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No, Uganda is not making it illegal to be gay (again) | LGBTQ

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Is this really happening again? In 2021?

Seven years after an act of parliament made homosexuality a crime punishable by death, the anti-gay campaigners of Uganda are at it again. Last month, the parliament of my country once again voted to make homosexuality a criminal offence, this time with a 10-year prison sentence.

In 2014, I played a small part in making sure that anti-LGBTQI forces in Uganda do not succeed in writing their hate into law: I was one of the petitioners in the case that successfully overturned the infamous anti-gay law. Back then, we had the entire political system – every single legislator, both from the government and the opposition, save I and one other – against us. But with an independent and capable judiciary, the Act was annulled. The government chose not to appeal.

Fortunately, this time we are unlikely to need to go to such lengths. Passed in the final days of an outgoing parliament, through a private member’s bill introduced by an outgoing legislator, and without government support, this legislation needs assent. The government has already indicated this will not be granted, so the legislation will not become law.

The Ugandan government will not sign this anti-gay legislation into law in part because it was introduced by an outgoing legislator and approved by a now-dissolved parliament. But there is also the fact that granting assent to this law – not least when it was not legislation the government put forward – would trigger an outcry from the international community.

Indeed, after Uganda passed the “Kill the gays bill” – as it was dubbed locally – in 2014, its reputation on the international arena suffered. Not only did the British and American governments, encouraged by global rights groups and LGBTQI campaigners, raise the spectre of retaliation, but the World Bank decided to rescind a $90m loan to Uganda’s health system. Our sovereign credit rating also took a hit due to the passing of the anti-gay law. Certainly, after the experience of 2014 the Ugandan government is surely less willing to grant assent to similar legislation that would undoubtedly draw condemnation and an unwelcome response from the international community.

While the efforts of LGBTQI campaigners across the globe made it highly unlikely for Uganda to sign into law another “Kill the gays bill”, the fight for LGBTQI rights in the country and the rest of Africa is far from over.

The fear of retaliation from the international community may stop Uganda and other African countries from attempting to officially criminalise homosexuality, but it will not make being gay socially acceptable on the continent. Today, homosexuality is simply not accepted by the majority of African citizens. And the LGBTQI fight for equality and recognition in Africa will not be over until it is.

Ultimately, it will not matter how many court cases are won, or governments pressured to cease anti-gay legislation, or African leaders backed by western money and education elected with the expectation they will challenge public perceptions of homosexuality.

President Adama Barrow of Gambia reneged on his pledge to do so, despite being ushered into office by US Democratic lobbyists. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta did nothing to further LGBTQI rights in his country, despite his liberal Amherst College education. We must know by now that African politicians – just like their western counterparts – follow public opinion, rather than lead it.

Neither should we be so certain, as some are, that the pervasiveness of anti-LGBTQI sentiment in Africa is owing to some malignant and deceptive Christian influence. Most Africans are refusing to accept homosexuality not so much because of their Christian beliefs, but because they perceive it as a “Western value” being forcefully pushed upon their societies by malignant and invasive outside forces.

This may seem perverse given Christianity itself was brought to Africa by European colonial missionaries. But that was a long time ago. In the present, many Africans express their patriotism and defiance to the West by railing against what they perceive as “modern-day” western interference.

But all this does not mean there is no chance for widespread LGBTQI equality and acceptance in Uganda and on the continent. Times, and people, are changing. In 2014, only 17 percent of the Ugandan population had internet access. Today, nearly every adult in the country has the ability to go online. As a result, the minds of our people are rapidly opening to new ways of thinking and seeing the world.

This newfound access to knowledge, information and differing points of view is having a vast, transformational effect on the electorate. With our youthful population, so many young, knowledgeable Ugandans, who do not carry strong anti-gay sentiments, and even support LGBTQI rights, are joining the electoral roll in every election cycle.

We are already seeing the consequences of this gradual change. Two years after our legal victory against the “Kill the gays bill”, the Ugandan electorate had rewarded me for my efforts by turfing me out of parliament at the 2016 general election. This year, they turfed me back in by a landslide. Among those rejected at the polls this year was the MP whose anti-gay private members bill brought this issue back to parliament. Another was our country’s opposition leader, Bob Wine, who began his political career in 2014 singing pop songs about burning homosexuals. He was defeated this January by a margin of nearly 2.5 million votes.

Will Uganda pass another law criminalising homosexuality in the future? If it does, we will contest it again, fight it again, and overturn it again.

But I doubt another such bill will come to pass. The times are changing. The electorate is changing and, consequently, legislators are changing.

The parliament that voted for last month’s anti-gay bill is now replaced. The legislator that proposed the bill is no longer in parliament. And the current government clearly has no intention to die on the hill of criminalising homosexuality.

No, Uganda is not making it illegal to be gay (again). But being gay is still not socially acceptable in the country – nor, in reality, is it anywhere in Africa. And the LGBTQI fight for rights will not be truly over until it is.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

 



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Trauma and mental health in Gaza | Mental Health

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The May 20 ceasefire between the Israeli government and Hamas brought the latest round of conflict in the region to an end and led to a collective sigh of relief from the beleaguered Palestinians of the Gaza Strip.

But the deep wounds the violence opened remain fresh.

Eleven days of Israeli bombardment on the besieged enclave left 256 Palestinians, including 66 children, dead. Nearly 2,000 have been injured. Homes, offices and hospitals have been destroyed.

As the fragile ceasefire appears to hold, those who survived the conflict are once again trying to rebuild their lives. But the damage inflicted during those 11 days was not only physical and material. The mental health of Palestinians in Gaza was also bombarded during those dark days.

Living in fear of the next air attack, the spectre of death looming. Losing loved ones and homes. It is hard to imagine how utterly traumatising their reality has been.

Residents of Gaza have been enduring layer upon layer of trauma for decades. The deadly Israeli onslaughts are the most damaging – four in the last 14 years – but they occur against the background of chronic trauma imposed by the occupation.

Atrocities like the seizure and demolition of homes, oppressive policing, unlawful killings, detention without trial and torture all inflict profound psychological damage. Such perpetual subjugation can destroy self-esteem and leave victims in a state of “learned helplessness” – resigned to their fate and vulnerable to depression.

Israel’s illegal blockade on Gaza also amounts to a psychological stranglehold. The resulting economic deprivation has caused widespread unemployment and poverty – well-recognised risk factors for mental illness – and left health services underfunded, underdeveloped and unable to meet the demand. Each war on Gaza decimates them further – at least six hospitals, two clinics, a health centre and a Palestine Red Crescent Society facility sustained damage this time.

For most other countries, COVID-19 is currently the primary public and mental health concern. In Palestine, it is almost an afterthought, superseded by more dangerous assailants – air attacks and oppression. Nonetheless, more than 110,000 people in Gaza have been infected with the virus thus far, with more than 1,000 deaths. There are only enough doses available to vaccinate 60,200 people in a population of more than 2 million. So pandemic anxiety is also rampant in Gaza, adding to the mental burden.

All this turmoil translates to actual mental illness. In Gaza, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which features disrupted sleep, feeling permanently on edge and easily startled, flashbacks and nightmares of the trauma and emotional numbing – are incredibly high. A 2017 study found 37 percent of the adults living on the Strip qualify for the diagnosis.

In my work as a psychiatrist, I have treated refugees with PTSD from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. It can be severe, complex and protracted. It would be almost impossible to start the healing while the root causes persist. The head of mental health services in Palestine once said her people do not suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder because their trauma is ongoing. Present-traumatic stress disorder may be a more fitting description of their experience.

As is often the case in these situations, children suffer the most in Palestine. A study conducted in 2020, before the latest conflict, found that 53.5 per cent of children in Gaza were suffering from PTSD. Nearly 90 percent had experienced personal trauma. The Norwegian Refugee Council reported the devastating news that 11 of the children killed by the recent Israeli air attacks were participating in its trauma programme. No wonder UN Secretary-General António Guterres described Gaza as “hell on earth” for children.

Of course, Israelis have suffered too. Twelve were killed by Hamas rockets in May, two of them children – a tragic loss of human life. But for the Israelis, the Iron Dome defence system and bomb shelters provide a vital safety net and sense of security that Palestinians live without. Their highly developed healthcare services are far better equipped to deal with both physical injuries and the psychological impact of rocket fire. They are not living through the mental anguish of occupation either. All this is reflected in their lower PTSD rates, ranging from 0.5 to 9 percent of the population.

Back in 2008, I went on a trip to post-conflict Somaliland to teach psychiatry to medical students. The civil war affecting the area ended in 1991 but its effects on the mental health of the population and health infrastructure were still evident some 17 years later. They still continue to this day. It will take time to rebuild the fragmented minds and health services in Gaza, but there is little hope for them until Israel ends its illegal occupation, settlement expansion and blockade on Gaza.

The oppression of Palestinians has led Human Rights Watch to the conclusion that Israel is committing the crime of apartheid. Perhaps viewing this situation through the prism of human rights violations and their grave impact on mental health might prompt the international community to pressure Israel to act. Palestinians and Israelis both deserve security and protection from trauma. The best way to achieve this is by affording Palestinians their basic human rights.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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Ex Museveni Bodyguard, Capt. Opolot, Succumbs to COVID-19

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Retired UPDF Captain, Alex Opolot, is dead.

Opolot, who served for over 20 years in special military operations, lost the battle to COVID-19 this past weekend at Prime Hospital in Namugongo, Wakiso district.

Friends described him as a “great family man who was loved by his children to the moon and back.”

Born on January 21, 1962 in Bukedea district, Eastern Uganda, Opolot was among the first officers in the Presidential Protection Unit (PPU).

He survived action in Somalia where served as a peacekeeper.

Opolot attended Kumi Primary School and Father Hilders Primary school.

He later moved to Soroti Secondary School before joining Busitema College of Agriculture and Mechanization.

Opolot also worked with Peko Machinery Works in Soroti before joining the army.

He recently retired from the army and was working with Arrow Security Group of Captain Mike Mukula at the time of death.

He was attached to Internal Security Organisation (ISO), Presidential Protection Unit/Brigade.

Opolot was later deployed in Northern Uganda to battle the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebels where he excelled in field intelligence operations.

He recently retired from the army and was working with Arrow Security Group of Captain Mike Mukula at the time of death.

The deceased’s friends say he was a very skilled footballer, great dancer, very peaceful and cheerful soldier.

Opolot during his footballing days. He was know as Opolot Wizard
Opolot served in Somalia under AMISOM

He is survived by a widow and four children.

Opolot will be buried on Tuesday, June 15, 2021 in Odoot Etom, Okolotum, Kocheka Sub-County, Bukedea District.

Results of COVID-19 tests done on 11 June 2021 confirmed 1,727 new cases. The cumulative confirmed cases are 61,977 with 428 deaths.

To prevent infection and to slow transmission of COVID-19, do the following:

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, or clean them with alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Maintain at least 1 metre distance between you and people coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell.
  • Refrain from smoking and other activities that weaken the lungs.
  • Practice physical distancing by avoiding unnecessary travel and staying away from large groups of people.

The post Ex Museveni Bodyguard, Capt. Opolot, Succumbs to COVID-19 first appeared on ChimpReports.



Source – chimpreports.com

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Palestinians not counting on change as Bennett replaces Netanyahu | Benjamin Netanyahu News

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Palestinian leaders say new Israeli PM Naftali Bennett is likely to pursue the same right-wing agenda as Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian groups have dismissed the change in Israel’s government, saying new Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is likely to pursue the same right-wing agenda as his predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s office called the Israeli parliamentary vote on Sunday an “internal Israeli affair” while groups in the besieged enclave of Gaza pledged to keep up their fight for Palestinian rights. Gaza has been under an Israeli air, land and sea blockade since 2007.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, issued a statement saying it was “inaccurate” to call Bennett’s coalition government a “government of change” unless there was a significant shift in its position on the Palestinian right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

Bennett, who heads the ultra-nationalist Yamina party and describes himself as “more right-wing” than Netanyahu, has said that the creation of a Palestine state would be “national suicide” for Israel. He has also called for the annexation of most of the occupied West Bank.

The millionaire former high-tech entrepreneur faces a tough test maintaining an unwieldy coalition from the political right, left and centre. Analysts say Bennett’s government will likely avoid sweeping moves on hot-button issues such as policy towards the Palestinians and instead focus on domestic reforms.

Palestinians unmoved

“This is an internal Israeli affair,” said Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for Abbas. “Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”

In a statement, the Palestinian foreign ministry posed a host of questions to Bennett’s government. “What is the position of the new government regarding the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the establishment of their independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital?”

“What is its position of the settlement and annexation processes? What is its position on Jerusalem and respect for the historical and legal situation there? Its position on the signed agreements? Its position on the resolutions of international legitimacy? Its position on the two-state solution and negotiations on the basis of the principle of land for peace?”

In Gaza, Palestinian groups vowed to keep resisting Israel.

“We aren’t counting on any change in the occupation governments, since they are united on the policy of killing Palestinians and confiscating Palestinian rights,” said Sami Abu Zuhri, a senior Hamas official.

And prior to the Israeli parliament vote, Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas said: “Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity. It is a settler occupier entity that must be resisted by all forms of resistance, foremost of which is armed resistance.”



Source – www.aljazeera.com

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