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Posts for January, 2011

One Muslim ex-gay strategy

Timothy Kincaid

January 25th, 2011

Ahmed Saad, a young author in Egypt, is following in the footsteps of Dickens and Sinclair. His novel Shab Takaya, takes on a social issue and seeks to inform the readers of the plight of those rejected and oppressed by society. He calls for a more enlightened and nourishing response to homosexuality, one that gives them a second chance. To be heterosexual.

Using language that sounds as though it could be pulled straight off the Exodus website, Saad stands as an compassionate advocate for those suffering from unwanted homosexuality. (Jerusalem Post)

“DON’T FORGET that homosexuals exist among those closest to you and need your help,” implores Saad as an author’s note in his first book, Shab Takaya, published by Al- Alamiya last month.

Nonetheless, Saad envisions an Islamic society that treats homosexuality as a curable illness. “Society has a critical role to play in treatment,” writes Saad’s anonymous protagonist, as “any disease, whether physical or psychological, demands support from society and especially from the patient’s close relatives.” Without “the right kind” of support, “the patient’s frustration grows” until he surrenders himself to the disease.

Convinced that their lifestyles are unhealthy and go against God, Saad said in a recent interview that most homosexuals would seek treatment if provided a supportive atmosphere and the opportunity to do so.

Of course, as for Saad’s solution for those radical militant homosexual activist that defy God and seek to destroy the family and society and the planet… well, Saad takes an approach that no American ex-gay activist would take… or not publicly.

As to the minority who refuse treatment because they believe in exercising what the West calls individual liberty, most can be disabused of such ideas, he argued. For the remainder, his words were harsh: “As Sodom and Gomorrah’s homosexuals were executed for failing to heed God’s words, so should homosexuals be ‘stoned to death,’ as decreed by Islam, if they refuse to change.”

African Newspaper Roundup: Homosexuality Not A Western Import, and Other “Horrors and Revulsions”

Jim Burroway

May 26th, 2010

When straight African writers offer opinions that homosexuality should not be harshly condemned, they are often constrained to politely concede the widespread condemnation of LGBT people throughout Africa. And part of the typical formula is to register their own personal disgust over the idea of gay sex. Janet Otieno, writing for the online Africa Review out of Kenya avoids the latter part of the formula and counters the oft-told argument that homosexuality is an un-African western import. Not true, she says:

Further evidence for the existence of homosexuality is that pre-colonial African ethnic groups ascribed tribal classifications to gay people.

Certain tribes in pre-colonial Burkina Faso and South Africa regarded lesbians as astrologers and traditional healers, while a number of tribal groups in Cameroon and Gabon believed homosexuality had a medicinal effect.

In pre-colonial Benin, homosexuality was viewed as a boyhood phase that males passed through and eventually grew out of according to Zimbabwean Standard newspaper.

The Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten and his lover Smenkhkare were also documented as male couple in history. Their homosexuality does not seem to have bothered Akhenaten’s contemporaries, but his challenge to the clergy brought his downfall.

She then goes briefly goes into the nature-nurture debate, and in her discussion of the importance of sex education in the home, it’s hard to know where she stands on that issue — or for homosexuality in general, although the calm tone of the article carefully hints at her tacit support for LGBT people. That tacit support becomes overt in her penultimate paragraph:

Such individual formation within the family means that sex education is indistinguishable from religious and moral development in other virtues such as temperance, fortitude, and prudence.

Africans should therefore not afford themselves the luxury of being hateful and intolerant to this particular group.

Whether Africa will face up the reality and accept homosexuals, or uphold its traditional values, remains to be seen as the debate rages on.

This piece contrasts very sharply from another op-ed that ran in Kenya’s Daily Nation today with the title, “Homosexuality is an abomination in the sight of God and man.” Three guesses on which side of the fence Dorothy Kweyu sits on. But what makes this piece interesting is that Kweyu reveals that as the Daily Nation’s Revise Editor, she contributed to a relatively positive article by Emeka-Mayaka Gekara which ran last week about LGBT Christians in Kenya who worship privately at a Nairobi branch of the Metropolitan Community Church.

I guess that article left both of them exposed to suspicions that they both endorsed LGBT equality, even though Kweyu’s name is not mentioned in the article. But to settle any confusion the mere presence of the report may have raised, Kweyu saw a burning need to set the record straight:

It occurred to me that as a mother and a Christian, I would be failing in my responsibilities, albeit as a layperson, if I did not express the utter horror and revulsion that was mine at reading such brazen affirmation of an evil. I can, therefore, confirm that my revision task was as “unenviable” as was the writer’s — something you do because you have no option; it’s all in a day’s work.

State Department Issues Annual Human Rights Report, Highlights Uganda

Jim Burroway

March 12th, 2010

The State Department has issued its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009, which shows that LGBT people continue to experience state-sanctioned or permitted violence and discrimination. For example, the report notes the following cases of human rights violations against LGBT people in Uganda:

For example, on April 5, police in Mbale District arrested SMUG activists Fred Wasukira and Brian Mpadde. On April 17, a court in Mbale charged Wasukira and Mpadde with homosexual conduct and remanded the suspects to Maluke prison. On May 20, the court released Wasukira on police bail; Mpadde was released on June 16. The case was ongoing at year’s end.

On June 19, police in Kitgum interrogated former police coach Charles Ayeikoh over allegations that he was involved in homosexual acts. An investigation was ongoing at year’s end.

In July the administration of Mbalala Senior Secondary School in Mukono District dismissed student John Paul Mulumba after he acknowledged that he was a SMUG member.

During the year the UHRC stopped investigating the July 2008 case in which SMUG activist Usaam Mukwaya alleged that police tortured and humiliated him during an illegal detention; Mukwaya reportedly decided not to pursue the case.

During the year police dismissed for lack of evidence a September 2008 case against SMUG members George Oundo and Brenda Kiiza, who were charged with indecent practices.

LGBT persons were also subject to societal harassment and discrimination.

For example, on March 17, the Uganda Joint Christian Council and the Family Life Network launched a campaign to curb homosexual conduct in higher institutions. SMUG accused the organizers of using religion to attack the LGBT community in the country.

The report also mentions arrests, executions, and other violence and abuses in Malawi, Senegal, Nigeria, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jamaica, and elsewhere around the world.

Council for Global Equality’s Top Ten List “Where The U.S. Should Do More”

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2009

Here is something that escaped our notice until now. The Council for Global Equality, in responding to the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports, has identified what it calls the “Top Ten Opportunities for the U.S. to Respond” to anti-LGBT human rights abuses which are highlighted in the report. The countries identified by the Council include Egypt, Gambia, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The ten countries weren’t necessarily selected because they are the worst countries in the world for LGBT abuses. Instead, they are identified as the ten countries in which the U.S. has the best opportunity to influence change through diplomatic, political and economic leverage. The details for each country are found at the Council’s web site (PDF: 140KB/8 pages) Here is a rundown for each country targeted by the Council, along with the Council’s recommendations:

  1. Egypt: arrests, beatings and imprisonment of men suspected of being HIV-positive. Egypt is the third largest recipient of foreign AID. “Our partnership with Egypt should extend beyond the Middle East peace process: it should require a broad commitment to human rights that includes the rights of LGBT men and women.
  2. Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh threatened to “cut off the head” of any homosexual in his country. “We should explore using USAID funds to support programs that encourage tolerance, respect for diversity, and a genuine commitment to civil society”
  3. Honduras: Identified as “one of the worst violators of gay and transgender human rights in 2008.” Police routinely round up LGBT youths without cause and Honduran security officials reportedly condone assaults and rapes on gay detainees. Multiple murders were reported, including a leading transgender rights activist. “The U.S. Embassy should offer visible support to LGBT leaders in the country, and should press for accountability within the Honduran government. It should work with Honduran authorities to offer tolerance and diversity training for police and other security forces that are suspected of complicity in human rights abuse. It also should press for a prompt and thorough investigation of the murders and other incidents noted above.”
  4. India: Police often commit crimes against LGBT people, and officials in Bangalore ordered the arrest of transgender people. “Given our increasingly close relationship with India, we should express frank concern to the Indian Government over LGBT violence and discrimination.”
  5. Jamaica: There have been numerous anti-gay mob attacks, sometimes with direct police complicity. Some attacks have resulted in murder. Homes were firebombed, and one individual was hacked to death by a machete. LGBT advocates continue to be murdered, beaten and threatened, driving some into exile. Police have been criticized in many instances for failing to respond. “Senior U.S. officials should urge Jamaica’s Prime Minister to show leadership by condemning this violence and instituting measures to bring these and any future perpetrators to justice. U.S. police assistance should be targeted toward programs that promote tolerance and the defense of vulnerable groups against mob violence.”
  6. Kuwait: Abuses against transgender individuals were cited. “Individual liberties are at the heart of our democracy, and are critical to the development of deep-seated relationships with like-minded friends and allies. We need to encourage this understanding with Kuwaiti and other authorities as part of our dialogue on human rights.”
  7. Kyrgyz Republic: The report notes “a pattern of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological abuse in the Kyrgyz Republic against lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men.” The Council notes that Kyrgyzstan receives significant foreign assistance. “if Kyrgyz officials are unwilling to address the problem, we should reevaluate our assistance levels and other bilateral programs.
  8. Lithuania: Political leaders have embraced anti-gay policies and have denied LGBT groups the right to assemble peacefully. “Freedoms of assembly and of association are fundamental rights in any democracy. If Lithuania is to claim its place as a democratic state, it must be challenged to honor these principles in law and in practice.”
  9. Nigeria: Adults convicted of homosexuality are subject to stoning in parts of the country that have adopted Shari’a law. LGBT advocates have been threatened, stoned, and beaten. A proposed law pending in Nigeria’s Senate would not only ban same-sex marriage, but any “coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together …. for other purposes of same sexual relationship.” This would open the doors of arrest for those who are legally married outside of Nigeria and who happen to travel to that country for business or vacation. “We hope it [the U.S. Embassy] will work with European and other embassies in Abuja to voice strong concerns over this dangerous new bill in the Nigerian Senate.”
  10. Uganda: Homosexuality is criminalized. Police arrested members of an NGO for taking a public stand against discrimination, as well as three LGBT activist at an HIV/AIDS conference. “Uganda is one of the largest recipients of PEPFAR funding for HIV/AIDS care, prevention and treatment. In Uganda, the money has been used to empower institutions and activists that have led homophobic campaigns in the country. We need to consider whether the US government’s priority focus on abstinence funding is blunting the effectiveness of the money we’re spending, while also discouraging tolerance-based response to the epidemic.”

Writing on behalf of the council, Mark Bromley highlighted Egypt and Jamaica for special concern:

Egypt was our third largest recipient of foreign aid from USAID and the State Department last year.  I would not suggest cutting off U.S. assistance in a country like Egypt, but I am convinced that our funding should give us more leverage to speak out forcefully against the HIV arrests documented in the report.

… The U.S. government’s diplomatic response to these abuses must be strong and unconditional, and it should also be tied to our financial commitments in the country. Jamaica is a country where carefully-targeted U.S. support to gay rights or human rights groups could be effective in improving both the legal and community responses to LGBT violence.  In addition, we should use the foreign assistance funding that we have allocated over the past several years to professionalize the Jamaican police force to help respond to these attacks.

Five Egyptian HIV+ Men Sentenced to 3 Years

Jim Burroway

April 9th, 2008

Last February, we reported on eight Egyptian men who were arrested when police discovered that one of them was HIV-positive. Four had already been sentenced to one year in jail for the “habitual practice of debauchery.” Now we learn that five more have been sentenced to harsher terms:

An Egyptian judicial official says four HIV-positive men have been convicted of being homosexual and sentenced to three years in prison followed by three years of close police supervision.

The official says on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press that a fifth man without HIV was also convicted and received the same sentence.

According to Human Rights Watch, Cairo police have arrested at least twelve men since last October in what’s being described as a “growing witchhunt” for people suspected of being HIV-positive.

In Egypt, Merely Being HIV+ Gets You Arrested

Jim Burroway

February 7th, 2008

It all started when police broke up an altercation, and in the process discovered that one of the men was HIV-positive. Human Rights Watch has the scoop:

The arrests began in October 2007, when police stopped two men having an altercation on a street in central Cairo. When one of them told the officers that he was HIV-positive, police immediately took them both to the Morality Police office and opened an investigation against them for homosexual conduct. The two men told human rights defenders that they were slapped and beaten for refusing to sign statements the police wrote for them. They spent four days in the Morality Police office handcuffed to an iron desk, sleeping on the floor. Police later subjected the two men to forensic anal examinations designed to “prove” that they had engaged in homosexual conduct. …

Two more men were arrested because their photos were found in the wallets of the first two men. So far, these four men have not been charged, but the matter doesn’t end there. Human Rights Watch continues:

Meanwhile, police apparently placed the apartment where one of the men had lived under surveillance. On November 20, two days after a new tenant had assumed the lease, police raided the apartment and detained four other men. …

People who have spoken to the four men since their arrest told Human Rights Watch that a non-commissioned officer in the police station beat one detainee on the head several times. Police allegedly forced the four men to stand in a painful position for three hours with their arms lifted in the air. They were provided no food, drink, or blankets during their first four days of detention. Authorities also tested these men for HIV without their consent. One of the men reportedly said that the prosecutor, when informing him that he had tested positive for HIV, told him: ‘People like you should be burnt alive. You do not deserve to live.'”

A court sentenced them to one year in jail for the “habitual practice of debauchery.”