Sex talk and Indian classes

say it, girl, or whatever

Now that Section 377 is in the dustbin, Indian college campuses are hearing a chorus of voices speaking out about sexuality — a “silent revolution,” says this account, and one that doesn’t seem silent at all:

[W]ith the decriminalization of homosexuality by the Delhi High Court, young students are now more confident than ever and talking about sexuality openly and utilizing all available media to reach out en masse. “I chose to write about it in my blog because I could reach out to more people at a go instead of telling them one by one, and also if it was there in black and white, it would prove that it wasn’t just another gossip or rumour, since rumours in my college campus were created every hour,” says Deepak.

You’ve got to figure in a bit of Foucauldian wonder at all the talkativeness of it, and the sheer compulsion to speak that powers all this talk:

Apart from being a support group for queer students, these groups also realize that if things need to change in the society, society at large has to be educated on matters relating to alternate sexuality. “Our secondary aim is to build a positive environment and sensitize the student community. People should not be very afraid to come out. They should be more confident. They never talk… the silence is the problem and with Saathi [a queer group at the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay] we aim to get them talking,” says Nivvedan.

It was with this aim that Saathi addressed freshers during the induction program at IIT Bombay. Apart from an introduction about Saathi, the address also clarified that homosexuality is nothing unnatural. The impact of the address can be gauged when Nivvedan tells, “Some of the freshmen posted in our mailing list saying ‘Thank you so much you have helped me. Just knowing that I am not alone and there are a lot of people around to help me is emotionally very reassuring.’”

Ardhek Akash also tries to engage the students of Presidency [Presidency College, Kolkata] through regular talk shows. The group invited Rituparno Ghosh and other actors of the movie Aarekti Premer Golpo, which was an acclaimed Bengali movie about a jatra artist and dealt with same-sex love. The whole cast and crew, along with Chapal Bhaduri – the jatra artist on whom the movie was based – answered questions fielded by students. Next the group invited noted lawyer Aditya Bondyopadhyay, who has been a key figure in the case involving Sec 377, to talk about his experiences and the misuse of Sec 377. The group has also invited a male-to-female transgender to talk about transgender issues.

And if you start with the personal giving voice to itself, it doesn’t instantly feel comfortable with the political:

A very remarkable thing about these student initiatives is that they very clearly state themselves to be non-political, away from the politics of sexuality. “Queer Campus [a Delhi-based independent queer student and youth collective] is a very personal space and not political. It is a celebratory space where you can just come in, share stories and develop friendships,” says Rahul.

But the politics will come. As Foucault knew, talking is always political, even more so the less politics is the subject. The talk just needs, in the process of talking to itself, to become self-aware. It also needs to become aware of its privilege — the particular situation that educated Indians occupy in relation to the rest of society, and how that affects their freedom to say, to experience, and to be.

Maybe the most remarkable thing, though,  is the immediate effect that a judicial decision, a simple change in the dry letters of the law code, can have: all the babbling variety of voices that technical, arcane, and dust-encrusted verbiage can let loose. The trickle-down effect is from the specific and elite discourse to the general, from the language of the law to the language of human beings. Let’s see if it trickles down still further, out of the colleges. Let it roll.

The lines harden

Atta Mills: Not in my back yard

The Ghana News Agency reports more consequences of the UK move. Recalcitrant leaders now see the benefits of carving their homophobia in stone:

Accra, Nov. 2, GNA – President John Evans Atta Mills on Wednesday stated categorically that he as the Head of State he will not support any attempt to flourish homosexuality in Ghana.

“I as president of this nation I will never initiate or support any attempt to legalise homosexuality in Ghana.

“As government we will abide by the principles as contained in our Constitution, which is supreme.”

President Mills stated the government’s position on issues of homosexuality in an interaction with journalists at the Osu castle in Accra.

British Prime Minister David Cameron following the Commonwealth heads of state meeting in Perth, Australia threatened a cut in the flow of development assistance if African countries did not relax or reform their laws to favour homosexuality.

He was said to have mentioned particularly Ghana and Uganda for maintaining strict laws against homosexuality.

President Mills acknowledged the development assistance from the United Kingdom to Ghana, but said the country would not accept any aid with strings attached if that aid would not inure to Ghana’s interest or would rather worsen the plight or destroy the people whose lives the money was supposed to improve.

Growing pains: More on British aid

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg with the Queen

Kirk Cameron, the former child star and British Prime Minister, has threatened developing countries with dire consequences if they do not eliminate the sodomy laws that his distant ancestor Alan Thicke brought in his hand baggage on Qantas. Trapped in a loveless civil union with coalition partner and former rapper Marky Mark, Cameron made the move to bolster falling poll ratings among key fans. Possible sanctions include plagues of boils, locusts, and frogs, conversion of first-born children to child stars, and massive increases in agricultural development aid that would reduce the entire population to starvation. “These countries don’t want to be left behind,” Cameron said, referring to the popular series in which twelve contestants from all walks of life, stranded on a remote island in an exotic location after the Rapture, compete in tests of skill to keep God from throwing them into eternal damnation. “British aid should have more strings attached, in terms of do you persecute people for their faith or their Christianity, or do you persecute people for their sexuality.”

No. No. This is all wrong. It’s late; my mind isn’t working. Former child star David Cameron is the current British Prime Minister. Kirk Cameron, current child star and former Prime Minister, lives in Moldova, where he eats children in his converted castle on the Transylvanian border.

The silliness and posturing over Cameron I’s proclamation that he will tie overseas aid to LGBT rights issues has started. It is risible indeed, but it’s no laughing matter to the people whose rights will be affected.  An advisor to Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni told the BBC that Cameron had a “bullying mentality”:

“Uganda is, if you remember, a sovereign state and we are tired of being given these lectures by people … If they must take their money, so be it.  … But this kind of ex-colonial mentality of saying: ‘You do this or I withdraw my aid’ will definitely make people extremely uncomfortable with being treated like children.”

The main political consequence? Repressive leaders and regressive initiatives now have a new excuse to couch themselves as anti-colonial assertions of independence. In Nigeria, where a new bill to restrict LGBT people’s rights is moving forward, a news source reports:

One of the backers of the same sex prohibition ban … told that “Britain’s Prime Minister Cameron still think [sic] we are under his colonial rule. Let him keep his financial aid  and same sex agenda. Nonsense. He wants to run our country for us?”

And in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe’s supporters are wielding Cameron’s comments to undercut opposition leader (and Prime Minister) Morgan Tsvangirai, who recently voiced support for including sexual orientation protections in a new Constitution.

“It is possible that Morgan Tsvangirai could have been told by whites in the UK that part of their support to him would include him publicly supporting issues to do with gay rights in Zimbabwe. That could be the threat he was issued by the British and we all know that Tsvangirai has never been his own man,” said Mr Alexander Kanengoni [an author and former Mugabe propagandist who was allotted a farm in the violent land reforms ten years ago]. …

Zanu-PF spokesperson Cde Rugare Gumbo said it was clear that the British were pushing Mr Tsvangirai to support gay rights in Zimbabwe.  “There is a clear link between what Cameron said and what Tsvangirai is now advocating, and it is not surprising. They (MDC-T) [Tsvangirai’s party] are sponsored by the British and the West and they have to toe the line. Failure to do so would cost them British support,” he said.

It’s still not clear what Cameron’s initiative means in practice. When the UK cut back on aid to Malawi in July, after months of bluster about human rights, the reductions were limited to general budget support — a form of assistance that allows governments maximum flexibility in allocating the funds, “to deliver their own national strategies for poverty reduction against an agreed set of targets.”  Money shifted to other channels, and the overall donation figure didn’t change. But the scope of what will happen matters less than the publicity, which makes LGBT people’s human rights look like neocolonial meddling.  As a coalition of African activists wrote last week, their movements have

been working through a number of strategies to entrench LGBTI issues into broader  civil society issues, to shift the same-sex sexuality discourse from the morality debate to a human rights debate, and to build relationships with governments for greater protection of LGBTI people. These objectives cannot be met when donor countries threaten to withhold aid.

Meanwhile, Peter Tatchell has stormed into the fray, with a press release warning that

“The British government is wrong to threaten to cut aid to developing countries that abuse human rights. … Cuts in aid would penalise the poorest, most vulnerable people. Many are dependent on aid for basic needs like food, clean water, health care and education … Instead of cutting aid, Britain and other donor countries should divert their aid money from human rights abusing governments and redirect it to grassroots, community-based humanitarian projects that respect human rights and do not discriminate in their service provision.”

“I stand in solidarity” with the African activists’ statement, he proclaims. This is a welcome move. Tatchell, of course, has a long record of supporting aid conditionality. In a US speech in 2008, he said:

“We must urge the US State Department to make foreign aid and trade conditional on the recipient countries agreeing to respect human rights, including the human rights of LGBT people. Tyrannies should not be rewarded: No US aid for anti-gay regimes.”

And during the controversy in 2010 around a Malawi couple’s brutal imprisonment under a sodomy law (during which Tatchell’s self-publicizing made his white, British visage the possibly uncongenial face of homosexuality over a large swath of Africa), he urged cutting UK assistance: “If [diplomatic negotiation] fails the UK should reconsider its aid and trade agreements with Malawi. There can be no blank cheque for countries that violate human rights.”  But even mountains move: usually after an earthquake that brings down houses on their inhabitants.

However, redirecting aid “to grassroots, community-based humanitarian projects,” as Tatchell demands,  has its own problems. Such redirection is one of the strategies African activists urge on governments in their letter, but is hardly plausible for the full aid package. Some rights and needs — “food, clean water, health care and education” — are arguably the state’s proper business. To saddle NGOs with responsibility for the water supply is not much different from privatizing it: turning something that should be a general good over to particular, and perhaps partial, hands. And while civil society in some places has played important roles in providing health care and schooling the young, treaties and international law still make these core tasks of governing. There is no reason to think that NGOs, without the resources and experience of a state, can do an adequate job on their own. Redirection by itself echoes the neoliberal solutions of the 80s and 90s, practiced at home by Thatcher and Reagan and enforced abroad by the IMF and World Bank. Governments sloughed off responsibilities for their peoples’ welfare; civil society was told to pick up the slack. Advocates who had pushed for improved state action necessarily transformed themselves into exhausted, overburdened service providers. The poor, sick, uneducated and disenfranchised got more so.

Nor is it certain that rights-based and non-discriminatory service providers will be the ones to take advantage when aid to governments, and consequent state capacities, dwindle. It’s a truism that the growth of political Islamism in the post-70s Middle East came in the wake of lender-promoted government retrenchment. As welfare and services shrank, movements flush with Gulf oil money moved in to provide what the state once had, in older days. In the process, they built networks of gratitude, dependency, and political support.   In parts of sub-Saharan Africa, education is already as much the province of Christian churches as of the government. It would not much benefit LGBT people to promote policies to make it even more so.

All this means simply that the politics of aid are unsimple: complicated, full of unpredictable consequences, and fraught with both political and ethical concerns They are not susceptible to simplifying rhetoric. But rhetoric almost childlike in its simplicity is what the UK government is offering the domestic constituencies it strains to entice. Talk about growing pains! — but while British policy struggles to grow up, the pains will be felt in other, distant corners of the globe.

My foot is possessed by a spirit lesbian

Linda Harvey, not fully inflated

Linda Harvey, conservative talk-radio star and inflatable sex doll sold in shops across the country, except for Mississippi where she is prohibited by law, has warned of the danger posed to small children by health care workers who “proclaim a homosexual lifestyle.”

“Let’s say your 11-year-old has broken her leg rather badly and needs to be in the hospital a few days. Which would you prefer – a nurse who’s proud of her lesbianism, who has rainbow identifiers on her work clothing, or a nurse who does not?” …  She said parents should consider writing a letter to the pediatrician saying that if a child must be hospitalized, then he/she will not be treated by gay workers. “For routine in-hospital care where contact with your child would be required,” she continued, “your values should be respected.”

A broken leg is notoriously one of those cracks in the body where demon homosexual spirits can enter. The surest protection is to seal all your child’s real or potential orifices with dried-up oatmeal and Superglue (Superglue is also illegal in Mississippi).   Rainbow identifiers are devil stigmata, and the sharp pins used to attach them can also open up new skin portals for the spirits to come in. A child with a broken leg can thus end up with her limb possessed by a health care worker’s lesbianism. The child may wake from a coma to find her leg attempting to penetrate a vagina.  (We saw this on Marcus Welby in 1972.).

Just think, then, how much worse it could be if your boy child were in the hospital with a broken penis!

Linda Harvey, fully pumped

Linda Harvey plays Chair and Inflatable Cushion on the advocacy thriller Mission: Impossible, a regular series (Thursdays at 10 on Fox) in which, after receiving messages from the country’s last remaining 8-track tape, conservative fighters don rubber masks to render them indistinguishable from Barney Frank, and infiltrate Satanic child-murdering circles and the US Congress. Mission: Impossible offers information you will not see on Fox News, even.  As its website says,

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…” (Hosea 4:6 KJV) Mission:America is dedicated to bringing the truth to America, covering trends in the culture omitted by the mainstream media. In the midst of darkness, there is still great hope… in salvation through Jesus Christ.

Addressing me directly, along with my nurse and my personal trainer, the website emotes,

NOTE: If you have come here from a “gay” blog,and you consider yourself a fair person, please take every accusation with a great deal of skepticism. Virtually none of it is true.

We are not the “Klan.” we are not racists, we don’t “hate” homosexuals. We simply object to homosexuality, the behavior, which is unnecessary. And we spend a lot of time on this site pointing out why this is so ( if you care to read and be fair).

We don’t blame the mortgage crisis on homosexually-behaving people (someone does NOT know how to read); we don’t wish the death penalty on homosexuals (sigh!); we don’t believe all homosexuals are child molesters; and we don’t wish for kids who are sadly drawn into homosexual or “transgendered” behaviors to be bullied! …

And uninformed speculations about my personal life (Linda Harvey) are uncalled for and frankly, fall into the category of ad hominem attacks born out of desperation. None of these people know me, and I don’t know them (nor do I care to). It’s strange what people will do. I have an actually very full and wonderful personal life. God has greatly blessed me, and I am grateful every day.

But none of us has time to debate with people who just don’t care to read first and get the facts. Propaganda is an enemy to us all, and the truly intelligent person will read something other than shallow, vicious “gay” blogs.

I am not responsible for the mortgage crisis!  Other homosexuals are. Homosexuality is rightly called “unnecessary,” which is why I have sold mine on Craigslist to reduce my carbon footprint. And I like that sigh — or “(sigh!)”  But one has to be careful. Breathing with your mouth open, particularly in the presence of people wearing rainbow identifiers, allows the demon lesbian spirits to enter. Please mix 2 cups of Quaker Oats with 110 mg of Superglue, and begin eating. (Do not attempt in Mississippi.)

Nigeria: No marriage here, move along please

I was for it because I was against it: Nigeria's Senate President David Mark

A Nigerian Senate committee held hearings Monday on the “Same Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill.” This product of moral panic would provide criminal penalties for engaging in, solemnizing, or “aiding and abetting” a same-sex marriage — all quite unnecessary, since Nigeria’s colonial-era sodomy law already penalizes homosexual conduct sternly.

Nigeria’s politics often have a slightly mad quality. The hearing was no exception, since some participants seemed to have no idea what the bill was about, believing they were there to oppose a proposal for same-sex marriage, not support a ban against it. The Catholic Church mobilized in this addled fashion; Catholic Women of Nigeria (CWON) claimed it sent women from “36 states of the federation” who “converged in Abuja to march to the assembly.”

Speaking in a telephone interview, the CWON’s national president, Mrs. Felicia Onyaibo, said the women will this morning match to the National Assembly to hand in a letter of protest to the Senate President, David Mark, condemning the initiative, and urge him to discard such bill, as it is not in the interest of the nation and dignity of marriage.

“We are also extending invitation to the male counterparts to support us in this protest. They can join us in the protest today so that we can help fight this ill initiative, which is aimed at destroying marriage values and its dignity,” she said.

Other news stories lent credit to the same notion. But no one has offered a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in Nigeria; no one in Nigeria has suggested it. Imaginative Christian soldiers, these souls are girding their loins and going off to war against a figment, a fiction, a ghost.  As a statement by bill opponents explained a month ago,

We as human rights defenders are aware that not a single gay group has asked for the right to marry. Our advocacy is not directed at that.  We are advocating for tolerance and respect for everyone irrespective of his or her sex, gender, age, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation and gender identity, etc.

The spectral ability of same-sex marriage to induce a panic even in the absence of anyone proposing it has been repeatedly shown worldwide, and is worth deeper consideration. In this case, the bill would be largely a symbolic insult to the same-sex loving population, but one with practical ramifications — a bullying threat to public activism, and an affirmation that they have no place in Nigeria’s diverse array of communities and cultures.

Meanwhile, at Monday’s meeting of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights and Legal Matters, opponents of the bill were given only two slots to speak, while proponents (that is, opponents of non-existent same-sex marriage) were given many more. The Senate President appeared at the hearing and “openly rejected the proposal for same sex marriage in the country,” which nobody proposed:

“It is incomprehensible to contemplate on same sex marriage. I cannot understand it. I cannot be a party to it. There are enough men and women to marry each other. The whole idea is the importation of foreign culture, but this one would be a freedom too many. We cannot allow our tradition and value system eroded.

“It is offensive. It is repugnant. I will preach against it and we must stand up to reject same sex marriages in Nigeria. I do not think any religion support this. I don’t know where this whole idea of same sex marriage comes from.”

The Daily Times notes that the “senate president’s disposition on the bill is a strong indication of its fate. It suggests that the bill, which has failed at two consecutive sessions in the House of Representatives, may finally be passed into law by the Senate.”  But the paper adds, “the little population of public homosexuals in Nigeria – with help from the international community – have been able to put up a strong resistance to the promulgation of any law directly against the act [of same-sex marriage].”

Aside from the question of international help, of which there’s been not so much, this is true. Activists in Nigeria managed to quash the early bill in 2006 -7 essentially on their own, by organizing, appearing at hearings, and speaking out when everybody believed they would be too intimidated to appear or to raise their voices. Courage to them as they face the same ruckus and rhodomontade for another round.

African activists on human rights and aid

Credit: Daniel Berhane,

This statement, released this week, is worth reproducing in full:

Statement Of African Social Justice Activists On The Threats Of The British Government To “Cut Aid” To African Countries That Violate The Rights Of LGBTI People In Africa


We, the undersigned African social justice activists, working to advance societies that affirm peoples’ differences, choice and agency throughout Africa, express the following concerns about the use of aid conditionality as an incentive for increasing the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the continent.

It was widely reported, earlier this month, that the British Government has threatened to cut aid to governments of “countries that persecute homosexuals” unless they stop punishing people in same-sex relationships. These threats follow similar decisions that have been taken by a number of other donor countries against countries such as Uganda and Malawi.  While the intention may well be to protect the rights of LGBTI people on the continent, the decision to cut aid disregards the role of the LGBTI and broader social justice movement on the continent and creates the real risk of a serious backlash against LGBTI people.

A vibrant social justice movement within African civil society is working to ensure the visibility of – and enjoyment of rights by – LGBTI people. This movement is made up of people from all walks of life, both identifying and non-identifying as part of the LGBTI community. It has been working through a number of strategies to entrench LGBTI issues into broader civil society issues, to shift the same-sex sexuality discourse from the morality debate to a human rights debate, and to build relationships with governments for greater protection of LGBTI people. These objectives cannot be met when donor countries threaten to withhold aid.

The imposition of donor sanctions may be one way of seeking to improve the human rights situation in a country but does not, in and of itself, result in the improved protection of the rights of LGBTI people. Donor sanctions are by their nature coercive and reinforce the disproportionate power dynamics between donor countries and recipients. They are often based on assumptions about African sexualities and the needs of African LGBTI people. They disregard the agency of African civil society movements and political leadership. They also tend, as has been evidenced in Malawi, to exacerbate the environment of intolerance in which political leadership scapegoat LGBTI people for donor sanctions in an attempt to retain and reinforce national state sovereignty.

Further, the sanctions sustain the divide between the LGBTI and the broader civil society movement. In a context of general human rights violations, where women are almost as vulnerable as LGBTI people, or where health and food security are not guaranteed for anyone, singling out LGBTI issues emphasizes the idea that LGBTI rights are special rights and hierarchically more important than other rights. It also supports the commonly held notion that homosexuality is ‘unAfrican’ and a western-sponsored ‘idea’ and that countries like the UK will only act when ‘their interests’ have been threatened.

An effective response to the violations of the rights of LBGTI people has to be more nuanced than the mere imposition of donor sanctions. The history of colonialism and sexuality cannot be overlooked when seeking solutions to this issue. The colonial legacy of the British Empire in the form of laws that criminalize same-sex sex continues to serve as the legal foundation for the persecution of LGBTI people throughout the Commonwealth. In seeking solutions to the multi-faceted violations facing LGBTI people across Africa, old approaches and ways of engaging our continent have to be stopped. New ways of engaging that have the protection of human rights at their core have to recognize the importance of consulting the affected.

Furthermore, aid cuts also affect LGBTI people. Aid received from donor countries is often used to fund education, health and broader development. LGBTI people are part of the social fabric, and thus part of the population that benefit from the funding. A cut in aid will have an impact on everyone, and more so on the populations that are already vulnerable and whose access to health and other services are already limited, such as LGBTI people.,

To adequately address the human rights of LGBTI people in Africa, the undersigned social justice activists call on the British government to:
·        Review its decision to cut aid to countries that do not protect LGBTI rights
·        Expand its aid to community based and lead LGBTI programmes aimed at fostering dialogue and tolerance.
·        Support national and regional human rights mechanisms to ensure the inclusiveness of LGBTI issues in their protective and promotional mandates
·       Support the entrenchment of LGBTI issues into broader social justice issues through the financing of community lead and nationally owned projects.

Read the ist of signatories — 53 organizations and 86 individual activists across Africa — here.

There is some controversy over exactly what the British government actually said. Paul Canning of the chronically inaccurate blog LGBT Asylum News notes, accurately, that the story originated when the Daily Mail — a right-wing, anti-everything rag — took a general Foreign Office statement on linking aid to human rights, and spun it to stress the LGBT angle. But Canning’s attempts to minimize the shift ignore the fact that David Cameron has prominently emphasized the linkage in recent days. Just this weekend Cameron told the BBC:

“Britain is now one of the premier aid givers in the world. We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights, and that includes how people treat gay and lesbian people … British aid should have more strings attached, in terms of do you persecute people for their faith or their Christianity, or do you persecute people for their sexuality. We don’t think that’s acceptable.”

It’s hard not to conclude that this move is about domestic politics, not rights. The Daily Mail, piously endorsing the gay-rights cause (which it fought for years) used the emanations from the Foreign Office to further its anti-foreign-aid agenda — opining the government acted because “deeply rattled by the ferocious public opposition to its decision to increase overseas aid by more than one third while deep cuts are made in other areas.” (The UK has announced a 35% increase in overseas aid by 2013, in an effort to bring it up to the level of 0.7% of GDP recommended by a UN General Assembly resolution as long ago as 1970.) But there’s probably truth to this. Proclaiming loudly that he’s tying strings to aid gives Cameron some protection from the xenophobic fanatics on his own side of the political aisle. (Half of Tory MPs apparently want Britain to leave the EU; their attitude toward Malawi or Uganda can hardly be imagined.) If one of those strings is rainbow-colored, it also helps him with the gay vote.  The Tories have been making a pitch for those ballots recently, with the PM publicly endorsing gay marriage.  With the ruling coalition’s policies deeply unpopular, the Tories’ core support among foxhunters and Colonel Blimps needs a rejuvenating jolt from a new constituency.

In other words, as the activists’ letter says, the UK’s internal politics are dictating the lives and determining the safety of LGBT communities in other countries. An Indian blogger comments:

There is another more urgent and specific problem with the UK government policy – and that is the manner in which it denies the possibility that there might be local movements, dialogues and activisms around sexuality and homophobia. … At one level it places the concern for sexuality rights outside the given country, and at another, it disavows the significance and strategies of local activists and movements that are engaged in the project of actualising citizenship.

While the rise of sexuality on the development and rights agenda, is a welcome development, to be truly progressive western forces might do better by supporting Queer movements in the global south, learning from them, and recognising the specificities of Queer struggles.


Zimbabwe: “True leadership remains steadfast”

In a statement, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) has responded to Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s tentative embrace of constitutional protections for sexual orientation. While welcoming the comments, they

note however that these statements contradict his views expressed in March 2010, when Mr Tsvangirai agreed with President Mugabe, saying, “Gay rights were not up for discussion in Zimbabwe.”

Gay rights are a controversial issue in Zimbabwe, where many people view homosexuality as “uncultural.” GALZ does not expect every individual Zimbabwean to embrace gay rights or the issue of homosexuality. But we do expect Zimbabweans – and our political leaders in particular – to understand and promote the fundamental, inalienable and indivisible nature of human rights, including non-discrimination on the basis of race, gender, tribe, culture, sexual orientation or political affiliation.

Zimbabwe’s new, democratic constitution must enshrine these human rights, which are inherent to every human being, and are not determined by majority opinion.

We encourage the Prime Minister to take positive action to support his most recent statement on the indivisibility of human rights.

Further, we urge him to have the courage to stand by his laudable respect for human rights in the face of the propaganda and unpopularity that will be generated by the Zimbabwean media around his position.

True leadership remains steadfast in the pursuit of justice and equality.

The propaganda has begun.  Today Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister, a staunch apparatchik of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, accused Tsvangirai of shifting to secure donor funds: 

“”We all know what people said about gay rights – it’s a total no; an almost 100% no … We can’t smuggle [into the constitution] the views of a prime minister who wants to please a certain audience basically, I suppose, to mobilise resources for his party.”

Change in Zimbabwe

Happily never after: Mugabe and Tsvangirai









Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s opposition leader and prime minister under a tense power-sharing agreement, tells the BBC he supports including protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation in a new Constitution:

“It’s a very controversial subject in my part of the world. My attitude is that I hope the constitution will come out with freedom of sexual orientation, for as long as it does not interfere with anybody, … To me, it’s a human right,” he said.

In March 2010, Mr Tsvangirai said gay rights was not up for discussion in Zimbabwe. “I totally agree with the president,” he said at the time.

A new constitution will be drafted over the coming year, and submitted to a referendum ahead of the 2012 elections, which most expect to be close and violent.

Tsvangirai once asked, “Women make up 52% of the population … there are more women than men, so why should men be proposing to men?” Today, his spokesman told the AFP that the prime minister

still believes that the issue of homosexuality is alien in Africa … However, he is a social democrat. What he was saying is that ordinary people’s rights must be respected as long as they do their things in private.

Tsvangirai’s change of heart, however qualified, sets up a test in next year’s vote: whether Mugabe’s tried and true exploitation of homophobia, which he’ll surely haul out yet again, still works in Zimbabwe. Tsvangirai’s comments also mark a general shift in attitudes affecting many African countries. Zimbabwe’s Guardian newspaper notes,

Tsvangirai’s U-turn comes after Botswana’s former President Festus Mogae told the BBC last week that his country should decriminalise homosexuality and prostitution to prevent the spread of HIV. Mogae, who heads the Botswana government-backed Aids Council, said it was difficult to promote safe sex when the two practices were illegal.

An abdication

Nikolai Alexeyev, the manic, anti-Semitic leader of six attempts to organize a Moscow Pride, announced his resignation in an odd e-mail broadside two days ago:

Dear friends, today on 21 October 2011, one year anniversary of the European Court of Human Rights verdict in the case of illegality of Moscow Pride bans I decided to resign from the positions of the head of Russian LGBT Human Rights Project GayRussia.Ru and head of Moscow Pride Organizing Committee. From midnight 21 October 2011 in Moscow and up to the decision on the new leadership Project GayRussia.Ru will be headed by Nikolay Baev and Moscow Pride Organizing Committee by Alexander Naumchik. Earlier I wrote a big text with the explanations on why I took this decision but I finally decided not to publish it. I wish success to everyone! I did all I could! Do it better!

A number of things are striking about this, but none more than the precision about the exact instant of the transfer of power; as though all the followers of Project and Moscow Pride Organizing Committee (there are around three) were bound by blood and oath to obey any ukase from Alexeyev until 11:59:59 (“Immolate yourselves! Bomb the Kremlin!  Give 100 rubles to the babushka who cleans the stairs”), but after that were tied by unbreakable allegiance to any orders from Baev or Naumchik (“Immolate Alexeyev!  Give 100 rubles to the Kremlin! Bomb the babushka who cleans the stairs”). It would seem that  Alexeyev wanted to keep the power to launch the missiles until the last possible moment, in case his manifold enemies misbehaved, after which Naumchik and Baev could place their fingers on the fated button. It’s all remniscent of the ceremonials surrounding the death or abdication of a tsar (the king may die, but as we all know, the king never dies), or the formalities that accompanied the end of the Soviet Union on December 25, 1991: in the transit of a second-hand, Gorbachev gave way to Yeltsin, the USSR to Russia, autocracy to plutocracy, the same to the same, and the rest. This perhaps suggests how Alexeyev imagines himself: as a grand player in a world where his two or three followers are magnified to hundreds of millions, shifted from flag to flag in the course of a great geopolitical game.

The greatest strength of the LGBT rights movement vis-a-vis our opponents may be that we are in fact all crazy, hence impervious to any opposition. But at the same time, because we are all crazy and therefore unable to distinguish motion from stasis, in the strict sense we don’t really have a movement at all.

Kasha Jacqueline, human rights defender

Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a lesbian activist from Uganda and one of the founders of FARUG (Freedom and Roam Uganda), is the receipient of the 2011 Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders. She accepted the award on Thursday in Geneva, and here (after the usual preliminaries at the beginning of the video) is her speech.