People will always yell about human rights about all kinds of emerging issues –until the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, and Queer are mentioned then its pandemonium with those for or against not shy with their opinions.
The LGBTQ group often faces discrimination by society is an open secret and the onus has been on them to try and give a voice to the issues they are facing on various platforms.
While celebrating the International day against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia yesterday 17th May 2021, the Taboo media gave a platform to the LGBTQ community to tell their stories about discrimination among other issues they face.
Titled Hopes and Dreams That Sound Like Yours: Stories of Queer Activism in Sub-Saharan Africa, the series brought to the fore members of the community from various countries who shared their activism in various countries. Below are a few of them
Nigerian Timiebi Ebitibituwa; The power of Why
According to Timiebi Ebitibituwa, as a millennial growing up in Western Nigeria, words like diversity, tolerance and human rights were never part of the daily conversation. She was told people from different tribes were shady and that her religion was supreme. There was never much discussion about treating others with dignity and respect.
“We were expected to observe, assimilate and replicate how ‘people like us’ behaved. Don’t ask why, tow the line, you’ll be fine ……unless you are different. Unless you’re queer,” she revealed
Blindly following existing attitudes is precisely how homophobia, transphobia, and violence against LGBTQI+ people seep from one generation to another and Timiebi only realized this when she moved to the UK in 2010.
“Living in a society where questions are encouraged opened my eyes. I was free to ask ‘why’ without someone accusing me of rebelling against my culture or undermining some sacred belief,” she said
“Asking questions is a clever way to speak up for what you believe in and stand up for people whose questions often go answered,” she added
Homophobia is very rampant in Nigeria and the Nigeria 2014 Same-sex marriage (Prohibition) Act became law does not help matters any as it bans marriage, sex between same persons, or even register to join any society linked to the LGBTQ community. Basically, the law gives society freedom to discriminate against the group, culminating in violence and anti-queer attacks. Timiebi, who is straight has vowed to continue using the social platforms to advocate for the rights of the community.
Shabani Gady from DRC
On his part, Shabani Gady of the Democratic Republic of Congo narrates the tribulations of the community with a case in point being one time in 2019 when a crowd of about 1000 people burned tyres outside Bukavu city hall to protest against the LGBTQ. The rallying call of the protest by a pastor bearing a megaphone was, “go into their homes and burn them down. The pastor had been advocating for the removal of gays and lesbians from the country through his preaching and radio shows.
“Our human rights are violated every day. We face arbitrary arrest for illegitimate offenses, rejection from our families and society, discrimination in employment and education, inadequate healthcare, so-called ‘corrective’ rape, and other forms of violence,” he said
“The dangers we face are so extreme that many LGBTI people are scared to leave wherever they call home. For some, home is five people living in a tiny room, forced to survive after being shunned by their families or bigoted landlords,” he added
Congo does not have any laws against LGBTI .
- Dzoe Ahmad from Zimbabawe TREAT programmes Coordinator
Dzoe Ahmad, a transgender man from Zimbabwe starts with a quote: Our bodies are not designed by craftsmen. They reflect how we feel. They affirm our individuality.
Born in Esigondini Zimbawabe where drunkards murder each other to steal gold, there was much poverty and hardship He couldn’t leave the town fast enough and soon found himself in Bulwayo-the second largest town in Zimbabwe. In the town, he was introduced to the Trans Research Education Advocacy & Training (TREAT) a transgender rights group that works to prevent human rights violations across Zimbabwe
“There I met people like me, my trans sisters. They didn’t apologize or make excuses for who they were. They were living their truths, I was shocked to see such freedom in Zimbabwe. I broke into tears of joy but truly emotions were mixed. My president, my community, my country had always told me that LGBTI people are worse than pigs and dogs,” he said of his experience
Now as a coordinator at TREAT, he empowers human rights defenders to improve legislative framework and non-discriminatory environments for the community in southern Africa.
Additionally, the transgender community struggles against the issue of inaccessibility of expensive hormones from Botswana, and with Covid restrictions this was amplified, and in place of the thriving man he was becoming was just a thin girl again leading to a plummeting self-esteem
“Sitting alone at home, watching my body change against my will, I learned the power of self–worth and self-love. No matter how I look, Iam a trans woman and Iam worthy of love. That’s my ‘pillow’ of strength I learned to find happiness in my current situation rather than dwelling on a dwindling past that would hurt my present.”
Nandini Tanya Lallmon Mauritius #Reform 53
In January 2020 the campaign video of the #Reform 53 group was played at the New Zealand High Commission in London urging lawmakers to decriminalize same-sex relationships, workplace discrimination, and increase political participation for LGBT people. Later the group met lawmakers, diplomats, and faith leaders from across the commonwealth to push for governments to reform discriminatory laws. However, but after Covid restrictions hit in March and international travel came to a halt, #53 has had to rely on the internet.
Nandini now works with LGBT Mauritius to use local courts in promoting the enforcement of equal rights laws and provisions that are guaranteed in the country’s constitution.
“We quickly shifted our activities to the digital space, creating and sharing short films that underline the need for legal reforms that protect women and LGBT people. More than 60000 people have watched our films on social media and another 150000 have engaged with our webinar series. Social media has lit up with supporters sharing selfies that show our campaigns logo drawn on their hands to emphasize our demand for legal reforms,” said Nandini.
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