Monday, November 18, 2013

World News

Prominent Ugandan LGBT equality rights activist charged with sodomy- held without bail
Samuel Ganafa
By Mark Singer & Brody Levesque | KAMPALA -- Samuel Ganafa, the executive director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and board chairperson of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), was arrested on Tuesday on charges that he had sodomized another man and infected him with HIV. During an initial arraignment Friday morning in Kampala, the judge denied a defense motion for bail for the fifty-one-year-old activist and ordered another hearing set for this coming Monday. 
According to police reports and court documents, the victim, Disan Twesiga, alleged that Ganafa had sodomized him over the course of several months and also claimed that he was infected with HIV as a result of those sexual liaisons.
On Thursday, Twesiga held a press conference at the Kampala District Police station to reiterate his allegations.
Speaking to reporters Friday, SMUG's programs director, Julian Pepe Onziema, said that Ganafa was arrested Tuesday, after Kampala District Police Commander Chemonges Seiko, summoned him to a police station on the outskirts of the Uguanda capital city. Upon arrival Onziema said, he was immediately arrested.
"Without showing a warrant of arrest he was forced onto a police truck and taken twice to his residence, which was searched. The search was conducted without a search warrant. 
During the unwarranted search, three houseguests, Joseph Kayizi, Kasali Brian, and Michael Katongole were also arrested and taken to the police for questioning as well," Onziema said adding, "His nephew Brian Kasirye, who had rushed to the police station to check on him was also detained."
Onziema also alleged that Ganafa was then forced to take an HIV test, without a court order.
The four other men arrested remain in police custody and have not been formally charged.
Onziema and other activists pointed out that Ganafa and the others have been held in police custody for more than 72 hours in violation of the country's constitution, which stipulates that an accused cannot be held for more than 48 hours before being taken to court.
"This is despite the fact that he has not been found guilty by a court and is thus presumed innocent under the law. The five suspects remain in custody without being officially charged and without being brought before the courts despite the expiry of the constitutionally warranted 48 hours," Onziema said.
She added that her organisation along with the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law are closely following the case, and have instructed lawyers to represent all of the accused.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda with the country's Parliament considering proposed new legislation that prescribes harsher penalties against those accused of being LGBT including possible capital punishment for those being convicted of "repeated offenses of homosexuality."
A longtime respected member of the Ugandan LGBT community, Ganafa serves as the executive director of Spectrum Uganda Initiatives and is board chair for the Sexual Minorities Uganda coalition (SMUG).  Ganafa works for the country's leading telecommunications firm, Uganda Telecom, where he was demoted, suffered a pay deduction, and was forced to return his company car in 2005 after being outing by a local tabloid, The Mirror, who printed his name and place of employment.
In an interview with Canadian freelance journalist Kaj Hasselriis in February 2010, Ganafa urged LGBTQ Ugandans not to reveal their sexuality in order to protect themselves. 
“I know I’m suffocating them, but there’s no better option than that,” said Ganafa. “I know what I’ve been through, and I don’t want others to go through it too. Life became very difficult Outing is primitive. It sows the seeds of hatred and homophobia. Nothing good comes to the people who are [forcefully] outed.”

Luxembourg's top two incoming government officials are gay
LUXEMBOURG CITY --  This tiny European landlocked country bordered by Belgium to the west and north, Germany to the east, and France to the south, is set to achieve a historic first by not only having an openly gay Prime Minister but an openly gay Deputy Prime Minister as well.
Grand Duke Henri, the country’s head of state, has officially appointed Xavier Bettel, the former mayor of Luxembourg City, as the prime minister designate.
Bettel, 40, announced last week that he will form a coalition government with the Greens and Socialists and once the government is formed, he's planning to take office as prime minister within the next few weeks.
During a phone interview Monday, Bettel said that he has selected Etienne Schneider, the leader of Luxembourg's Socialist Workers Party, to be his deputy prime minister. Schneider is also an openly gay politician and currently the Minister of the Economy and Foreign Trade.
Bettel said that his first priority as prime minister would be to push for legalizing same-sex marriage in the world's only remaining grand duchy. He indicated that he didn't want a time lapse of more than a year or two to make marriage equality law in the nation.
With his selection as Prime Minster, Bettel will be the European Union’s second openly gay PM after Belgium’s Elio Di Rupo, and will take up living in the prime minister's official residence with his partner Destenay Gauthier.