News / Africa

Fear Drives African Gays to Seek Asylum in US

Fear Drives African Gays to Seek Asylum in USi
X
Carla Babb
April 09, 2014 12:01 AM
Homosexuality is a crime in 38 African countries, and new laws in Nigeria and Uganda have increased potential punishments for engaging in gay sex. These strictures have led some gay and transgender Africans to seek asylum in the United States. As VOA’s Carla Babb reports, for many gay and transgender Ugandans, fleeing their country is a matter of life and death.
Carla Babb
Homosexuality is a crime in 38 African countries and new laws in Nigeria and Uganda have increased potential punishments for engaging in gay sex. These strictures have driven some gay and transgender Ugandans to seek asylum in the United States.

"I can tell you that it’s so bad in Uganda. People just don’t know what is happening in Uganda," said Niki Mawanda, who recently fled his African homeland. "I’m worried about what is happening to my people. But I’m also scared that when I go back, I don’t know what will happen to me."

 Mawanda is one of more than 60 Ugandans who have applied for asylum in the U.S. so far this year.

"They staged a big prayer next to my mom’s house praying for me to leave the village, saying that I’m bringing homosexuality on the village," he said. "I don’t want to leave my people, but this time around, I became so scared, so I left."

Gay and transgender asylum seekers from Africa turn to people like Jocelyn Dyer, a lawyer with the group Human Rights First.

"The stakes are much higher," Dyer said. "We’re very concerned that now, with these really repressive laws, a bad situation is going to be made even worse."

Homosexuality is now punishable by death in four African countries and African politics professor Steven Taylor says the penalty for homosexuals in Uganda can be life in prison.

"Which is just as bad as the death penalty, particularly considering the conditions in some prisons," he said.

Death threats and police brutality were among the horrors transgender Ugandan, Victor Mukasa, faced before gaining asylum in the United States less than a year ago.

"I have had people lay their hands, men lay their hands on my genitals, chasing the spirit of homosexuality out of me," Mukasa said. "When you hear the story of the Holocaust and the Jews and that isolation, and people waging war against a particular group of people, this is no different."

That war, as Mukasa calls it, has had its casualties. Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in 2011. Mukasa, who attened the funeral, says his mourning quickly turned to fear when anti-gay mobs crashed the service.

A friend helped him get a visa and he fled with only a suitcase. But they could not get a visa for his adopted daughter, so he had to leave her with a relative.

“That’s the biggest part of me that I left behind," Mukasa said. "It is always alive. It is a big gap inside me.”

Mukasa and Mawanda keep pushing toward a day when they can reunite with loved ones back home.

“We’re still alive and still passionate about this struggle," Mukasa said, "and so we shall keep fighting, in whichever capacities and where ever we are in the world.”

Mawanda said, “For me, my hope lies in the people of Uganda realizing that we are all Ugandans. I’m hopeful, but my hope is not much.”

For now, Mawanda has months of waiting ahead before he’ll know if he can remain safe on American soil.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Junior Mayema from: Cape Town South Africa
April 09, 2014 5:07 PM
It is actually beyond our beliefs and the true religion the reality of homophobia in africa, we should'nt be killing our fellow human beings in the name of God, we must love our neighbors as ourselves only God can judge us all, being gay is not western invention, neo-colonialism, imperialism, slavery or the new apartheird, being LGBT is about being being human with different sexual orientation or gender identity, it is just like being human with different race, Homophobia is equivalent to racism, apartheid and alll kind of oppression and persecution, please fellow africans stop homophobia today


by: Shadia fatia from: Kampala
April 09, 2014 1:20 PM
Dats better for our children's future


by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
April 09, 2014 3:47 AM
As an African, wondering what kind of people are we? We all supposed to be great care to our vulnerable people, no matter what. Look, I couldn't care less what Koran or Holy Bible are saying about homosexuals.
It's none of anyone's business about actions between consenting adults behind their closed doors.
COME ON people! we are in 2014!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid