Friday, June 06, 2008

Uganda News

This story certainly won't find its way onto the Cat's Got Their Tongue site, since (a) it's news and (b) it wasn't written by the Episcopal Church.

I note it here. I am especially moved by the story I just now posted. While we're at it, I am reminded of those African primates who say there are no gay/lesbian people in Africa, that it's a Western depravity. And, of course, we remember the Gambian leader's warning that he will behead any gay/lesbian people found within his country.

With the strides we have made in the U.S., it is all too easy to forget that people are being jailed and even killed in other countries.

Reading this story, I am reminded that in most of the world, HIV/AIDS is spreading primarily from "heterosexual" men. In Africa and America, women are dying because they get AIDS from their "straight" partner. Um-hmmmm ...

But in Uganda, gay/lesbian people are arrested simply for urging attention to HIV/AIDS.

Read this story. Then ask yourself, your deputies, and your bishop: Exactly what kind of "listening process" is Uganda engaging???

Lord, have mercy.


From allAfrica.com

LGBT Arrested at International HIV/AIDS Meeting
International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (New York)
PRESS RELEASE
5 June 2008
Posted to the web 5 June 2008


Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) today condemned the arrests of three Ugandan LGBT activists and called for their immediate and unconditional release. The three -- Onziema Patience, (an FTM transgender, 28), Valentine Kalende (female, age 27) and Auf (male, age 26) -- were arrested yesterday morning by the Uganda Police Force at the 2008 HIV/AIDS Implementers' Meeting currently taking place in Kampala, Uganda.

Along with other LGBT and HIV and AIDS activists, they were peacefully protesting statements made by a Ugandan government official that no funds would be directed toward HIV programs targeting men who have sex with men. SMUG and IGLHRC have fears for the safety of the three activists.

On 2 May, 2008, Kihumuro Apuuli, Director General of the Uganda AIDS Commission, stated that, "gays are one of the drivers of HIV in Uganda, but because of meagre resources we cannot direct our programmes at them at this time." The SMUG activists staged a peaceful protest at the HIV Implementers meeting to protest the Minister's statements and gross neglect on the part of the Ugandan government in responding to a growing HIV epidemic among the country's LGBT community. They were arrested and detained at the Jinja Road Police Station immediately after taking the stage at the meeting, distributing leaflets and holding up small placards demanding attention to HIV vulnerability among LGBT.

"Today I realized how dangerous it is for us LGBTI people to express our constitutional rights," said Frank Mugisha, Co-Chairperson of SMUG. "I am worried about my comrades who are in police custody."

According to a recent report by the University of Nairobi and the Population Council, gay men in neighboring Kenya have a sero prevalence rate of 26%. Twenty-six years since the beginning of the epidemic, Uganda hasn't implemented a single program to prevent transmission of HIV among men who have sex with men in the East African nation.

"The remarks made by the head of the AIDS Commission were very disturbing to members of the LGBT community," said Kasha Jacqueline, Chairperson of Freedom and Roam Uganda, a lesbian organization in Uganda. "If they want us to die, let them ask themselves if they wish themselves the same. Excluding us is just going to make the situation worse."

The HIV Implementer's Meeting is an annual event described as an opportunity for HIV program implementers to share lessons learned and best practices in the scale-up of HIV/AIDS programs. It is co-sponsored by the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), UNAIDS, the World Bank, the Global Fund, UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS (GNP+). IGLHRC is also requesting that the co-sponsors of the Implementers' Meeting contact the Ugandan Government to demand the release of these activists.

"Gay men and lesbians are not 'drivers of disease'," said Paula Ettelbrick, Executive Director of IGLHRC. "Homophobia drives HIV. Silence drives HIV."

In November 2004, the Ugandan government fined a local broadcaster, Radio Simba for airing a program that discussed anti-gay discrimination and the need for HIV/AIDS services for lesbians and gay men. The government claimed that Radio Simba had violated federal law promoting broadcasting that is contrary to "public morality."

Copyright © 2008 International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).

2 Comments:

Blogger Laura Toepfer said...

I've been in Uganda now for almost three months. I saw this story as well, which was front page news in the daily paper.

There was another difficult story about a week ago about a traditional healer named Lady Suzanna who avoided being admitted to hospital for meningitis because she knew the staff would discover she was transgendered (called transvestite in the article). Crowds of gawkers came to look at her. (I'm sorry I can't find a reference to this article online so I hope I have the details correct.)

And of course there was an article today reporting that Archbishop Orombi had stated that "pro-gay" bishops should apologize.

It seems that there is a story in the paper almost every day that belies the suggestion that homosexuality is a pernicious foreign curse while trying to make it so. I could go on and on but will try to be brief.

I bought a book here as part of my own listening process entitled "Same Gender Unions: A Critical Analysis" which is car-crash fascinating. The distance in perspective between myself and the authors of this book is so vast, I don't even know where to start. I did take some grain of hope in the sometimes suggested recognition that there actually ARE people who have same-sex orientation, that it's not just something people are making up, but that understanding comes and goes. Mostly it is viewed as a learned behavior (from Arab traders, boarding schools, parental abuse, etc. The old story), an addiction, and a plot.

One of the unspoken stories of the Uganda Martyrs, whose feast was Tuesday, was that the Kabaka reportedly often used his pages for sex and part of their martyrdom was based on their refusal to have sex with him. It seems to me this gets all mangled and mixed in with their faith and with a local understanding that homosexual relationships are not based on love, trust and mutual respect. Certainly, the newspaper articles on the topic didn't seem to identify these differences.

What I sense in my admittedly brief stay is a society trying desperately to keep the lid on. Things are happening fast because too much is available from the West in the form of popular culture to pretend homosexuality doesn't exist. It is not going to work, but I'm afraid--let's be honest, I KNOW a lot of people are going to get hurt while the fearful try to nail that box shut.

6/06/2008 4:05 PM  
Blogger Lisa Fox said...

Thanks -- profound thanks -- for telling these stories and sharing your witness. I hope you won't mind that I've pulled your comments up onto my "front page." These stories need telling.

And I'm awed by your service in Uganda. My prayers for your safety and peace.

Lisa

6/06/2008 9:31 PM  

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