Tag Archives: West Africa

Ghana Research | LGBT

The Ongoing Insecurity of LGBT Ghanaians


Source: Human Rights Watch/YouTube (January 2018)

A relatively stable constitutional democracy, Ghana has seen the beginnings of official outreach to its LGBT citizens in recent years as it has signed on to pro-LGBT international accords and treaties, but new research from Human Rights Watch (HRW) reveals ongoing persecution and gender-based vulnerabilities. Though rarely enforced, a law criminalizing same-sex relations that emerged from the country’s colonial legacy has led to the political and corporal endangerment of LGBT Ghanaians, exposing them to intimidation, violence, fears of public exposure, and little to no recourse to law enforcement protection. Lesbians, bisexual women, and trans men have faced especially high levels of violence and labor precarity, and anti–domestic violence laws have done little to protect them given the lack of trust in the legal system. In response, HRW conducted interviews with LGBT Ghanaians to track insecurity across a range of social, legal, and economic domains and issued a set of recommendations to improve protections for the community.

Study

‘No Choice but to Deny Who I Am’: Violence and Discrimination against LGBT People in Ghana” (Human Rights Watch | January 2018)

Read

‘One guy took a cutlass’: gay women at greater risk of violence in Ghana” (The Guardian | January 2018)

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Solace Initiative

Senegal Feature | Chinese

The Mutual Tensions of Chinese-Senegalese Relations in Senegal

At 2,000-strong, the population of Chinese immigrants in Senegal has become a visible presence in major urban areas like Dakar, though immigrants remain largely cloistered within enclaves. With commercial potential driving immigration into the country, Chinese people in Senegal have depended on an uneasy relationship with native Senegalese, a microcosm of a broader burgeoning relationship between China and African countries built on uncertain economic hopes. The New York Times profiles the Chinese community in Dakar and the state of Chinese-Senegalese relations in the country.

Read

Chinese Merchants Thrive in Senegal, Where People ‘Needed Stuff’” (The New York Times | May 2017)

(Image Credit: Sergey Ponomarev/The New York Times)

Mauritania News | Writers

Mauritanian clerics push for application of death penalty for blogger convicted of apostasy
  • Mohamed Ould Cheikh Ould Mkhaitir was convicted in 2014 over a blog post discussing Mauritania’s racial stratification and the history of racial discrimination in Islam.
  • The Forum of Imams and Ulemas recently issued a fatwa calling for Mkhaitir’s execution in line with absolutist laws regarding heresy in Islam.
  • If carried out, Mkhaitir’s execution would be the first in the country since 1987, prompting international human rights organizations including Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders to advocate for his pardon.

Read more:
Mauritanian clerics urge for blogger’s death penalty to be applied” (Reuters)
Millions of people rallied to the support of Raif Badawi – who will care for a poor young man in Mauritania?” (The Independent, August 2015)
Death Sentence in Mauritania for Islam ‘Insult’” (Reuters via The New York Times, December 2014)

Africa News | Africans

African Union prepares to launch common African passport
  • The A.U. is preparing to launch the e-Passport, a transnational passport opening up migration between the 54 constituent countries, at its upcoming summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
  • The e-Passport is expected to function similar to European Union citizenship, promoting mobility and increased economic integration across the African continent.
  • The passport will initially be available to heads of state and other diplomatic and foreign affairs representatives, with rollout to citizens expected to take place in 2018.

Read more:
African Union set to launch e-Passport at July Summit in Rwanda” (African Union press release)
The opposite of Brexit: African Union launches an all-Africa passport” (The Washington Post)
As EU fights over migrants, African Union takes steps to free movement of people” (CNBC)

International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

The International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia

Commemorating the day when homosexuality was de-pathologized by the World Health Organization in 1990, the 13th-annual International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia (IDAHOT) stands as an occasion for global mobilization towards LGBT visibility and security. The day, like many global celebrations, is also one many governments choose to speak out on global human rights and minority security, announcing initiatives to support their LGBT citizens and international projects.

Even today, ongoing disagreements between nations over LGBT rights have prompted diplomatic rows and roadblocks to international cooperation, including the recent objection of 51 Muslim countries to the participation of LGBT groups in a U.N. AIDS forum in June. The push to extinguish homophobia, transphobia, and biphobia at all geographic levels remains important to the global mobility of LGBT people worldwide.

Here are highlights from IDAHOT 2016:

Africa & the Middle East


Video Credit: Collectif Arc-en-Ciel

LGBT Nigerians have continued wrestling with conflicting legal messages, with the recent passage of the landmark HIV Anti-Discrimination Act doing little to undo the effects of a 2014 anti-homosexuality law.

While a moratorium on LGBT criminalization is officially in place in Malawi, individuals are subject to entrenched marginalization and stigmatization in healthcare services, with a national referendum on LGBT rights having stalled.

The Gay and Lesbians Association of Zimbabwe (GALZ) organized events for IDAHOT in Bulawayo, focusing on mental health as ongoing social and healthcare difficulties plague the community.

Though homosexuality remains criminalized in Tunisia, activists have achieved increased visibility and pushed for legal reform amidst ongoing discrimination.

Israel reaffirmed its commitment to LGBT Israelis, announcing funding to support an emergency shelter for LGBT youth and a hostel for trans people who have recently undergone gender confirmation surgery.

Days before IDAHOT, activists staged a sit-in outside of a Beirut gendarmerie, protesting Lebanon‘s anti-homosexuality legal holdovers from French occupation.  Similarly, the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH) issued an appeal to the Lebanese government to decriminalize same-sex relations, arguing for recognition of homosexuality’s presence within the natural variation of human sexuality.

The Americas


Video Credit: teleSUR

U.S. President Barack Obama released a statement of support as his administration lended its voice to a national debate over the bathroom rights of trans people.

In Canada, PM Justin Trudeau announced an anti-discrimination bill protecting trans security as advocates organized a demonstration for trans healthcare rights following the firebombing of a trans health clinic.

Across Latin America, important gains in same-sex partnership and family rights and gender identity healthcare and legal protections have heartened LGBT Latin Americans, but the region continues to have some of the highest reported rates of violence against the LGBT community in the world.

LGBT organizations held cultural and political events throughout Argentina to highlight conditions facing the Argentine LGBT community, call for an anti-discrimination law, and press for federal recognition of the International Day Against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination, as the day is known.

Cuba celebrated the day fresh off Pride events in Havana, where Mariela Castro, daughter of President Raúl Castro, led a parade of thousands through the city streets.

Asia Pacific


Video Credit: Out for Australia

As the country continues contentious battles including the push for marriage equality and erasure of “gay panic” legal defenses, rainbow flags and celebrations appeared across Australia, including over police stations in Canberra, in the streets of Brisbane, and in the senior-care facilities of Tasmania. In Victoria, officials announced a retreat for Aboriginal gender minorities to be held later in the year.

In China, a study conducted by the U.N. Development Programme, Peking University, and the Beijing LGBT Center, the largest of its kind to date, was released revealing that only 5% of LGBTI Chinese are fully out at school and work, but also showed encouraging levels of acceptance of LGBTI people among China’s youth. The head of Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission expressed support for anti-discrimination legislation at IDAHOT festivities in the city.

In Fiji, former President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau joined festivities at the French Ambassador’s residence to celebrate the island’s LGBTQI community.

Advocates took to op-ed columns in India to confront ongoing transphobia, reflect on gay representation in film, and highlight everyday homophobia in urban life.

A tug-of-war over LGBT rights between Islamic fundamentalists and pro-diversity moderates in Indonesia has led to mixed messages about LGBT security in the nation, spurring anti-discrimination protests.

A recent Human Rights Watch report on anti-LGBT bullying in Japan served as a reminder of the purpose of the day, highlighting rampant anti-LGBT sentiment even as the government has initiated broad efforts to combat bullying in schools.

Europe & Eurasia


Video Credit: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

The divergent prospects for LGBTI people across Europe, from Western Europe’s distinctive commitment to the protection of gender diversity to ongoing persecution in the East, was further confirmed through a UNESCO report highlighting anti-LGBT violence in schools released as global education ministers met in Paris.

Rainbow colors appeared in the shopping district of Cyprus‘s capital as 22 organizations came together to organize events to launch the country’s third Pride Festival, focusing on the need to increase legal recognition of both sexual and gender minorities in the country.

In Gibraltar, organizers canceled event plans in support of action on marriage equality legislation currently under consideration, arguing that holding a rally in front of the Parliament as uncertainty prevails would undermine pressure on MPs.

Kosovo‘s first Pride march brought out hundreds from the LGBT community to Pristina, including the U.S. and U.K. ambassadors.

Organizations in Luxembourg planned a silent march to call attention to the plight of LGBTI individuals worldwide and call for increased international protections (including asylum).

Organizers in Serbia took the day to announce the date of this year’s Pride parade (September 18) and address concerns of homophobia as right-wing parliamentary representation has increased.

Advocates, allies, and diplomats gathered around the rainbow flag raised at the US Embassy in Latvia.

On the island of Gozo in Malta, NGO leaders celebrated gender diversity in the country.

After advocates scrapped plans for IDAHOT activities in Georgia due to security concerns, a group of activists were arrested for painting pro-LGBT graffiti on administrative buildings. A “Family Day” protest against LGBT rights and visibility, the third such anti-LGBT demonstration, brought together members of Georgia’s conservative Orthodox community and international religious groups.

In the U.K., London’s new mayor promised to make the city a more just place for its LGBT residents as a rainbow flag flew over the Mayor’s Office.

(Image Credit: EPA, via The Straits Times)

Gambia News | Women Dissidents

Six women charged as Gambian authorities crack down on growing dissent
  • The six were among at least 25 arrested in Banjul for protesting the prosecution of some 45 members of the United Democratic Party (UDP).
  • As demonstrations have continued calling for electoral reforms, protests increased following the death of UDP leader Solo Sandeng in police custody.
  • Public demonstration is rare in Gambia, where President Yahya Jammeh has taken a zero tolerance approach to dissent since taking power in 1994.

Read more:
Gambia charges six women for protesting trial of opposition figures” (Reuters)
Fifty-five Gambia UDP opposition members arrested in government crackdown, says party executive” (Radio France Internationale)
Protests signal serious challenge to Gambia’s ‘billion-year’ president” (Global Voices via The Guardian)

(Image Credit: SEYLLOU/AFP/Getty Images, via The Guardian)

Guinea Research | Women & Girls

Female Genital Mutilation in Guinea

Despite political and social efforts to eliminate the practice, female genital mutilation (FGM) has continued unabated in Guinea. The West African country has actually seen support for the ritual increase in the last couple of decades, and the trans-ethnic prevalence of the procedure has made FGM rates in the country one of the highest in the world. The UN recently released a report on the current state of FGM in Guinea and the cultural difficulties in ending the practice, including anti-Western sentiment, social norms, and religious traditions.

96% (2005) vs. 97% (2012)

Percentage of Guinean women aged 15-49 subjected to FGM

96.8% (urban) vs. 97% (rural)

Percentage of women subjected to FGM by area of residence

92% (low-income) vs. 68% (higher-income)

Percentage of women subjected to FGM by socioeconomic status

69% (currently aged 20-24) vs. 61% (currently aged 45-49)

Percentage of women cut prior to the age of 10 (2012)

65% (1999) vs. 76% (2012)

Percentage of Guinean women who support FGM

Read:
Rapport sur les droits humains et la pratique des mutilations génitales féminines/excision en Guinée (UN Human Rights report, in French)
UN report reveals increasing incidents of female genital mutilation in Guinea, including on infants” (UN News Service)

Additional:
Fact sheet: Female genital mutilation (World Health Organization)

Cameroon Feature | Women & Children

The Weaponized Girls of Boko Haram

As Boko Haram’s successes in northeastern Nigeria have been rolled back, the extremist group’s attentions have turned elsewhere in the region, including neighboring Cameroon. Rare in other global terrorist activity, female suicide bombers between 14 and 24 years of age have formed the lion’s share of suicide attacks in Cameroon, comprising some 80% of incidents. Female suicide bombers have also been deployed in Nigeria, most recently in Maiduguri. Reuters investigates the pipeline from abduction to sexual slavery to suicide attacks that women captured by Boko Haram have found themselves caught up in.

Read:
Weakened Boko Haram sends girl bombers against Cameroon civilians” (Reuters)

Additional:
Video: The war against Boko Haram’s suicide bombers in Cameroon” (France24)
Nigeria mosque hit by Maiduguri suicide bombers” (BBC)

(Image Credit: Joe Penney/Reuters)

Burkina Faso News | Foreigners

Al-Qaeda–linked militants kill more than two dozen in attack on Burkina Faso capital
  • At least 28 were killed when Islamist extremists launched an attack at the Cappuccino cafe and the Splendid Hotel, popular with UN staff and foreign visitors in the capital city of Ouagadougou.
  • At least 18 nationalities were identified among the victims, including Burkinabe, Canadian, French, Swiss, Dutch, and American citizens.
  • Of the 176 hostages freed by security forces, at least 56 were injured in the violence.

Read more:
Burkina Faso attack: Foreigners killed at luxury hotel” (BBC)
Burkina Faso hotel attack: 18 nationalities among dead” (The Guardian)
Six Canadians killed in Burkina Faso attack, PM Trudeau says” (Reuters)

(Image Credit: AP, via BBC)

Nigeria News | Women

Lagos state bans out-of-court settlement for sexual and domestic violence cases
  • The Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team announced that cases of rape, defilement, and violence against women would no longer be able to be settled out of court.
  • The team coordinator met with tribal leaders to discuss ways of effective intervention when women come to them for advice on how to handle such cases.
  • Officials have been trying to reroute cases from traditional settlement to judicial settlement through state legal structures.

Read the full story at the Daily Trust.

Mali News | Fulani Muslims

Fulani Malians face vulnerability to radicalization as marginalization and Islamist conflict persist
  • Spread throughout West and Central Africa, the semi-nomadic ethnic Fulani are being targeted in Mali by Islamist groups like the Massina Liberation Front (MLF).
  • The MLF have carried out targeted assassinations of critics as violence has spread from Mali’s desert north to its more populous southern cities.
  • Observers worry that the spread of Islamist sympathy amongst the Fulani following reports of targeted violence by the military could regionalize the current conflict.

“We see Fulanis as very marginalized in Mali, even from their own leaders. … They are forming a rebellion.”

Read the full story at Reuters.

Sierra Leone News | Women

Sierra Leone backs women’s rights treaty, but faces uphill road to eradicating female genital mutilation
  • The country has become the latest to ratify the Maputo Protocol, which establishes political commitment to women’s rights issues such as violence against women, child and forced marriage, and female genital mutilation (FGM).
  • Rights organizations expect Sierra Leone’s ratification to bind it to criminalizing FGM.
  • With nine in ten girls cut across the country, the practice has continued through the support of traditionalist groups, though the government began levying fines against practitioners as its Ebola crisis spread.

“The FGM crackdown needs to reach out to people on the ground and women in villages across the country, and a government-led outreach program may be required. Sierra Leone must take a blanket approach to include politicians, health workers and communities, and even consider how to involve the cutters in the discussions to eliminate the practice.”

Read the full story by the Thomson Reuters Foundation at Reuters.

Nigeria News | Muslims & Christians

Boko Haram attacks on mosque, church, and other city spaces in central Nigeria bring death total to more than 250 over the last week
  • A suicide bomber killed at least five when she entered a crowded Christian church in Jos, followed soon by two bombs exploding at a mosque and restaurant that killed 44 people.
  • Boko Haram agents also returned to villages in the northeast, going on a rampage leading to villagers’ deaths, burning churches, and destroyed homes.
  • The attacks come as the Islamic State, to which Boko Haram has expressed allegiance, has called for mayhem during the month of Ramadan.

Read the full story at the Guardian.

Tensions increase between West African pastoralists and the nations they migrate through as conflict alters movement routes
  • As threats from Boko Haram alter their routes from the Sahel to coastal countries, nomadic Fulani and Tuareg herders find their practices in conflict with farmers and environmentalists in Ghana.
  • The pastoralists contribute to deforestation and other forms of land disruption as they clear areas for their livestock to graze, disrupting agricultural economic activity and increasing farmer insecurity.
  • Environmental officials propose designating land for herders and educating them in sustainable land-management practices and economic diversification will be necessary to prevent long-term environmental destruction and secure long-term livelihoods for the nomadic communities.

“They move because their environment is not good for them and their animals. What do you do if you have hundreds of cattle and have nothing to feed them?”

Read the full story at the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

(Image Credit: Esam Omran Al-Fetori/Reuters)

The African Union works to tackle continent-wide child marriage problem at its latest summit in Johannesburg
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, two in five girls are married off before adulthood, with the highest rate in Niger, where three in four are.
  • The AU plan requires the criminalization of child marriage and the development of prevention strategies.
  • The practice has held the continent back from reaching six of the eight Millennium Development Goals, including education and public health targets.

“It’s unacceptable that a continent as rich as Africa – with oil and diamonds, and with coltan that is found in everyone’s phone – can leave its people so poor that they feel they have no choice but to marry off their daughters.”

More on this story at Reuters.