LGBT Rights in Africa: Why we need international solidarity- Interview on SkyNews

Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transsexuals from countries where their sexual orientation and/or gender identity is criminalised need international solidarity. What we do not need is seeing international leaders who claim to support our fight for LGBT rights wine and dine our oppressors.

When we watch international leaders who are supposedly LGBT allies frolicking with our oppressors, the message we get is that we do not matter. In the long run, it is all about their politics, not their words. International leaders should please WALK THEIR TALK.

Below is a video of my interview on SkyNews on the topic LGBT Rights in Africa and why we need international solidarity. [Read more...]

When we say #BlackLifeMatters, please don’t butt in with your blind privilege.

Elon James White‏@elonjames

If I say #BlackLifeMatters and your response is “Why not EVERY life?” Unfollow me. You dont get it & I dont have time to explain it to you.”

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I came across the tweet above and i had to say, “Well said, Elon James White, well said“. Unfortunately this kind of tweets always get some of my white friends on facebook in a twist. What is so unfortunate is that some of them think they are well meaning people who want equal rights for all. If only they would take a minute to do their research and understand how the society they live in works. Everyone should learn to see their own privilege, be it skin colour, sexual identity, sex birth, geographical location, religion or class.

To be blind to your privilege is to not understand or see how you benefit from the society due to your status, a status you might not be conscious of but which is enough to deny the persons who don’t have that status the benefits you get. Heck, it might even cause the persons their lives while you go around not even acknowledging that you have that privilege. Yes, it is frustrating.

A few of my very good white friends on social media think this is sad and they don’t like it when I put up such status calling out [Read more...]

Religion, LGBT rights and military regimes: Interview in Solidarity Newspaper

Kate Harris interviews Yemisi Ilesanmi

Published in Workers Liberty’s Solidarity Newspaper

How did you get to where you are today as an LGBT activist and out bisexual woman?

It has been an interesting, tasking, journey towards self-awareness. It is also a journey that has involved studying society and finding my place in it. It is a continuous journey and one where I have to constantly remind myself that I have a right to be who I am in a world that is desperate to make me into what they would rather I be.

I started being politically and socially aware of my human rights at an early age. I was born in Nigeria in the mid-70s and grew up in a society that was marred with constant military coup d’états. There was no stable democracy. It was confusing because people took to the streets to celebrate successful coup d’états. I wondered why it was a good thing for the military to forcefully overthrow elected officials. But the people’s response was that the elected officials were corrupt. However, after having a taste of what military dictatorship means, people stopped celebrating coups. This started the difficult journey towards demanding and organising for a civilian regime where they would have a say in electing their own political leaders.  [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

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Shocking and depressing migration attempts

It was shocking and depressing watching the video coverage of African men as they attempt to migrate to Europe on-board a 1squalid boat, in highly dangerous situation. Their boat engine developed a fault, they were found after two days drifting in the sea without food. They were arrested and squashed together in a horrible small cell. They were the lucky ones. Many had died trying to cross the sea illegally into Europe. Many will still die attempting the dangerous voyage.

BBC reports

The number of people attempting the dangerous sea crossing from North Africa to Italy has risen sharply, says Frontex, the EU border agency.

Quentin Sommerville gained exclusive access to one group, detained by the Libyan authorities while trying to make the crossing.

Some people may find his report from the city of Misrata distressing.

Well, I didn’t just find it distressing; I find it highly depressing and shocking.

What are African leaders doing? The politicians obviously do not care at all about the conditions their African brothers and sisters live in. It is these very conditions that force many Africans to flee their continent, sometimes employing life threatening methods just to get away. Wars, poverty and desperation continue to push people towards dangerous escape routes. [Read more...]

Boko Haram, #Bringbackourgirls, conspiracy theories, media and the mess called Nigeria.

I have so far refrained from writing about the Nigerian ‘missing girls’ for some reasons. Firstly, I wouldn’t want to cause any more pain to families of the missing girls, if indeed there are missing girls.

download (3) Secondly, I am not a fan of conspiracy theories.

I got a glimpse of just how much Nigerians love conspiracy theories when Lee Rigby was hatched to death on the street of London by Nigerian/British born Islamist fanatics, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale. Many Nigerians went into conspiracy frenzy on social networks. They claimed it was all a set up and made the murderers out to be victims of a twisted immigration plot! Surprisingly, many of the conspiracy theorists were self-identified skeptics and freethinkers. I got fed up of their conspiracy theories showing on my newsfeeds that I reached for the block button. One thing I emphasized was how much pain their insensitive posts were causing the bereaved family. So, let’s get this out of the way, I loathe conspiracy theories, not just because they are mostly misguided but because they do tend to cause pains to the victims and their families. [Read more...]

Boko Haram kills in the name of God, AGAIN; Nigerians pray to God for solution, AGAIN.

The notorious Islamist terrorist group, ‘Boko Haram’, strikes again in the name of Allah, this time killing more than a hundred bomb-m-1people and leaving hundreds more injured with some lying critically ill in the hospital.  In the early hours of Monday 14th April, 2014, members of the religious terrorist group, Boko Haram, sets off a bomb in a crowded bus park in Nyanya,  a highly populated area in the outskirts of the federal capital territory, Abuja.

This is not the first time the barbaric group has committed such atrocities in Abuja. In recent past, their bombs have also gone off in  Yobe, Nasarawa,Borno, Kaduna etc. killing thousands of innocent people including school children. In the face of the seemingly helplessness of security agencies to curb the atrocities of this menacing, religious fanatic group that originated from the Northern part of the country, Nigerians are left fearing for their lives.

Sadly, waking up to the news that another Boko Haram bomb has gone off and killed many innocent people is no longer news. Seeing maimed arms, legs and rolling heads amidst burnt debris seems like a routine show now. Many Nigerians on social media scamper to post the goriest pictures of the victims of the latest bomb blast on facebook and twitter, leaving one to wonder if they derive a sort of macabre pleasure in these gory pictures. These pictures are posted without even a trigger warning alert. This act does nothing but diminish our humanity. [Read more...]

BOB CROW: One of the last of a dying generation of committed Trade unionists bows out at 52.

There I was at the gym trying to burn some winter excess weight in time to welcome summer in good shape and spirit when I bob-crowA858_2848373bnoticed the gym TV screens were showing the face of Bob Crow, the General Secretary of Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT), with many known trade union leaders paying tributes. My first thought was: “oh no, don’t tell me he is retiring from Trade unionism”

However, when the unmistakable hair and face of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson came on the screen, I slowed down my pace on the treadmill to read what one of Bob Crow’s arch enemies had to say about him, it was then it dawned on me that this was not a retirement tribute but a death eulogy. Apparently Bob Crow had died early in the morning (11 March 2014) of what is suspected to be a heart attack. This came as a shock because just the day before, Bob was on TV making yet another threat of a possible RMT strike that has been known to paralyze activities in London.

I am saddened by the sudden death of Bob Crow.  He was one of the few outstanding Trade unionists in UK. His unwavering and unquestionable commitment to workers rights reminded me so much of the reason I became a Trade unionist. It was all about passion, commitment and a continuous fight for decent work, decent pay and a better life for all.

Trade unionism as I used to know it was not just about a career choice. It seeps into every facet of your life that eventually it becomes your life. It is a pity that many trade union leaders have lost that passion and now veered more towards satisfying the employers, government and multinationals rather than delivering to their paying members. Unfortunately many trade union leaders are no longer solely funded by membership fees but by politicians and government largesse. In fact, Nigeria which used to be a hot bed of radical trade unionism, is an unfortunate example of how low labour movements and their leaders have sunk.

Love him or hate him, Bob Crow was one unionist that could not be ignored. He commanded respect, awe and fear from friends and enemies alike. His members loved him, his adversaries hated him, and everyone recognised his doggedness. His enemies could not ignore him and those who value equality held him in high esteem._73502074_crowpicket_pa

Bob Crow is one of the last generations of left trade unionists that chose to stand firmly for the rights of workers in the face of crass capitalism that is always cloaked as progress in the workplace.

Bob Crow started working at the age of 16 on the underground and rose to become General Secretary of the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT) from 2002 until his death. He was able to make tremendous progress in the lives of his members. Even when trade union membership was drastically declining in UK, the membership of his union kept rising. He fiercely advocated and defended the right of his members to decent wages. He was able to negotiate decent wages for his members, from the tube drivers to the underground cleaners.

Sometimes seen as divisive, he was never afraid of speaking his mind or standing up for his beliefs, principles, ideology and convictions. When he felt the Labor party was going the wrong way, he took a decisive step and led his union to support other Socialist orientated parties, which eventually led to the expulsion of RMT from the Labour party.

Often loathed by many London commuters who sometimes had their transport disrupted because of strike actions called over planned cuts and ticket office closures, still he commanded respect for standing up to the powers that be and giving the underdogs a voice in the scheme of things.

Bob Crow once said::

“You’ve got to recognise that the job you do ain’t about being nice. The job we do is about defending our members. And as far as I’m concerned, if I can get job security and decent pay for my members I couldn’t give two hoots about being unpopular.”

Conservative London mayor, Boris Johnson said of Crow:

This was a guy who really fought for his members and who stuck up for his point of view. He was a fighter and a man of character”

TUC Secretary-General Frances O’Grady described him as:

an outstanding trade unionist, who tirelessly fouRMT _73502082_tubeght for his members, his industry and the wider trade union movement”

Labor Party leader Ed Miliband said he had been a “passionate” campaigner.”

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said Mr Crow had been a “fighter and a force”.

His brother Richard crow said of him:

People moaned that he lived in a council house, that he never drove a car – he lived a life of the average guy in the street and that’s a rare thing these days. When people have a high office in life they fall for the big trappings of the flash cars and the big hotels and big houses. But Bob wasn’t like that, he was a genuine person of the people.”

Robert Crow (13 June 1961 – 11 March 2014) was no doubt one of the last of a dying generation of trade unionists who embraced unionism as not just a career but a life. He was an unrepentant socialist and atheist. Thank you Bob Crow for your service to the labour movement and humanity, you will surely be missed.

 

Another inglorious medal for religion as Boko Haram invades secondary school hostel, Kills 43 students in the name of Allah

On February 25, 2014 the world woke up to the news that Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group in Nigeria, ha409263_194632337300826_100002621825953_318303_1770217189_ns once again invaded a secondary school hostel, this time the Federal Government College in the town of Buni Yadi in Yobe state and killed 43 students. The terrorists in the name of Allah hurled explosives into dormitories, sprayed sleeping students with bullets and even hacked a few to death. The death toll is still rising.

Since the news of the killings broke, I have been in a kind of dazed state of mind, heavy-hearted and not able to post or say anything on it. I have been kind of numb. I am numbed, not because it is the first killing of such,  after all, just a few months ago, they did the same thing in a different secondary school, leaving about 35 young students dead. I think I am numbed because it is finally sinking in that this kind of barbarism has become normal in Nigeria. And the world would read this kind of story, look at the gross pictures of murdered children and just turn the page because it is no longer news.

We look at the horrific pictures of children with their intestines blown out by some bearded jihadists, we shake our head and sometimes express our outrage but within minutes things go back to normal. And the sad fact is these killings are now fast becoming part of what is ‘normal’. Children screaming in the middle of the night as their brains are blown up by some adults whose group’s name BOKO HARAM means ‘No To Western Education’, is now the norm in Nigeria.

I despair when I read posts of fellow Nigerians on the latest killings of Boko Haram. Many are busy calling on God (or is it Allah), to punish the evil doers. They pray for the dead students to find peace. They pray that God comfort the grieving parents. I read all these posts calling on God to act and I wonder about the logic in that. [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.

 

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.

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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

Sex Workers Need Rights Not Rescue!

imageDecember 17th is International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers. From a feminist and also a trade unionist perspective, I know supporting Sex Workers’ Rights is the logical thing to do.

As I wrote in my blog post ‘Organising Sex Workers Within Mainstream Labour Movement’,  the stigmatization and consequent exploitation of sex workers would be minimized if sex work is accorded its recognition as a bonafide job; a real job which has its challenges, rights and protections under the law like every other job. Criminalization of sex-work in many countries and jurisdictions makes it difficult to create a safe, enabling environment and workplace for sex workers.

The continued criminalization of sex-work, rather than serves as a deterrent has only succeeded in exposing sex workers to violence, intimidation, harassment and exploitation. [Read more...]

The Dictators Are Not Only Those

The Dictators Are Not Only Those…A poem dedicated to a dear friend COMRADE OLAITAN OYERINDE. He was assassinated on May 4, 2012 at about 2am at his residence in the Government Reservation Area, Benin, Nigeria.

At the time of his death, he was the private secretary of the Governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole. He was also the deputy secretary of Nigeria Labor Congress. Olaitan Oyerinde was a bright young life lost to Nigeria’s ‘do or die’ dirty politics. [Read more...]

Adieu, Nelson Mandela; the Great Madiba!

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Nelson Mandela was probably the first name I ever associated with Human rights during my childhood. His relentless struggle against apartheid nurtured in me the fire against injustice. I identified with his struggle for Freedom and Equality; he was my human right hero and a living lesson in compassion and forgiveness. To me, the name ‘Mandela’ was  (and still is) synonymous with anti-apartheid, defiance against injustice, fight for equality and a passion for justice. It later became synonymous with Forgiveness. [Read more...]

Torn About Syria: Seeing beyond the numbers and statistics

The use of Chemical weapons must be condemned but it is a pity that all it took for the world to finally sit up and notice the heinous human rights crimes in Syria is a threat of chemical weapons that could affect us.  It is as if the world is saying the indiscriminate killings in Syria do not matter as long as there is no threat of breaking a ‘No chemical weapon’ Convention that could come to haunt us all. Must we wait until there is a direct or indirect threat to us before we notice the sufferings of another?

The use of chemical weapon in warfare was condemned as abhorrent a long time ago. The first international agreement limiting the use of chemical weapons dates back to 1675, when France and Germany came to an agreement, signed in Strasbourg, prohibiting the use of poisoned bullets. The anxiety about the large scale use of Chemical weapons intensified following the horrors of World War 1 finally culminating in the adoption of Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on their Destruction. The agreement is administered by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

Yes, the ban on chemical weapon is an international agreement, it should be respected. However it is sad that Syria is in the news for the alleged use of chemical weapons that killed hundreds of people but Syria had been in the background even though in the past three years of Syrian war, hundreds of thousands have been killed, more than 2 million displaced and an estimated 1 million children become refugees. [Read more...]