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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Gay couple imprisoned in Malawi pardoned and freed

Under pressure, Malawi's leader pardons gay couple

By RAPHAEL TENTHANI, Associated Press Writer – Sat May 29, 7:37 pm ET


BLANTYRE, Malawi – Malawi's president on Saturday pardoned a gaycouple who had been sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered their release but insisted that homosexuality was still illegal in his conservative southern African nation.

President Bingu wa Mutharika announced the pardon on "humanitariangrounds only" during a press conference with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Lilongwe, the capital.

"These boys committed a crime against our culture, against our religion, and against our laws," Mutharika said. "However, as head of state, I hereby pardon them and therefore order their immediate release without any conditions."

But he added, "We don't condone marriages of this nature. It's unheard of in Malawi and it's illegal."

Malawi had faced international condemnation for the conviction and harsh sentencing of Tiwonge Chimbalanga and Steven Monjeza, who were arrested in December, a day after celebrating their engagement.

After the pardon, activists were searching for a safe house for the couple, fearing they could be attacked upon release.

Ban praised Mutharika's decision but said "laws that criminalize sexuality should be repealed."

In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs also praised the move, urging an end to "the persecution and criminalization" ofsexual orientation and gender identity.

Earlier this week, the top U.N. AIDS official and the head of an international donor organization met with Mutharika and expressed concern that criminalizing homosexuality would keep a vulnerable group from seeking AIDS treatment.

Joseph Amon of Human Rights Watch said the president was responding to the international outcry.

"I hope that other leaders of African countries with anti-gay laws see that this is just not acceptable in the international community," Amon told The Associated Press by telephone from New York.

Malawi is among 37 African countries with anti-gay laws.

In Senegal, police have rounded up men suspected of being homosexual and beaten them, and a mob last year pulled the corpse of a gay man from his grave, spat on it and dumped it at the home of his elderly parents.

In Zimbabwe this month, two employees of a gay organization spent six days in jail on allegations of possessing indecent material and insulting President Robert Mugabe, an outspoken critic of homosexuality.

In Uganda, a proposed law would impose the death penalty for some gays.

Even in South Africa, the only African country that recognizes gay rights, lesbians have been gang-raped.

In Malawi, a judge convicted and sentenced Chimbalanga and Monjeza earlier this month on charges of unnatural acts and gross indecency under colonial-era laws. Crowds of Malawians had heckled the two during court hearings, with some saying that 14 years at hard labor — the harshest possible sentence — was not long enough.

Undule Mwakasungure, a gay rights activist in Malawi, told The AP on Saturday that he was concerned about the men's safety and was working with other activists to find a safe house for them or help them temporarily leave the country.

"There is homophobic sentiment. I think they might be harmed," Mwakasungure said.

Edi Phiri, who fled from Malawi to Britain five years ago after being beaten because he was gay, said the two might need to seek asylum outside of Malawi.

"They will be out of prison, but what will happen next?" Phiri said. "The community will see them as outcasts. I don't think they will be safe in Malawi."

Maxwell Manda said his brother-in-law Chimbalanga was pleased by the ruling and told the AP earlier that Chimbalanga wanted to leave Malawi upon his release.

"He has been down all week because he was separated from his partner. He is happy now," Manda said.

Chimbalanga had been held at a Blantyre prison, while Monjeza was sent to an institution 50 miles (90 kilometers) away. Prison officials said the separation was a security measure.

The activists hoped the presidential pardon would help their efforts to overturn Malawi's anti-gay laws and attitudes.

"The public needs to appreciate that the world is changing," Mwakasungure said. "It won't be easy ... we're not talking about changing the law today or tomorrow. But we have to start the process."

Even though the pardon was immediate, a prison spokesman told The AP they had not received notification to release the two men by Saturday afternoon.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Jamaica's Ongoing crisis

I'm really not sure what I should say as it regards all of this upsurge of violence. I was quite annoyed and upset in the beginning following the disclosure by PM Bruce Golding that he 'sanctioned' the hiring of Manatt, Phelps and Phillips (MPP) law firm in his capacity as Leader of the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) (that admission can be found here). This resulted in many areas of society calling for his resignation. Many Jamaican's here and in the diaspora found that the PM had 'misled' the population, taking us for 'poppy-shows' (fools).

The irony of the PM's admission was that in 2006 he made it his duty to point out that a minister of government cannot separate his position in the government from his political party position.
        
                "we can't just jump out of one skin and jump into another. And we have to understand that given the nature of our political system, when we act as a minister to whatever extent, we carry party responsibilities, that you are not going to be able to simply separate them, that the one is going to impact on the other, especially when what you are seeking to do in the one capacity is contingent on the constitutional powers that you have in the other capacity. Cannot be separated".

As the saying goes "cock mouth kill cock" [watch your mouth it can get you in trouble] its so true and relevant to what has transpired. 

Following his admission on May 13th, PM Golding addressed the nation. Many persons however refused to accept his apology and called it a carefully crafted speech designed to be politically correct and to appeal to the people. In that address he announced that the extradition request for Christopher 'Dudus' Coke (the man at the heart of this all) would be signed. It left the people with more questions than answers among which: why the sudden change in position? 

One week after PM announced that the request would be signed he once addressed the nation regarding the limited state of emergency that had been declared in Kingston and St. Andrew. With the all out assault on Tivoli Gardens by the security forces (police and Jamaica Defence Force) there have been bloodshed on both sides (security forces and gunmen). 

This has brought to the fore the discussions that all these garrison communities that exist and are allowed to flourish need to be dismantled. The political support they receive is disturbing- the company which Mr Coke is a shareholder has accumulated over $100 million in government contracts, over $70 million less than a year after the JLP assumed power (news article here). Therefore with these funding no wonder these 'dons' are able to provide the basic social necessities for their communities (food, education, shelter, clothing, jobs) which the state should have been providing. Because of this, these don's have then effectively assumed power and authority within these communities. 

                                       (Jamaica Observer Cartoon May 20, 2010)

How will the government tackle this ugly crime monster that has been allowed to fester for all these years? It is no longer a matter of party politics we're all Jamaican's and this is our country. IT IS TIME THAT WE THE PEOPLE OF JAMAICA TAKE BACK JAMAICA. 

                                          (Jamaica Observer Cartoon May 25, 2010)

We cannot however do it on our own this requires divine intervention. I'm well aware that some persons who read this blog aren't Christians but whatever religion or beliefs you adhere to please put Jamaica in your prayers, or thoughts or positive energy, what ever you call it. 

For us Christians, as strong as we may feel we are we are but dust and only human. We by ourselves are not strong enough to bring about this change. I then ask that we all pray, for the safety of all Jamaicans, for peace, for the restoration of the nation. 

Below are links to news articles describing the situation in Jamaica up to the time of this post.

Attack On State - Police Stations Set Ablaze Cop Shot, Civilian Slain
Soldier killed
Tivoli Bangarang

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Another Anti-Gay Christian Leader Caught With Male Prostitute

I don't rejoice when a really straight man or woman goes the bisexual or gay route against their natural nature but when a 'straight' person who condemns gays and bisexuals and does everything in their power to make life miserable and uncomfortable for persons of the community and then contracts with gay sex workers then it really should be highlighted. This story is developing so it's subject to correction. Then again he may truly be straight, or more straight than gay or bi (since sexuality is fluid) and just needs restoration. If he's gay or bisexual the possibility of him accepting it is what??? What ever is the truth, I do pray for him.










Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Is this the follow up to the Walk for Tolerance?

A fellow blogger posted on the recent Silent Protest -Jamaica's Participation in IDAHO- After the march, what next? .. A Stand of Silence. And it is a really good question. Is this Silent protest a follow up to the Walk for Tolerance that occurred in April? Some within the community may say yes, but as the organiser for this IDAHO event was JFLAG (Jamaica Forum for Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays) the official answer may well be no. We can all remember the still recent Walk for Tolerance in Montego Bay - if you don't you can read it here- which almost completely blew up in the face of the organisers, as it was perceived by many onlookers and the media as a walk for gay rights.

The question then is; since the Walk for Tolerance was not a gay march nor a march for gay rights and since the Stand of Silence was for the advocacy of gay rights and freedoms as human rights, why is it that more LGBTI people were not aware of this event? How many of the allies actually knew? This could have been a much better supported even had more in the community knewt. It seems like it was a selective process. If they want to argue that they didn't want certain behaviour being showcased what happens to those of us who participate in so many other events, those who can conduct ourselves within the relevant circumstances? The discussions and the likes, and for persons like myself who are part of the church? It's like a slap in the face.

Just like how political parties show how united they are in face of so much crisis, why can't this community show that amount of unity and we -in my opinion- don't even face half the crisis being faced by political parties. It shows us up as fragmented, splintered and when that is the case the voice isn't strong. Isn't it better to have one loud voice coming over loudspeakers, than several small, weak voices coming over computer speakers and using a computer microphone?

Despite all of this though there must have been a reason God allowed what happened to have happened and though I am disappointed and ranting I can try to understand.

Below is a short video of the event.



Links to other articles I've written regarding this event:
Pictures from the Jamaica IDAHO Event
JFLAG Press Release
Jamaica's Participation in IDAHO

I do trust that this will be my last post on Jamaica IDAHO event but as it has not yet been picked up by the media, nor as I have been able to speak with participants in the event -my not having time- such a thought may be wishful.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pictures from the Jamaica IDAHO event

The following are pictures from the IDAHO protest here in Jamaica.  


































So poorly attended but done none-the-less, blog post on my thoughts here



The following was a press release issued by Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals & Gays

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Time to Break the Silence on rights for GLBT Jamaicans
Kingston --- May 17, 2010



The International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) is observed annually on May 17th and celebrates the removal of homosexuality by the World Health Organisation (WHO) from its list of mental illnesses in 2006 which put an end to over a
century of homophobia in the medical field. It also marked a major milestone in the recognition of the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. In Jamaica, the day was observed with a half an hour ‘Stand Against Silence’ outside the Emancipation Park. Approximately 30 persons converged on the location, some with their mouths covered, depicting the theme ‘Break the Silence! End the Fear.’ 

According to Jason MacFarlane Programme Manager of Jamaica Forum of Lesbians Allsexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), ‘As Jamaicans we remain un-emancipated as long as there are laws which criminalize the private intimate acts of consenting adults. J-FLAG organized today’s event to increase awareness about the reality of homophobia that is faced by members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Jamaica as a result of these laws. It is time for the silence to be broken and for the change makers to have some frank conversations. The simple and clear message that we are sending is that homophobia is damaging the lives of many of us Jamaican citizens and there is no rational basis for this homophobia.’ 

Yvonne Sobers of Families Against State Terrorism (FAST) was outspoken in her support. "Gays and lesbians have rights as human beings and as Jamaicans. An African proverb says, 'If the fire of the law dies here and burns there, it is not operating properly.' If we remain silent while some have their rights infringed, we cannot expect equal rights when we need systems to work for us. We benefit most if we ensure that the fire burns brightly for everyone, and that the state operates properly by respecting the rights we all (without exception) have as human beings."

In keeping with the bold words on his placard “Stop the Hate Before Too Late”, Maurice Tomlinson of AIDS Free World reiterated his organization’s stance on the position “The irrational hatred and fear of gays drives this vulnerable population underground away from effective HIV prevention interventions. The result is that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has become entrenched in Jamaica, representing a direct threat to the health of the entire Jamaican community. This is one of the reasons why we have willingly cosponsored this event.”

Another co sponsor of the event was UNAIDS which was represented at the Stand by Jamaica’s Country Coordinator, Pierre Somse. Dr. Somse proudly displayed his placard ‘Privacy is Everyone’s Right’ echoing the call made internationally by his boss Michel Sibide , “UNAIDS believes in the fundamental rights of the human beings and sees how catastrophic a situation is created when those rights are taken away. We are committed to working with Governments to ensure that the rights of all, inclusive of the rights of gay, lesbian and transgender persons are protected….” See UNAIDS Press Release attached.

Maria Carla Gullotta, Coordinator of the Jamaican group of Amnesty International, said “Amnesty International Jamaica is in full support of human rights for LGBT people because each one of us is 100% entitled to have the same rights and same dignity. We urge Jamaica to re-think what has become such an acceptable discriminating choice. There will not be any possibility to have a better world until all citizens have the same rights.

President of the European Union Missions, Ambassador Jesus Silva, offered support to J-FLAG in its demands for a policy of human rights that includes the non-discrimination for reasons of gender or sexual orientation. Speaking on behalf of Belgium, France, Germany, United Kingdom and Spain, Silva reiterated such a position as being “one of the priorities that inspire the policies and relations of the European Union.” (See letter attached)

Andrea Chin See, Board Member of Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL) revealed “Homophobia is fueling the HIV pandemic and complicating our efforts to stop the spread of HIV. If it does not stop, HIV will be here with us for an even longer time.”

Others supporting the call to end homophobia included journalists, representatives from Jamaicans For Justice, the Caribbean Vulnerable Communities Coalition (CVC), Women for Women, The Jamaica Network of Seropositives, Eve for Life, Sex Work Association of Jamaica, Jamaica Red Cross, Sunshine Cathedral/Metropolitan Community Churches, Independent Jamaica Council on Human Rights and the Civil Society Forum of Jamaica.

Other placards read:
‘Teach us True Respect for All’
‘Give Us Vision Lest We Perish’
‘Human Rights for All’
Separate Church and Hate’
‘Out of Many One People’
‘Equal Rights and Justice’
‘Straight but Not Narrow Minded’
‘One Love Jamaica’
‘Repeal Sections 76, 77 and 79’
‘Live and Let Love’
‘Gay or Straight, Let’s All Tolerate’
‘God is Love’

Contact:
Jason McFarlane
Tel: (876) 978-8988 (o) (876) 844-9366 (m)
P.O. Box 1152, Kingston 8, Jamaica
admin@jflag.org


----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Editorial note the letter from the UNAIDS press release can be found here (click) while the letter from the President of EU Missions can be found here (click)

Though I am happy that there was an event I'm also disappointed that more people from the community were not participants (click here)


Monday, May 17, 2010

Jamaica's participation in IDAHO


This is good news and I'm glad that an event did happen on this day. My dissatisfaction is that not many people were aware of it. I wasn't aware until a fellow blogger mentioned the possibility of it, and then further confirmation from a blog by a fellow blogger. Because not many in the community were aware the possibility of a greater turn out would not have been possible. I can understand that this may have been low key so as to prevent violence or other undesirable effects. For that reason I will not make too much 'noise' about it. 

Again it was good to see that Jamaica participated in IDAHO through means of a protest. Once again we have the media using sensationalism in reporting its article with the headline 'Gay protest at Emancipation Park'. The article on the event can be see at the Observer website through the link below.

Gay protest at Emancipation Park
-
Breaking & Current Jamaica News
- JamaicaObserver.com



Tek Care
Alexis

Thursday, May 13, 2010

International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia

May 17th is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia; there will be various activities in various places across the world (including global kiss-in see below) The purpose is the tackling of Homophobia and Transphobia across the world.

Wouldn't it be nice that next year Jamaica will be one of those countries participating in this day no matter how small scale the activities?

_________________________________________

The GREAT GLOBAL IDAHO KISS-IN stretches across the world

This year, IDAHO will be marked by Kiss-in events organised in several cities around the world in a global celebration of love ! Features of these events, and messages from people around the world, will be edited into a global video for MAY 17th.
You can be part of it !
Record a  video of you with your partner and/or friends featuring friendly kisses in a creative way. Put these videos on Youtube or other video shareware and share them with kissin@idahomophobia.org or go directly to our special sitewww.gays.com/idaho
French speakers can also go to our partner YAgg.com ’s website to upload their video and watch kiss-in events videos for inspiration !
Organisations wishing to join in and create an event in their city should consult thefrequently-asked-questions or write to contact@idahomophobia.org


Monday, May 3, 2010

Labels




Communication between a butch and I in a mobile chat room sometime ago:
(semi-Jamaican creole the complete English is below)

user: "every butch to a fem and every fem to a butch"
me: "why yuh seh dat?"
user:"cause wen all di fen den gone to fem wah unu lef di butch dem fi do? butch to butch! bullet!

lol. I almost always hear a butch say butch to butch wrong afta mi a noh batty man! now now, homophobes within our own lesbian community, not that there isn't lesbophobe from the men.

But come on people, the same phobia and discrimination we fighting from wider society is the same thing we fighting within our own community the place that should be our safe place. Its sad to see it.

I'm without label and I guess a staunch butch-fem person would have a prob with me. But underneath all the clothing whether its butch clothing or fem clothing, there is a woman don't it? Isn't lesbianism woman loving woman? Why the labels?

I don't care if its two (or more) fems, butches, tom bois, no-labels, or the other labels out there. A lesbian is a lesbian all this bun fire and bullet is nonsense that divides a community that should unite so as to be stronger from attack we are under from the outside, instead we seem to have the attack from both within and without.


English version:

Communication between a butch and I in a mobile chat room sometime ago:

user: "every butch (stud) to a femme and likewise every femme to a butch
me: "why do you say that?"
user: "because when all of the femmes get in relationships with each other, what do the femmes leave the butches to do, have relationships with each other? Gunshot! That's wrong"



I almost always hear butches (studs) saying that it is wrong for butches to date each other for then that would make them gay/homosexuals. Why is there homophobia within the lesbian community? Mind you I am aware of lesbophobia from the guys.

Come on people, the phobia and discrimination that we're fighting from the wider society is that same thing that we have to be fighting within our community which should be our safe place. It's sad.

I'm without label and I guess a staunch butch-femme person would have a problem with me. But underneath all the clothing whether its butch clothing or femme clothing, there is a woman, isn't there? Isn't lesbianism woman loving woman? Why the labels?

It isn't my place to bother with the business of others; if it's two (or more(though I believe in monogamy)) femmes, butches, tom bois, no-labels, or the other labels out there. A lesbian is a lesbian, this violence (figuratively or otherwise) is nonsense that divides a community that should unite so as to be stronger from the attack we are under from the outside, instead we seem to have the attack from both within and without.


Is the US promoting and exporting Homophobia?

They say the US is promoting and exporting homosexuality but in light of this Ugandan Bill which may have been influenced by right-wing US Christians, couldn't it also be said that the US is exporting and promoting homophobia?


Walking on the Other Side: Three voices from Jamaica's Gay Community (3...




Walking on the Other Side: Three voices from Jamaica's Gay Community (2 ...




Walking on the Other Side: Three voices from Jamaica's Gay Community (1...




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