.com

I bleed each month to help make humankind a possibility. my womb is home to the divine. a source of life for our species. whether i choose to create or not. but very few times it is seen that way. in older civilizations this blood was considered holy. in some it still is. but a majority of people. societies. and communities shun this natural process. some are more comfortable with the pornification of women. the sexualization of women. the violence and degradation of women than this. they cannot be bothered to express their disgust about all that. but will be angered and bothered by this. we menstruate and they see it as dirty. attention seeking. sick. a burden. as if this process is less natural than breathing. as if it is not a bridge between this universe and the last. as if this process is not love. labour. life. selfless and strikingly beautiful.

Instagram once again took down the image. Rupi kaur responded with an appeal on tumblr:

Dear tumblr family,

Instagram has chosen to once again, take down this image for violating community guidelines. Despite the fact that about 95% of comments were beautiful. Flowering. And in support.

This just goes to show who is sitting behind the desk. And whose controlling the show. Whose controlling the media and who is censoring us.

It’s sad in this world. That this is still happening. I know that some communities and cultures go out of their way to shun and oppress a woman on her period. I guess Instagram is another one of them.

Some women aren’t allowed in their religious place of worship. Out of their homes. To do certain things. And are told they are sick. As if the period is a common cold. Yes. This is here in North America. I have been hospitalized many times because of issues associated with my period. I have been suffering from a sickness related to my period. And ever since I have been working so hard to love it. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Even thought it’s given me so much pain in the past few years. and they want to tell me I should be quiet about this. That all of this we experience collectively does not need to be seen. Just felt secretly behind closed doors. That’s why this is important. Because when I first got my period my mother was sad and worried. And they want to censor all that pain. Experience. Learning. No.

I am going to share the photo again once I figure out how to go about it. I would appreciate if you could “at” instagram and express your thoughts. Or even share the photo on whatever social media platform.

Their patriarchy is leaking.

Their misogyny is leaking.

We will not be censored.

Many women suffer from endometriosis. Every month they endure excruciating menstrual pain. Unfortunately, they can’t discuss this condition openly because of the stigma associated with menstruation. They learn to live with the pain and shame of menstruation.

Source- Rupi Kaur

Source- Rupi Kaur

It would be great if we learned to embrace our bodies as women and tell the society to stop its relentless shaming of women’s bodies.

As a friend puts it “To all women out there who feel ashamed or suffer from heavy cramps: try to bleed with pride! It helps”

I was glad when Rupi Kaur announced that Instagram finally restored the picture it deleted of the woman with the menstrual bloodstains, with an apology.

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Breaking taboos is indeed a good use of social media.

 

 

Bullies Are Not Born; They Are Made.

Our society is not doing enough to address bullying of vulnerable young people, especially young people with disabilities. I grew up in a society where even teachersstop-bully-logo laughed at and maltreated students who suffer from learning disabilities.

There was this particular case, which even decades later, still makes me furious. Whenever I hear of children with disabilities who are bullied by adults, I instantly think of this boy in my junior high school class in Nigeria, who was constantly bullied not just by students but by teachers too.

The boy, I think his name was ‘Jamiu’, was always falling asleep during class sessions. We were told or rather, there were rumours that the boy was bitten by Tsetse fly and as a result had ‘sleeping sickness’. For years, I was terrified of flies.  Obviously, the child suffered from some sort of sleeping disorder, and he constantly fell asleep in class.  Teachers told us to mock him for falling asleep during class sessions. Teachers made him stand in front of the class where he was humiliated with the whole class staring at him like a freak. Since it was our first year in high school, we were between the ages of 12 and 13, but it seems the boy was much older. He was also bigger than most of us in the class. However, I rarely heard him speak. He seemed to bear his constant humiliation with stoic fortitude.

This young boy had learning disabilities and did not perform well in class. He sat at the back of the class. Looking back now, it seems that young people who had learning disabilities were always sat at the back of the class. The ‘bright’ ones were always sat at the front rows, while those who did not perform well were pushed to the back seats. The further down you are, the lower you are in the hierarchy of ‘intelligence’.

I used to feel so sorry for the child but also I was terrified to go near him for fear of ‘catching’ this sleeping disease. I felt sorry for him because he could not have been [Read more…]

Jamie Olivier; Hands Off My Continent’s Jollof Rice! #Jollofgate

 

Like many West Africans, I was aghast when I saw the picture of what Jamie Olivier tried to pass off as Jollof rice. Twitter was set ablaze by the B1aijQDCEAApYGlrighteous fury of West Africans, protesting the audacity of an international white celebrity chef, who dared to plagiarised (and badly so too), West Africa’s much beloved dish, Jollof Rice. To an outsider, this might seem like much ado about nothing, but hey jollof rice is not just any rice, it is a national treasure, a national signature, and as #Jollofgate fury has proved, it is an African pride. Touch our Jollof rice; we will come at you with united fury! [Read more…]

Culture is not an excuse to perpetrate injustice; LGBT Rights are about Human Rights not Culture.

As part of the celebration marking Black History/LGBT Month, I was interviewed by  Tundun Adeyemo, presenter of the program ‘Outspoken’ BookCoverImage new vistaon www.africaukradio.com. Below is a text of the interview, also available on her blog.

October is Black History/Lesbian Gays Bisexual Transsexual Month. In parts of London, people have been marking this in various ways. To help us give that some perspective is author Yemisi Ilesanmi who joins us from London to talk about her book and why homosexuality is not just an European concept.

Hello Yemisi, Many thanks for joining us.

 1- You have written this book ‘Homosexuality is not unAfrican.’ Why did you write this book?

Thanks. I wrote this book to counter the erroneous impression that homosexuality is Un-African. This is a rhetoric that many African politicians keep sprouting in their bid to defend the discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and Transsexuals. With the upsurge of anti-gay bills springing up in many African countries, it became imperative to provide necessary information and create awareness on the issues of sexual orientation especially homosexuality and bisexuality. Information is power and education is key to human development.

In this digital age, where information is easily accessible, it is sad to know that many people especially Africans still fall for the homophobic, biphobic and transphobiic rhetoric that sexual orientation is a matter of choice. In the book Freedom to Love For All; Homosexuality is not Un-African, I put together a collection of my essays debunking the myths that Homosexuality is Un-African.

First, I started by clarifying the meaning of sexual orientation and providing accepted definition of the different kinds of sexual orientation and gender identity that we [Read more…]

Closets Are For Clothes; I Am More Than My Clothes: I Am Coming Out!

Today, October 11th, is National Coming Out Day! According to Wikipedia

 National Coming Out Day (NCOD) is an internationally observed civil awareness day celebrating individuals who publicly identify as a gender identity or sexuality minority. The day is observed annually by members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies on October 11

Whether you are Bisexual, Trans, Lesbian, Gay, or even Atheist, coming out of the closet is always often a difficult experience for many. Most Logo_ncod_lgtimes, it is a decision that subjects us to a lifetime of discrimination, isolation, ostracism, and judgements not just from the society but unfortunately, also from those we care most about i.e. our family members and friends.

For me personally, all the isolation, judgemental remarks, ostracism, discrimination or jail terms in the world are not enough deterrents to keep me in the closet about my sexual orientation or non-belief.

The Freedom to be me, Freedom to love, Freedom to express my love and shout it from on top mountains, Freedom to assert my sexual and gender identity, Freedom to proclaim my non-belief in religious nonsense etc. are things I will not trade for the safety of the closets.

I cannot and must not let my Freedom to be me be curtailed by people who rejoice in wallowing in ignorance and hate.

Closets are for clothes; I am more than my clothes. [Read more…]

Video: LGBT Rights activists demonstrates at Nigerian Centenary Awards, UK

Speaking during the demonstration, Yemisi Ilesanmi said:

We are here to speak out on behalf of all oppressed Nigerian LGBTs who have been denied a voice in Nigeria. We are here to put a face on Nigerian LGBTs. We are here to remind you that LGBT Nigerians are not criminals and are worthy of celebration. We are here to remind all those who criminalised us and are turning us into asylum seekers that we will not be silenced. We are LGBT Nigerians and we are proud.”

The demonstrators left the guests with the message “Nigerian LGBTS and LGBT rights supporters are not criminals and we will not be silenced in our fight for our human rights. We hope as Nigeria celebrates its hundred years of existence, its people will also celebrate diversity and do away with homophobic, biphobic and transphobic laws.”

Blogpost  linkhttp://wp.me/p3uryi-AZ

SDC17235

Don’t Call Me A MAN, It Is Not A Compliment. Happy International Women’s Day!

“Man is defined as a human being and a woman as a female – whenever she behaves as a human being318461_10150505434059409_883031157_n she is said to imitate the male.” Simone de Beauvoir.  As we celebrate International Women’s Day, the words of Simone de Beauvoir ring loud in my ears.

As someone who became fiercely politically active as a young woman in a very patriarchal society, I was often ‘showered’ with the words “You are a man!” It was considered the highest praise you could give a woman for her bravery and courage while referring to a man as a woman is considered a below the belt insult. If only I had a penny for every time I heard these words from my fellow comrades, colleagues and mentors who actually should know better.

Please understand that calling a woman “a man’ because of her achievements or courage is NOT A COMPLIMENT. Those words are nothing but an insult to the woman, her achievements and gender identity. You do not honour me by calling me “A Woman like a Man“, in fact with such words you deny my gender identity and degrade my biological sex. I am a Woman and Proudly so.

We are all HUMANS irrespective of what the various creation myths say. Women demands recognition and respect as human beings. Brave and courageous women achievers do not need to be called A MAN as a compliment. Being called “A MAN” does not elevate us to the level of human beings; we are already human beings irrespective of our sex or gender identity.58427_436067596481409_1920683597_n

Kindly recognise and respect my gender identity, this I believe is not too much to ask!

As we celebrate more than a decade of International Women’s Day, feminisation of poverty continues; Reproductive, Productive and Domestic roles still hold down the working woman from reaching her full potentials. The triple oppression of Racism, Classism and Sexism persistently  affect our unity. Let us continue to fight all the Isms and Schisms that jeopardise our strength.

The degree of emancipation of women is the natural measure of general emancipation. Every society’s greatness can be measured by the way it treats its most vulnerable members. Every human being is born equal in rights and dignity.

You do not have to be a woman to support woman’s rights.

You don’t have to be gay, bisexual or Trans to support LGBT rights.

You don’t have to be a sex worker to support sex workers’ right to organise, unionise and work in a safe environment.

You don’t have to be an animal to support animal rights.

And in case the aliens ever invaded, let’s hope you don’t have to be a human being to support human rights. We all could be in the minority sometime!1982_438044192955887_307874593_n

Stand up against oppression of women, stand up for equal rights, empower a woman today, emancipate yourself from mental slavery and DEMAND your inalienable human rights! No human being is born subordinate to another. No woman is born to satisfy a man, you are born to create and define your own ‘destiny’, even in the face of all odds. Your happiness is supreme.

Fellow sisters, assert your right and recognition as human Beings!

Happy International Women’s day to you all!

…Of Karma, Reincarnation and Destiny

I watch helplessly as a friend, who is a Trans woman and until recently a believing Christian, suddenly discovered Karma, 406845_386649248076233_1904133455_nreincarnation and destiny. She has been going on and on about how God is the evil being who awards karma. She is now convinced God made her gay just to punish her for bad karma she accumulated in a previous life. She claims God appeared to her in a vision/dream and explained that she was a white woman in her previous life, however she was reborn a black African man in a homophobic society as a result of bad karma. God then threatened to punish her for speaking against him.  Needless to say, this ‘revelation’ has made her very bitter about God, whom she now refers to as the ‘evil one’ to the chagrined of her now ex fellow Christians.

It pains me that this lovely being is distraught and torn apart by the myth of Karma, Reincarnation and Destiny. It is even more painful that after her long journey towards transitioning into her preferred gender, this new belief in Karma, reincarnation and destiny has made her bitter about being born gay to the extent that she now sees her sexual orientation and gender identity as a sort of punishment; a bad karma.

So, let’s talk about Karma, Reincarnation and Destiny.

  • Are you blaming Karma for the calamities in your life?
  • Do you wish you had known about Karma so that you could have averted the calamities?
  • Do you believe the Karma you accumulated in your previous life is why your life is a mess?

So tell me, [Read more…]

Open Letter To Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)

27 January, 2014

Dear Dr. Chidi Odinkalu,

It is with deep concern that I write this open letter to you to register my dismay at the continued silence of your offSDC15091ice on the recently signed Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Act. It is surprising that as Chairperson of the Governing body of National Human Rights Commission, a lawyer and a human right activist of note, you have not deemed it fit to issue a public statement weeks after a section of Nigerian populace was criminalized and stripped of their fundamental human rights via a stroke of President Goodluck Jonathan‘s pen. The most you have said in your official capacity, albeit in private, is that you are still studying the new law.

Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, how long would it take your office to study this legislation? The content of the law has been known to you and most Nigerians since 2011 when the bill was first approved by the Senate. The harmonized version of the bill that was signed did not change much. In your official capacity, you must have received a copy of the Act as it is part of your official duty to advise the President on the human rights implication of bills tabled before him.

As a lawyer and a human right activist of note, you cannot claim to be unaware of the human rights violations inherent in this new legislation. Therefore, I wonder how you could turn a blind eye to such blatant violation of fundamental human rights. Is this about protecting [Read more…]

Venting my concerns over Nigeria’s new Anti-LGBT Law

If only I could physically slap some sense into the hypocrites parading themselves as Nigerian lawmakers and the ignoramuses who are celebrating the ‘Jail the Gays’ bill! They had better be warned, the battle line has been drawn. Logic will supersede their infamous ignorance and Love shall triumph over their hate. Enjoy the TV interview.

 

Stupid, homophobic arguments in support of Nigeria’s ‘Jail the Gays’ law:1-The West should legalize polygamy before they impose gay agenda on Africans!

It is no longer news that Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan, has signed the ‘Jail the Gays’ bill into law. The Same Sex Marriage Prohibition law stipulates a 14 years jail term for same-sex marriage and 10 years imprisonment for public show of same-sex affection. The legislation stipulates a 10 year imprisonment for anyone who aids, abets or witness same sex relationship or marriage. The law also imposes a 10 year jail term on human rights defenders who advocate for LGBT rights or DSC_0951 newhold meetings to promote LGBT rights.

Ever since the news broke, homophobic Nigerians have been celebrating the so called ‘bravery’ of their clueless president, for what they see as ‘standing up to the western imperialists’, whom they alleged want to impose the ‘gay agenda’ on Africans.  Many of those homophobes especially religious Nigerians, have been coming up with some of the most ridiculous excuses for supporting the ‘Jail the Gays’ law. Of course, there can be no reasonable excuse to support 14 years imprisonment based on sexual orientation or for holding meetings to discuss the human rights of Minorities.

No reasonable, rational and decent person would support depriving any human of their basic human rights including the Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Association and Freedom from discrimination, Freedom from torture, Right to privacy and Right to found a family. It is not surprising that some of those anti-LGBT remarks are not just ridiculous; they are plain stupid, bigoted and have ignorance at their very heart.

I will address some of those remarks under different posts which I will catalogue under the title and tag ‘Stupid, homophobic arguments in support of Nigeria’s ‘Jail the Gays bill’. I will kick-start this with the comment below which unfortunately was made by my good friend and comrade. This particular self-righteous indignation has been rearing its ugly head in many discussions. It has been raised by those who think it justifies signing the ‘Jail the gays’ bill. So let’s tackle it.

THE US AND UN SHOULD SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!! WHY DONT THEY ALLOW THOSE WHO WANT TO BE POLYGAMOUS, HAVE THEIR RIGHTS IN THEIR OWN VILLAGE?

1- I am assuming this is a cultural comparison because of the reference to polygamy. If you are making a “Homosexuality is not [Read more…]

Gay Cameroonian, Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, imprisoned for sending love text message to same-sex person, dies.

This is so depressing! Roger Jean-Claude Mbédé, the Cameroonian who was imprisoned for sending a text message declaring his love for another man, has died on Friday 10 January, in Cameroon.1526673_680845678602390_1820419341_n

He was sent to prison in March 2011 for sending a text message declaring his love for another adult human.  The message was a simple “I’m very much in love with you”. How does such a message constitute harm? Why should this lead to imprisonment?

Cameroonian activist, Lambert Lamda, said Mbédé had been out of hospital for about a month before he died and had received no medical care during that period.  ‘”His family said they were going to remove the homosexuality which is in him. I went to see him in his village. He could not stand up, he couldn’t speak.

This is a sick society. What the heck are my fellow Africans doing to their brothers and sisters? Is condemning your flesh and blood to death for loving someone of same-sex your cherished African family values?

Why are those ignorant, hateful homophobes hell-bent on punishing us for loving another adult human being? Why are they bent on criminalizing our love? In the midst of all the suffering, hardship, poverty and wars, how could love be a crime? How does our love harm you or the society? [Read more…]

Nigerian and Ugandan Lawmakers: The Passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bills

Ugandan Parliament’s idea of putting Christ back in Christmas was to present LGBT Ugandans with a gift of life Imprisonment! The parliament has now passed the anti homosexuality bill that was first presented before the house in 2009. i

In April 2009, the Ugandan Parliament passed a resolution allowing Member of Parliament (MP) David Bahati to submit a private member’s bill in October to strengthen laws against homosexuality. The bill was proposed on 13 October 2009 by David Bahati.

According to its sponsor, it is based on the foundations of  “strengthening the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the traditional heterosexual family“, that “same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic”, and “protect[ing] the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, legal, religious, and traditional family values of the people of Uganda against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Uganda”

The legislation strengthens the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda by introducing the death penalty for people who are considered serial offenders, are suspected of “aggravated homosexuality” and are HIV-positive. People who are caught or suspected of homosexual activity will be forced to undergo HIV tests; Ugandans who engage in same-sex sexual relations outside Uganda will likewise fall under the jurisdiction of this law, and may be extradited and charged with a felony.

Furthermore, the bill requires anyone who is aware of an offense or an offender, including individuals, companies, media organizations, or non-governmental organizations that support LGBT rights, to report the offender within 24 hours. If an individual does not do so he or she is also considered an offender and is liable on conviction to a fine or imprisonment up to three years.

The original bill stipulated the death penalty for same-sex relationships. The bill generated international outcry, US President Barack Obama described the bill as “odious,” while some European countries have threatened to cut aid to Uganda if the bill becomes law. The death sentence for homosexual behaviour was later amended to life imprisonment.

Ignorance is not an excuse to deny others the same right you enjoy as human beings. The combination of ignorance and hate is indeed a deadly weapon of mass destruction. Hate kills and African lawmakers seems to breed it in abundance.

Nigerian National Assembly also proposed a similar bill in 2006 known as the Anti Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition bill . and The National Assembly passed the bill earlier this year, but like the Ugandan bill, it is waiting for the President’s assent to turn it into law. The Senate on 18 December, 2013 unanimously adopted the report of its conference committee on the ‘Jail the Gays’ bill.

Nigerian Senate President, Senator David Mark called for the President to urgently sign the bill into Law.  ‘The earlier we sign it into law, the better. [Nigeria] have many shortcomings, we don’t want to add this one to it.’  Senator David Mark stated this in his usual pompously ignorant manner.

According to him, “The law against same-sex marriage is an approval of the wishes of the generality of Nigerians who are desirous of living within our cultural bounds. “The law is not designed to infringe on the human rights of Nigerians in any way.” Hmm, David Mark probably does not consider Nigerian Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans as Nigerians or even Humans.

Nigerian and Ugandan Legislators have confirmed that they are all a bunch of ignorant fools and are part of the problems dragging the African continent backwards. Uganda has also earlier this week, passed an Anti-Pornography Bill, which bans miniskirts and sexually suggestive material such as some music videos. It seems violating the rights of its citizens are what most African parliamentarians termed as keeping with tradition! For how long shall innocent lives be the victims of ignorance, hate and power?

Uganda: Existing LGBT Laws

Homosexuality is currently illegal in Uganda as in many Sub-Saharan African countries, punishable by incarceration for up to 14 years. Under section 145 of the Uganda Penal Code, the act of sodomy is punishable by life imprisonment. (“Any person who (a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature . . . or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge with him or her against the order of nature commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.”). Sections 146 and 148 also further support this provision.

Nigeria- Existing Laws against LGBT PeopleDSC_0956

Under the Federal law in Nigeria, Homosexuality can carry up to a 14 year jail term. Under Shari’a law which has been adopted by 12 Northern states in Nigeria, Sodomy is a criminal offence which is penalize with death by stoning. This penalty is harsher than the penalty provided for Sodomy under the criminal code.

Chapter 42 of the criminal code, section 214, states that any person who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” or “permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for fourteen years.”

The Penal code states: “Whoever being a woman engages another woman in carnal intercourse through her sexual organ or by means of stimulation or sexual excitement of one another has committed the offence of Lesbianism. … The offence is committed by the unnatural fusion of the female sexual organs and or by the use of natural or artificial means to stimulate or attain sexual satisfaction or excitement”

The penal codes have simply taken over the language of the British colonial provisions on “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” Although these laws were imposed during the British colonial rule, they have been adopted by Uganda and Nigeria in its post-colonial era.

Nigeria and Uganda obligations under International Laws

The adopted anti-homosexuality bills in Nigeria and Uganda contradict fundamental freedoms under Nigeria and Uganda Constitutions and also under international and regional human rights law and standards. Nigeria and Uganda are signatories to a number of international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. However, like many other African Nations, both countries have not held their obligations under international treaties in high regard.

The legalization of Homophobia in most African countries has created an environment of fear amongst African sexual minorities.70612_100002673874449_24624348_s The Anti-homosexuality bills in Nigeria and Uganda, if signed into law would negatively impact on human rights records and activities in both countries. However, a positive outcome of these proposed legislation is that sexuality rights have been brought to the forefront for debates.  Topics that were once thought to be taboos are now subjected to debate in the public arena although the debates have been one-sided for fear of a possible backlash.

Although there has been a deafening silence from Nigeria left on the the Jail the Gays bill and LGBT rights, some Human rights organizations in Africa are beginning to come out in support of LGBT rights and are affirming that LGBT rights are human rights worthy of protection. This is a big step forward for the LGBT community in Africa because prior to the uproar generated by these proposed legislations, human rights organizations in African countries were reluctant to openly support sexual minorities.

Also, with the threat of the proposed anti-same sex bills, many human rights organizations, media and LGBT activists were educated on LGBT issues through organized seminars and workshops mostly organized by the international LGBT community in conjunction with local LGBT activists and human rights organizations.

The international community has been emphasizing that LGBT rights are human rights and in some instances some countries like United Kingdom and United States of America have threatened to cut off international aids to countries that are threatening to impose harsher legislative provisions to further discriminate against LGBT people.

However, a backlash flowing from the support of the international solidarity for the Gay community in Africa is the counter attack by some Africans especially politicians, who believe that this is just another mission of the west to control and impose its policies on Africa countries. This has led to resistance to any form of concession to LGBT rights.DSC_0951

It is not certain whether or not these adopted anti-homosexuality bills would be signed into laws in Nigeria and Uganda, however, the mere passage of such bills is detrimental to the rights of sexual minorities.

Last year, Uganda Speaker, Rebecca Kadaga said that the bill, which originally mandated death for some gay sexual acts, will become law before the end of Christmas. “Ugandans are demanding it,” she said.  It was however not passed last year, I guess Santa Claus was delayed somewhere in the North Pole!

Nigerian and Ugandan lawmakers, by passing the ‘Jail the Gays‘ bills have shown the world just how hateful, intolerant and bigoted they are. Their gift of hate to  Nigerian and Ugandans LGBTs is hugely supported by religious believers especially USA Evangelicals. Talk about putting Christ in Christmas! Really horrendous, I hope they choke on their hate-filled Christmas gift!

Related link- Trilogy: Debunking the African Homosexuality myths