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#JusticeForSheila highlights the precarious lives of queer people in Kenya

#JusticeForSheila highlights the precarious lives of queer people in Kenya

KENYA is one of 32 countries in Africa that criminalise homosexuality. People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) are frequently stigmatised, shamed and assaulted. The hashtags calling for action against the murder of queer people – like the most recent #JusticeForSheila – continue to trend on social media. We asked gender studies professor Awino Okech to tell us about the state of homophobic violence against queer Kenyans – and what needs to be done about it. Author AWINO OKECH, Associate professor in political sociology, SOAS, University of London Who is Sheila Lumumba and what is #JusticeForSheila?…
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LGBTI refugees seeking protection in Kenya struggle to survive in a hostile environment

LGBTI refugees seeking protection in Kenya struggle to survive in a hostile environment

KENYA is now the second biggest refugee-hosting country in Africa. Of its over half a million refugees, over a thousand from neighbouring African states have sought asylum on the basis of persecution over their sexual orientation or gender identity. For instance, approximately 400 asylum claims by Ugandans were registered with the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) in Kenya between 2014 and 2015. This surge followed state-condoned violence against gays and lesbians in Uganda during the 2014 debate of an ‘anti-homosexuality bill’ which initially included the death penalty for ‘practicing homosexuals’. Author KATE PINCOCK, Researcher, Overseas Development Institute Uganda is one of…
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We are here, we exist – say Kenyan intersex persons

We are here, we exist – say Kenyan intersex persons

NDUTA WAWERU UNTIL he was ten years old, Sidney Etemesi (not his real name) thought he was a girl. “I was born and raised a girl in Kakamega County," Etemesi stated, speaking in Nairobi. "My parents named me Beatrice and made sure I lived as a girl.” There was no room for any gender ambiguity - or discussion - at home in Kakamega, as Etemesi was to find out. “You were either a boy or a girl and acted like one. I was different, and I knew something was wrong,” Etemesi explained. At ten years old, in primary school, while…
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Pop star Troye Sivan fights HIV stigma in first big film role

Pop star Troye Sivan fights HIV stigma in first big film role

SAMUEL BAUGH AUSTRALIAN pop singer Troye Sivan, whose YouTube videos and music have inspired a generation of young LGBTQ+ people, wants his first major film role to combat ignorance around HIV/AIDS. In "Three Months", Sivan plays 17-year-old Caleb, who is exposed to HIV after a one-night stand on the eve of his high school graduation. The film details the shame and anxiety Caleb experiences while waiting three months for a diagnosis. Current medical guidelines require 12 weeks from exposure to be 100% certain. A still from the film 'Three Months', picturing Troye Sivan, who plays Caleb, and Viveik Kalra who plays Esther,…
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One woman fight against criminalisation of LGBT community

One woman fight against criminalisation of LGBT community

FRANCIS KOKOROKO INa dimly-lit room with racks of women's clothing, Ghanaian artist and LGBT+ activist Va-Bene Elikem Fiatsi flipped through photo self-portraits illustrating her transition to womanhood. Transitioning is not illegal in Ghana, but it will become so if a new law is passed, intended to tighten already strict anti-LGBT+ regulations which render same-sex relations illegal. Homophobia is pervasive in the West African country and trans people are generally considered to be gay. Fiatsi first exhibited the photographs, dubbed "Rituals of Becoming", in 2017. Supportive audiences flocked to see the show in Ghanaian galleries. Her work reflects how LGBT+ people…
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As Taliban threats grow, LGBT+ Afghans struggle for work and food

As Taliban threats grow, LGBT+ Afghans struggle for work and food

ANNIE BANERJI LGBT+ Afghans face increasing threats and violence five months since the Taliban seized power, with many forced into hiding and unable to earn a living amid a worsening economic crisis, researchers said. Sixty LGBT+ Afghans who were interviewed by rights groups said the community was being targeted by members of the hardline Islamist movement and their supporters, making it too risky for them to work or even leave the house. Two gay men said they had been raped by Taliban fighters, while many others said they had been threatened or attacked, found the report by Human Rights Watch…
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Don’t ignore butch lesbians, says T.S. Eliot prize winner Joelle Taylor

Don’t ignore butch lesbians, says T.S. Eliot prize winner Joelle Taylor

ELLA BRAIDWOOD BRITISH poet Joelle Taylor, winner of this year's prestigious T.S. Eliot prize for a collection exploring lesbian identity, says it is time the mainstream media gave a voice to "butch dykes" like herself. Taylor, 54, said she hoped her prize-winning "C+nto & Othered Poems" could act as a catalyst for other under-represented LGBT+ people to offer "an alternative narrative", urging TV production companies to embrace them as writers. "It's about the media accepting a far more diverse set of narratives, and the way we look and owning the fact that they own the narrative to begin with," Taylor…
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Facing hormone shortages, South Africa’s trans men try black market

Facing hormone shortages, South Africa’s trans men try black market

KIM HARRISBERG SOUTH African tech adviser Josh Stols felt a wave of euphoria when his doctor handed over his first testosterone prescription, allowing him to finally start his physical transition as a transgender man after a year of psychiatric assessments. He was looking forward to starting a new chapter until he discovered that testosterone supplies often ran short - an issue that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic - pushing him and other desperate trans men to seek risky, black market hormones. "These shortages mess with our sense of self," 29-year-old Stols told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in a phone interview…
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‘Second-class citizens’? Namibia rules against gay couples

‘Second-class citizens’? Namibia rules against gay couples

NYASHA FRANCIS NYAUNGWA NAMIBIA'S High Court ruled against two gay couples fighting for recognition of their marriages, with the judge saying she agreed with them but was bound by the nation's prohibition of same-sex relations. Like Namibia, many other African nations still ban same-sex liaisons, with couples risking jail and public scorn. Daniel Digashu and Johan Potgieter had married in South Africa, and Anette Seiler-Lilles and Anita Seiler-Lilles in Germany - but both couples now live in Namibia. Digashu, a South African, and German-born Anita Seiler-Lilles had applications for a work permit and residency denied respectively based on their same-sex…
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