#ComingOutStories 2: Lollitah and self acceptance

I am Lollitah…

Having been brought up in a strict Christian background I have always refuted me being Queer to my parents, my peers and even to myself…

But I recall one day, an acquaintance of mine told my folks, and for some reasons my refuting fell on deaf ears. My folks pinned me down by curfews and punishments, until I gave up somehow, and in tears and fear I told them.

It took me a lot of courage, but I must say, I felt like a big load had been taken off my shoulders, as I had finally accepted myself by saying it out loud… I faced a lot of rejection,mockery, betrayal (but that’s a story for another day).

Yet, I have never regretted coming out, because it really did help me value me and finally say yes to my sexual orientation not worrying about judgements in the house.

Ever since then, I have also been able to come out to five straight friends; some are supportive, others are homophobic, but either way, I am finally happy to be myself and to learn that it all starts with self acceptance…

Lollitah
Kenya

 

#ComingOutStories 1: “Some call it coming out, I call it self-affirmation”

“He looks good, she isn’t bad either” … The little straight nose, red smiling lips, wide gleaming eyes, straight hair; expressions of awe, mischief, startled… Like the slipping sands in one’s hand, memories of childhood fade with the passing time. Yet, looking back, trying to catch-up on those sweet-sour memories, the little parts of one’s existence and identity; brings in new meanings each passing day. Those are the flashbacks of a queer person, remembering the pre-schooling moments; where sexuality, queerness, definitions of sexual orientation were still much alien; yet the sexual, physical and psychological needs and desires being ever so oozing. Who could have ever imagined sexuality being so carefree, affirmative and strong at such age? Perhaps Freud; Freud Sigmund if you are still reflecting, with plausible explanations of what he would best describe as the “Id”.

Growing up with the “Id”, the pre-pubescent years, the eyes dangling between the most popular and smart girl in class to the next seater male classmate; then moving to an all-male high-school and taking cognisance of your obviously visible “un-manly” differences to others and your secret same-sex crushes and in one’s idea, “lovers”; showing emotions of appreciation and love despite the abuses, humiliations, mockery for being different; for being queer – even from your heartthrobs and eye candies. They knew you were Queer, Gay, Fag, Pansy; without you ever understanding their hate towards your true feelings and desires. Life had its share of sadism for someone who did not quite know who they were except being the madly-in-love-fools.

As life goes, I come to realise my identities, accept myself and accept that Queerness which makes me so special yet so vulnerable at times. Some would call the acceptance as Coming Out. I would call it simply an expression of self-acceptance, self-love, self-affirmation; because my story is no shame; because my past shapes my reality and because bringing forth the strength and courage to be myself enables me to command respect and move forward in life overcoming the hate and spreading the tolerance, acceptance and love.

T.E.
Mauritius

Politics and LGBTQ people of Morocco: When politically sponsored hate-speech threatens Moroccan’s sexual and gender minorities.

Is it the trend in Morocco for LGBTQ+ people to be the punching bag of politicians? Last year, after the scandalous statement made by the Moroccan Human Rights Minister, Dr. Mustapha Ramid in 2017 tagging LGBTQ+ people as “scums” in a response to a journalist’s question; former Prime Minister of Morocco, Abdelilah Benkirane has recently made frivolous and threatening statements and call for actions against the Moroccan sexual and gender minorities.

queer people exclusion

On the 6th August 2018, in a conference meeting with the youth members of his Islamist Political Party, Mr. Benkirane, taking reference out of the Koran, called the Moroccan LGBTQ+ people as “infidels” and questioned their faith and beliefs towards the Islamic religion. With the same momentum, Mr. Benkirane asked the audience to take a stand against queer Moroccans in denying equal rights and freedoms for LGBTQ+ people of Morocco. This statement from Morocco former Prime Minister, not only attempts to shun LGBTQ+ Moroccans outside of the sphere of their spirituality and religious belief; but is also an attack and threat to both the existence and safety of queer Moroccans.

Morocco’s Former Prime Minister, Mr. Abdellilah Benkirane

The politically and religiously motivated hate speech, without doubt, exposes once more the LGBTQ+ individuals of Morocco to additional risks of social rejection, prejudice and physical, emotional and verbal assaults in both private and public spheres of their life.

While the majority of local LGBTQ+ activists and individuals in Morocco condemn the politically motivated hate speech, some others tried to establish a positive perspective in the statements of Morocco former Prime Minister for the lack of visibility of LGBTQ+ Moroccans. For instance, the Moroccan gay-androgynous Hiba commented: “It was awful what he said, but it’s like that first match that would shed lights on us.”

anti-sodomy law enforced

Hate speech towards sexual and gender minorities of Morocco are frequent; more to it since the existence and enforcement of Article 489 of the Penal Code of Morocco which considers homosexual acts as a criminal offence under the term “lewd or unnatural acts with an individual of the same sex” and that is punishable with 6 months to 3 years of imprisonment and a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 Moroccan Dirhams (20 to 100 USD).

About the author

Jamal Malek is a Moroccan youth LGBTIQ+ activist and human rights advocate. He is a sexual health advisor for MSM persons at ALCS (Association de Lutte Contre le Sida) as well as ACEF’s general secretary and board member. Jamal is also a member of the African Queer Youth Initiative.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the position of the African Queer Youth Initiative.

Mauritius: A quagmire between increased acceptance of LGBTQ people and homophobia

Afrobarometer, a pan-African, non-partisan research network published its No. 225 bulletin on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in its 3rd publication for Mauritius. The two previous ones were in 2012 and 2014.

Since its independence in 1968, Mauritius has taken pride in promoting its development based on democracy, good governance, human rights and freedoms, and the rule of law. The country’s Constitution affirms that all Mauritians should benefit from the right to equal protection and assistance of the law against any form of discrimination. The country is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious one, populated during the colonial centuries with people from Europe, Africa and Asia. Roughly, the country consists of Hindus (50%), Muslims (18%), Chinese (2%), Franco-Mauritians (1%) and General Population (29% mainly of African descent and Christian faith).

Report highlights

Key findings of this report highlights:

  1. Most Mauritians report not to suffer from discrimination or harassment. Yet, substantial proportions of the population report suffering from discrimination or harassment based on their ethnicity (9%), gender (16%) and religion (17%).
  2. Afro-Mauritians (31%) and Muslims (22%) are more likely than average to say they experienced discrimination or harassment based on their ethnicity during the previous 12 months.
  3. Similarly, while two-thirds (66%) of Mauritians say their ethnic group is “never” treated unfairly by the government, more than four in 10 Afro-Mauritians (47%) and Muslims (42%) say this happens “sometimes,” “often,” or “always.”
  4. Women are more likely than men to suffer gender discrimination or harassment (11% vs. 7%), and religious discrimination or harassment is more likely to affect Christians and Muslims than Hindus.
  5. More than nine out of 10 Mauritians express tolerant attitudes toward people of a different ethnicity (94%) or religion (94%), and smaller majorities do the same with regard to immigrants/foreign workers (67%) and people in same-sex relationships (56%). Tolerance for homosexuals increased by 7 percentage points since the 2014 survey, placing Mauritius at the top among 21 African countries surveyed in 2016/2017.
  6. Most Mauritians say both genders have equal opportunities to get an education (98%), to inherit and own land (93%), and to get a paying job (92%), although they are evenly split as to whether men should be given preference when jobs are scarce.
  7. Eight out of 10 Mauritians (82%) say women should have the same chance as men to be elected to public office.

Increased tolerance for LGBTQ people

One of the salient finding of the report is around the experiences and perceptions of Mauritians as to how they are treated and their attitudes toward people who are different from themselves.

From 2014 to 2017, there has been a steady positive shift from tolerance of the population towards homosexuals. Respondents were asked: For each of the following types of people, please tell me whether you would like having people from this group as neighbors, dislike it, or not care: People from other ethnic groups? People of a different religion? Immigrants or foreign workers? Homosexuals?

Tolerance indices for Mauritius - 2014 to 2017 (Afrobarometer 2018)

It was found that 56% of Mauritians expressed their tolerance for people in same-sex relationships, an increase from 49% in 2014. 5% say they would like and 51% say they would not mind having homosexuals as neighbours. This places Mauritius at the top among 21 African countries for which Round 7 data are available.

Tolerance towards homosexuals in 21 African Countries (Afrobarometer 2018)

Behind the progress, organised homophobia

Despite the observations made by Afrobarometer, the realities of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) people in Mauritius are far from being all sunny on the tropical paradisiac Island. Legislative progress has been made in terms of Employment Rights Act (2008), Employment Relations Act (2008) and the Equal Opportunities Act (2008) as well as it is no longer an issue for homosexual and bisexual people to donate blood since 2014. However, consensual same-sex sexual relationships are still criminalised under Article 250 of the Criminal Code, marriage equality or a form of civil partnership is not recognised, Transgender people are still not recognised under law and hate crimes based on real or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression or sex characteristics are not punishable under law.

In 2016, the local media reported that while performing her HIV outreach work at night, a Transgender person by the name of Giovani was reportedly arrested, undressed and humiliated in a police station. Family rejection, conversion therapies and witchcraft have been frequently reported by young Lesbian and Gay people. Despite employment laws and the Equal Opportunities Act (2008), LGBTQ people report discrimination and harassment at workplace as well as in accessing mental and sexual health services. Death threats towards local activists are common issues and local law enforcement authorities have not acted on same and culprits are not held accountable.

Since the beginning of the Pride in Mauritius some 13 years back, the local Churches and Mosques marched against it. Again, in 2018, the annual Rainbow Pride was cancelled due to fierce and organised counter protest of nearly 500 people. The counter protest was followed again by a series of death threats to prominent activists in the country and the perpetrators of these threats have not yet been arrested. The Government has also made it clear that during its mandate, it will not decriminalise consensual sodomy between adults.

Organisational support

Local registered organisations such as the Collectif Arc-en-Ciel and the Young Queer Alliance are advocating for LGBTQ people and providing in as much safe spaces and support as they can in terms of health services, legal support, emergency shelter, activism, community support, mental health support among others.

Despite organised homophobia, the future is hopeful for LGBTQ people in Mauritius. Steady progress in the mindset of the population is felt and regional and international support in forwarding organisational efforts are present. Let us hope that one day, Mauritius will be inclusive of its LGBTQ people.

External Links:

  1. Afrobarometer Dispatch no. 225: Mauritius strong – but far from perfect – on gender equality and social tolerance: http://afrobarometer.org/sites/default/files/publications/Dispatches/ab_r7_dispatchno225_tolerance_and_equality_in_mauritius.pdf

 

About the Author

Fokeerbux Najeeb Ahmad (Thumbnail)

Fokeerbux Najeeb Ahmad is a youth activist from Mauritius, founder of the Young Queer Alliance, steering committee member of MPact (formerly MSMGF), Gay and Bisexual men representative on the Country Coordinating Mechanism against HIV and the Chairperson of the African Queer Youth Initiative.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the position of the African Queer Youth Initiative.