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Posts for March, 2010

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.

Senegal Police Detain 24 Men for “Homosexual Activities”

Jim Burroway

December 29th, 2009

Senegal police arrested 24 men on December 24 at a house in Saly for allegedly engaging in “homosexual activities” and for holding an unauthorized party. They were released the next day, but police are continuing the investigation.

Last August, a 17-year-old man was arrested for homosexuality, and two others were sentenced for two and five years imprisonment for homosexual activities. Earlier this year, nine AIDS workers were given prison sentences of between one and eight years, with three more years added for being in a “criminal group” — presumably the AIDS service organization they worked for. They were released in April following an international outcry.

According to AFP, the Senegalese Foreign Minister Madicke Niang said on December 10 that homosexuality would be decriminalized in Senegal.

Newsweek: Is Uganda’s Anti-Gay Ferver Spreading?

Jim Burroway

December 18th, 2009

[Update: This post has been updated to include a brief statement MP David Bahati made to NPR.]

Katie Paul pulls the microscope off of Uganda and looks at the climate for LGBT citizens throughout Africa. It doesn’t look good. Much of the continent is rife with homophobia. Last year, Burundi criminalized homosexuality for the first time, with penalties of up to two years in prison. In Senegal, we’ve seen people arrested for homosexuality (many of them LGBT advocates). The president of Gambia threatened to cut off the heads of all gay people in his country. And Nigeria has its own draconian bill languishing in its legislature that ostensibly outlaws same sex marriage, but goes much further by banning any gay people from living together and all advocacy on behalf of LGBT people. Meanwhile, Rwanda, which lies on Uganda’s southwest border, is currently debating a bill to criminalize homosexuality with five to ten year’s imprisonment, along with all advocacy and counseling of LGBT people. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission says that a vote may occur in Rwanda’s lower House sometime this week.

But despite all that, some have suggested that if the Anti-Homosexuality Bill becomes law, Uganda will represent the first domino to fall. One of those suggesting this is none other than Ugandan MP David Bahati, the prime sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He told NPR:

“Once this bill passes, you’re going to see country by country learning from this, continent by continent. It’s a crucial time and a crucial bill, not only in Uganda but in the world.”

But as Paul points out, pointing to Uganda as the first domino as some have done is, as she puts it, “a tough sell”:

While the historical origins of anti-gay legislation are debatable, antipathy to homosexuality is by now a home-grown phenomenon throughout most of Africa. ABC’s Dana Hughes, writing from Nairobi, points out that such opinions on homosexuality are already widespread on the continet. “While American evangelicals are being examined for their role in the origins of the bill in Uganda,” she writes, “East Africa, and for that matter Africa as a whole, is decidedly, virulently against homosexuality.” In total, 37 countries in Africa have laws on the books criminalizing same-sex relations.

We’ve been on this story every since we first noticed that three American anti-gay activists were about to put on an anti-gay conference in Kampala. We did not believe and we have never suggested, as some have charged in probably the flimsiest strawman ever erected, that conditions weren’t already ripe for an anti-gay pogrom even without the meddling of three Americans who presented themselves as “experts” on homosexuality. We knew very well the conditions that already existed in that country, and that was the subject of the very second post we put up in the series.

We took notice and followed this story through the present day, and we’ll continue to follow it because Uganda has a very violent history. That violence in recent years has been directed toward that country’s reviled LGBT community. And now Ugandan leaders aim to take its violent legacy and codify it into law, turning LGBT people into candidates for the noose and a nation into an army of informers.

No, that conference didn’t start this fire, not by a longshot. The fire was already burning, but the conference was the napalm that burst the fire into the conflagration that we see today. And Uganda is hardly ground zero in Africa’s war against LGBT people. It’s just where the spotlight happens to shine at the moment. And with Ugandans’ extremely close geographical, cultural, and religious ties to Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya, these events bear very close scrutiny.

Click here to see BTB’s complete coverage of recent anti-gay developments in Uganda.

Teen Arrested In Senegal For Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

August 21st, 2009

The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) reports that a 17-year-old Senegalese man from the town of Darou Mousty in Louga, Senegal, was arrested for sexual acts “against nature.” The young man will stand trial on August 24. According to the IGLHRC, two other men, also from the same town, were convicted on identical charges during the week of August 10, 2009. They were sentenced to two and five years in prison respectively. According to the HRC, the only evidence against them were denunciations from neighbors.

All three men were arrested on June 19. A fourth man was arrested, but his current status is unknown. Homosexual acts are punishable in Senegal with prison terms of one to five years.

Nine AIDS workers were jailed earlier this year on similar charges. The judged sentenced them to prison terms ranging from one to eight years. He added three more years for being members of a “criminal group,” presumably the HIV services organization they worked for which provided services for Senegal’s beleaguered gay community. Tthe men were freed in April following an international outcry.

Senegal Court Frees Nine Men Convicted Of Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

April 26th, 2009

Last January we reported on nine men who were sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of engaging in an “unnatural act.” Those men were ordered free last Monday by a Dakar appeals court. According to Biram Sassoum Sy, the lead lawyer for the defense, the nine have been completely cleared and the case has been dropped.

Most of the defendants worked for HIV/AIDS programs targeting men who have sex with men. They were arrested at the home of a prominent gay activist in December without warrants, and police elicited confessions after mistreatment, according to the group’s lawyers. Senegalese law provides for a five year prison sentence on conviction of homosexual acts, but the court piled on an additional three years for “criminal association.”

The conspiracy charge appears to be related to their work with AIDES Senegal. The men were arrested only days after Senegal hosted the 15th International Conference on AIDS and STIs. This conviction has had a deep chilling effect among all HIV/AIDS workers in Senegal.

US Tax Dollars Funding African Anti-Gay Extremists

Jim Burroway

March 24th, 2009

Last January, BTB’s Timothy Kincaid highlighted the fact that some of Africa’s most ardent anti-gay extremists have received funding from the U.S. government to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. Among those receiving funds from the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is Uganda’s Martin Ssempa, who lead a public anti-gay vigilante campaign through the streets of Kampala demanding that the government “arrest all homos.”

Last week, Richard J. Rosendall, writing for the Bay Windows observed where some of the PEPFAR funding goes:

Charles Francis, a disillusioned former Bush appointee to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, seeks a course correction from the new president and Congress. He wrote to me last week about the need to reverse the Bush legacy that includes alliances with violent homophobes like Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa and born-again Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza. The latter’s ruling party organized a March 6 demonstration in Bujumbura in which thousands of people demanded the criminalization of homosexuality.

“Today,” Francis writes, “we see this wave growing dangerously across the continent, from Senegal, where AIDS activists are now imprisoned, to Nigeria, where lawmakers want to jail gay people merely for living together, to Uganda, where three Americans recently held a public seminar on the ’Homosexual Agenda.’ It is time to put a ’hold’ on PEPFAR until Congress can demand the transparency and the necessary reform for this program.”

Our tax dollars are lining the pockets of those who don’t just promote prejudice and hatred, but who even would have us dead, exiled, or imprisoned for life. PEPFAR needs to be scrapped or exhaustively overhauled to include accountability and transparency, and which demands accountability and transparency on the part of its recipients. Ssempa must not receive one more cent of my tax money. Or yours.

[Hat tip: Michael Airhart]

Nine Men Jailed in Senegal for Homosexuality

Jim Burroway

January 8th, 2009

Diadji Diouf, who heads an organization which provides HIV prevention services to gay men in Senegal, was been convicted along with eight other men of homosexuality and sentenced to eight years in prison. This depite the fact that Senegalese law only provides for five years in prison for homosexuality. The judge added three more years, claiming the men were also members of a “criminal group,” presumably the HIV services organization.

Diouf’s organization, AIDES Senegal, provided condoms and HIV treatment out of his apartment. Police raided his apartment on December 19 and arrested the men. The raid came just weeks after Senegal hosted an international AIDS conference which included LGBT participants.

The head of a Senegalese gay rights group, speaking anonymously to AFP news, said that conditions in the country were getting steadily worse for LGBT people. “Many gays are already fleeing to neighboring countries because of our living conditions,” he said.