When hate becomes law…

Africa has become a horribly more intolerant place for the LGBTI community. In less than two months, Nigeria and Uganda have legislated hate and intolerance. In the few days since the laws were passed, angry mobs have besieged and killed suspected gay men in both countries. An anti-gay lobby has become more vocal in the Kenyan legislature and is threatening to enact a similar law there. Here in Zimbabwe, GALZ is back in court defending it’s existence in a trial that should never have gone forward. The High Court of Zimbabwe has already ruled that GALZ does not have to register as a Private Voluntary Organisation. This case is a waste of the courts’ time and money. Incidents of harassment by both police and citizens are on the increase up and down the continent.

I was going to talk about how disappointed I am by the South African government’s silence on the issue. They have instead chosen to release a statement condemning the treatment of LGBTI people worldwide, failing to name and shame a single country. That speaks of the cowardice of Zuma’s government and makes it harder for South Africa to stand on the moral high ground when it comes to human rights in Africa and beyond. The ‘West’ rather has rallied against Nigeria and Uganda and have threatened to pull development aid from Uganda. While this step reminds Africa’s governments that they are being watched and will be held accountable for anti-human rights moves, it could also backfire. The last thing African governments want is to be told what to do, especially by the ‘West’. Threatening aid cuts only emboldens them. They know they can turn to China easily; Chinese investment does not come with restrictions or the need to uphold human rights.

I don’t know what needs to be done to address the issue if hate becoming law. Except to say that legislating morality should be a no-go area, especially when it relates to consenting adults. If governments are willing to look into my bedroom and legislate what I can and cannot do, how long will it be before they look into yours.

Update: Dr Paul Semugoma

It looks like Paul will be released by the end of the day to be reunited with his loved ones in Johannesburg. According to the reports I’ve read, Paul has applied for asylum in South Africa and as such his continued detention at the OR Tambo International Airport is no longer warranted. The team that had gathered at the courts to protest his detention has confirmed that they are going to the airport to ensure and celebrate his release. The campaign to free him seems to have worked. This was a campaign spearheaded by local activists, with the international community following their lead. This is how campaigns should be run from now on!

This is definitely good news, but I wonder how many more LGBTI Africans have been deported by the South African government back to countries where their safety cannot be guaranteed? The world needs to keep watching.

South Africa, get it right please! Free Dr Paul Semugoma

I’ve written about how South Africa has been disappointing Africa’s LGBTI community by remaining silent on the discriminatory laws being passed all over the continent. Now, they have detained and are ready to deport Dr Paul Semugoma back to Uganda where he will undoubtedly face harassment and detention for being a vociferous opponent of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. He is also an activist and specialist on health rights for MSM. His deportation would be a loss for South Africa and it’s fight against HIV especially in the MSM community. This is strange move for a country that talks the talk when it comes to human rights. It is, however, consistent with the country’s shoddy and inconsistent record when it comes to LGBTI rights. My prayers and thoughts are with Paul and his partner Brian and everyone on the ground in Johannesburg who is actively fighting this deplorable action. If you want to help in some way, I urge you to sign the petition here and spread the word! This is an ongoing story and will continue being updated.

Love is all around…

It’s Valentine’s day again and to some that may be a bad thing, and to others it’s one of the most special days of the year. I’m one of those people who doesn’t celebrate the day. Not because I don’t have anyone to celebrate it with, but because I can’t publicly express my love. This year, this day has come as laws against same-sex love have been enacted or tightened in many African to include punishments as harsh as death. There seems to be no country on the continent that’s taking a stand for Africa’s LGBTI community. Even South Africa, the shining beacon of hope for all of us, is deafeningly silent. The world’s attention seems to be directed at Russia, where discriminatory laws were passed on the eve of the Winter Olympics. To this black African gay man, it feels a bit like the world doesn’t care what happens to us. It feels like only discrimination against white gays in Europe is the only discrimination that matters. People are dying here too. People are being arrested here too. People are being kicked out of their homes and thrown onto the streets. Access to health care is restricted and substandard. I could go on. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll wish one and all a happy Valentine’s day.

Three letters

This post is inspired by and dedicated to a friend who has been recently diagnosed with HIV. I feel his pain, his anger, his confusion and his strength. I vow to stand with him in what ever way he needs me to. It’s also the first poem I’ve ever shared like this, so be kind… SB this is for you.

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Three letters

A death sentence
Nothing can be the same again
Denial, anger, blame
Anything but acceptance
Acceptance would mean dealing with mortality and the truth about the fluids we share during sex
Acceptance would mean acknowledging the fragility of our human bodies and the fleeting nature of our existence
Denial allows us to go on living a normal life until our bodies begin to outwardly show the scars of the battle within
Three letters

A fight for survival
It’s amazing how three letters can change the course of your life
How your body can become a battleground
Every cell for itself!
Every cell fighting against an enemy so deceptive, it hides in plain sight
An enemy that snuck in during a moment of careless abandon
An enemy that could have been held back by a thin latex sheath
But in those wanton moments of ecstasy, the last thing you wanted was to stop and reach for the rubber
Instead you let that hard pulsating spear penetrate you and leave a scar that will never heal

Three letters can turn your sexual past into a map of betrayal and accusation
Three letters will turn each orgasmic moan into screams of shame
Three letters can turn every dick you sensually stroked into weapons of your destruction
Three letters turn your normal life into a life of doctors and tests and pills
Three letters and your sex life becomes a carefully orchestrated routine of disclosure and negotiation

Three letters that now define you
Three letters that turn you into a statistic, a cliché, a tick in a box on the endless array of forms that run our lives
Three letters that turn you into a tool for the global machine built to combat the disease
A machine that now gorges itself on donations and government subsidies
Three letters and your choices are now dictated by memos and reports from faceless agencies a world away
They tell you what to eat
They tell you what pills to take and when to take them
They tell you what’s safe for you to do
They tell you what sex you can or cannot have

Three letters
H I V
Three letters that I refuse to become me
Three letters that I do not blame anyone, including myself, for making a part of my story

Three letters
I acknowledge them
I accept them

And I shall live

And I shall love