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Friday, 15 July 2011

Stockholm Pride 2011 hosts African activists

Miles Tanhira
Source: Svenska Dagbladet

By Tobias Brandel

[Via Google Translate]

With the achievement of LGBT rights in Sweden, Stockholm Pride has turned its gaze abroad - this year it is holding an international solidarity, event and has invited a dozen African activists to come here - at the risk of their own lives.

In Mugabe's Zimbabwe homosexuality is regarded as a Western disease. And the regime hates the Western world. State Homophobia gives carte blanche to those who want to harass homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people, says Miles Tanhira of the Zimbabwean LGBT organization GALCK.
"It's hard enough to live under a dictatorship, but to be a LGBT person makes it worse. Apartheid Opponent Steve Biko said that the oppressed seek to become the oppressor. People under a harsh government always finds a weaker person to subdue, in our case, vulnerable minorities such as LGBT people."
Miles Tanhira says that he risks becoming a target by doing this interview, conducted via the Internet. Last year, police stormed GALZ premises and arrested several people.
"Right now Zimbabwe is on the development of a new constitution and a stream of politicians use the gay issue in order to dupe people and take attention from the real issues. The media makes fun of LGBT people, and some artists have been squawking. As if that were not enough, there is the influence of American conservative churches on homophobia."
Stockholm Pride, together with RFSL and a number of Swedish embassies invited a dozen activists from countries where homosexuality is criminalised. Here they will meet with politicians and participating in panel discussions and networking.

Chan Mubanga, trans-rights activist from Zambia, is another of those who come here.
"There is a window to see what's out there, with decriminalization, gay marriage and cultural tolerance. I also hope to learn from other activists about how they challenged their governments, and I will lobby the international community to put pressure on African leaders to protect sexual minorities," he says in a chat when SvD get in touch with him on Facebook.

This year there is a presidential election in Zambia, and Chan Mubanga notes that both the ruling party and opposition uses the hatred against LGBT people in their campaigns. State-controlled media and charismatic church leaders constantly demonize homosexuality.
"The hatred is fueled by the draconian laws that the British left behind. Homosexuality was a crime only when the Christian missionaries came - and a false idea that homosexuality is 'un-African'," he says.
The international presence will this year be better than ever at the Stockholm Pride Festival. For the first time tonight 15 July the entire concert program on the main stage at Pride area will be a solidarity gala. Starting this year is also an international coordinator of the festival's executive management, Andrea Bergstrom.

Given all the rights acquired, and how bad it looks like the rest of the world, should not the whole of Stockholm Pride's focus should be on international solidarity?
"I think it is the most important issue and that we should focus much more on it. But transgender people and asylum seekers are other areas where there is work left to do in Sweden. And one must not forget that Pride fills a purpose as a meeting place," says Bergstrom.

"Previously, we have not marketed the Solidarity Fund. We hope for much more money this year so that we can develop international solidarity work further."
While the Foreign Affairs Department [Utrikesdepartementet] is actively helping foreign LGBT people through Pride, the Migration Board has been criticised by RFSL for denied asylum and sent back to countries where they risk being killed, such as Iraq.
"The Asylum Procedures is about the individual case and we have nothing to do with it. We cannot take responsibility for how our reports are used. If you read our reports, it is clear that the issue is devoted a few lines so it can hardly be exhaustive for every individual situation," says Utrikesdepartementet's Carina Mårtensson.
One of the worst countries in the world of homosexuals today is Uganda. Earlier this year, Ugandan LGBT activist David Kato Kisule was murdered. His friend Joshua Muhanguzi is coming to Stockholm Pride.
"The problems I encounter because I'm gay just makes me stronger, because outside of my biological family, I have another large, loving family. It must be said, with all the homophobia around us, we have yet another - and we are there for each other," says Muhanguzi.
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