Monday, November 28, 2011
OPEN LETTER TO THE SENATE PRESIDENT AND THE SENATE ON THE CONDUCT OF THE PUBLIC HEARING ON SAME GENDER MARRIAGE PROHIBITION BILL, 2011
Abuja, October 4th 2011
Sen. David Mark [GCON]
President of the Senate,
National Assembly Complex
Three Arms Zone
Honourable David Mark,
We, the Members of the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights (CDSR), human rights activist and other Civil Society Organizations working in the areas of human rights protection and social justice, wish to express and convey our disappointment and concern regarding the conduct of the public hearing by the Senate Committee on Human Rights and Judicial Matters on the proposed Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill 2011, which was held on Monday 31st, October 2011.
We would like to bring to the attention of the President of the Senate and the above mentioned committee that convened the public hearing about the unfair treatment of civil society representatives that were present to express their concerns regarding the bill and how it would affect human rights and civil liberties of Nigerians. In particular, the representatives of the CDSR were targeted by some members of the Committee and were not given equal opportunity and space to make statements during the proceeding of the hearing. We believe that the purpose of a public hearing is to obtain opinions from proponents and opponents regarding specific subject matter with balanced and unbiased audience given to those who wish to make statements. Our understanding of public hearing is that Committee members shall be impartial and not applaud/ indicate pleasure/displeasure with remarks. Furthermore, the Chairperson shall afford all presenters a fair opportunity for meaningful participation and shall moderate impartially. We feel that range of participants to be heard was supposed to be balanced to avoid biased information.
We would like to bring to the attention of the president of the Senate and the Members of the upper legislative house of the unfair and biased treatment towards members of the human rights community and members of the coalition, which lacked equal opportunity and space to make statements during the proceeding of the hearing.
We could not help but notice from the outcome of the public hearing on the Same Gender marriage Bill, 2011 that it was quite manifest that the committee members presiding over the hearing had already formed their opinion and taken a position on the subject matter. That was evident from their deliberate name calling and profiling of the CSO groups or individuals who were in opposition to the proposed Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill. The committee referred to mentioned groups as “the homosexual group” without taking cognizance of the nature and constituency of the CSO groups, its diversity and what they wish to be identified as. More importantly the constant attacks, labelling and targeting of CSO groups opposing the bill made it extremely challenging for them to expose their arguments and their concerns that were and are exclusively based on considerations regarding how the bill would, according to us, erode human rights and civil liberties in our country. The experience has been denigrating and humiliating and does not conform to democratic principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, prohibition of discrimination, and fair hearing.
Our collective work and efforts as members of the coalition and as civil society organizations is and always hinged on the protection and promotion of human rights and social justice, among which reproductive health and rights are included. We believe that the proposed bill, if approved, will cause patterns of discrimination and will lead to inhuman and degrading treatment by state and non-state actors of a group of Nigerians based on their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The provisions of the bill define same sex marriage in a vague and ambiguous way that has nothing to do with the legal definition of marriage as established by federal, state and customary law. We are convinced that these ambiguities of the bill will have severe implications on Nigerians, as they will create a climate of suspicion and will open the door to different interpretations and, consequently, to the likelihood of prosecution and persecution of individual irrespective of their sexual preference.
Furthermore, the approval of this law will also undermine the efforts to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS that Nigeria is undertaking, for which the National Action Committee on AIDS (NACA) conducted an important research, the Integrated Biological and Behavioural Surveillance Survey including Men having sex with men (MSM).
We therefore ask the President of the Senate and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria:
* To carefully examine the statements and position papers submitted by members of the Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights and other CSOs for better understanding of the implications of the proposed Same Gender marriage Prohibition Bill, 2011 on human rights and civil liberties, health, tourism, and judicial process.
* To enact measures that would ensure a fair opportunity for meaningful participation during public hearings that should be conducted impartially for the sake and the promotion of democratic principles of freedom of speech, freedom of expression, prohibition of discrimination and fair hearing.
* To guarantee safety and protection for all individuals, including human rights defenders, irrespective of their sex, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or religious belief and opinion.
* To respect the obligations based on international human rights law to which the Federal Republic of Nigeria has committed itself by signing and ratifying international and regional instruments for the protection of human rights, most notably the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.
* To withdraw the proposed Same Gender Marriage Prohibition Bill, 2011considering its potential severe implication on Nigerian citizens, irrespective of their sexual preference.
We hope that due thought and consideration is given in the deliberation of this bill and in bills that have the potential of affecting human rights and civil liberties that might be considered in the future, as well as with regard to the process of ensuring public hearings, which should pursue the goal of promoting Democratic Values and Human rights for all citizens and nation building.
Coalition for the Defense of Sexual Rights in Nigeria
Friday, July 1, 2011
Y2N Participates at the 2011 United Nations High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS at the United Nations Headquaters in New York
Prior to the main event, the Y2N had participated at a youth summit which had in attendance progressive youth activists who work on Sexual health and Rights issues and other development issues that relates to HIV. We analyzed part of the promises that had been made so far with regards HIV, looked for way on how we could advocate for more issues to be brought at the fore-front and then device a strategy on how to hold governments accountable to the promises they have made.
Part of what were discussed at the summit was issues we wanted to be seen addressed and specific messages that we ought to be sharing as young activists working on Sexual health and Rights issues and we pointed out that it was important to highlight the issues of Most at Risk populations, like Men who have sex with Men, Sex Workers, Injecting drug users and so on.
Nonetheless at the main event we were excited to hear presentations from the Executive Director of UNFPA (Babatunde Oshotimehin) who highlighted the importance of involving young people in the HIV/AIDS race and recognizing that they are mostly affected by HIV/AIDS, this point was also reiterated by the head of UNAIDS (Michel Sidibe) and the Crown Princess of Norway who have always been a supporter and a front runner when it comes to working with young people in the area of HIV/AIDS, they also each pointed out the importance of reaching out to most at risk populations like Men who have sex with Men.
Would be good to point out that part of the importance of the High Level Meeting is the outcome document that gets negotiated and for a full analysis of the outcome document at the 2011 High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS please refer to this analysis below from the RESURJ team.
Analysis of the Outcome Document by the RESURJ Alliance
The 2011 High Level Meeting on HIV/AIDS’ Outcome Document was negotiated over a period of 6 weeks, culminating on June 9. The zero draft of the outcome document was strong, capturing the necessary commitments needed to reach universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for women, adolescents and young people, men who have sex with men, sex workers, and drug users. The draft provided a strong basis for policies that would invest in prevention programs which included comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, including male and female condoms, and STI prevention and treatment, ending violence against women, as well as comprehensive education on human sexuality and promotion and protection of human rights in the AIDS response, including reproductive rights.
From the start of the negotiations, the EU led by France and the UK, as well as Norway, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, and Brazil (MERCOSUR) were strongly advocating for SRHR. However, the Holy See, the Africa Group, the Arab Group (both led by Egypt), Russia, CARICOM, and Iran consistently negotiated to remove human rights and sexual and reproductive rights language, as well as the listing of “men who have sex with men, sex workers, and intravenous drug users”. They inserted dozens of paragraphs into the document on, family values, cultural relativism, abstinence and fidelity, parental responsibility, and eliminating “unethical and unlawful behavior”. The SRH services and rights protections clauses were traded for targets on treatment, funding, and trade-related intellectual property rights (TRIPS). Thailand, MERCOSUR and the Africa Group negotiated primarily against the EU and US on TRIPS flexibilities and funding.
There is a severe imbalance and profound lack of political will for vital actions needed to turn the tide of HIV and AIDS.
There are 4 paragraphs on prevention, and 29 paragraphs on treatment, TRIPS, and funding. So what about the people? There is one very weak paragraph on mentioning populations at high risk of infection in many countries, such as men who have sex with men, injecting drug users, and sex workers. However, it does not talk about the fact that they are criminalized populations and that this is what makes them less likely to access the HIV prevention and treatment services that they need, for fear of violence, stigma, and discrimination. There is also one mention to migrant populations, four to women and girls, four to young people, and twelve to people living with HIV. But this is not a document that is centered on people’s human rights and the need for governments to commit to the political and financial resources necessary to end HIV and AIDS.
Specific targets were all prefaced by the language “work towards”, which weakens the commitment to achieve universal access to HIV prevention significantly (OP62: reduce sexual transmission by 50%, OP63: reduce intravenous transmission by 50%, and OP64: eliminate vertical transmission by 2015). The goal to achieve universal access to antiretroviral treatment was the only target that was agreed on by “accelerating efforts” and has a number of 15 million on treatment by 2015 (OP 66).
On funding, the Declaration committed to “closing the financial gap” through domestic and international funding to reach between $22 and $24 billion per year on AIDS; strongly urged developed countries to meet the .7% of GNP for ODA and for African countries in particular to meet the Abuja commitment of allocating 15% of national budgets to health; committed to scale up new, voluntary and innovative financing mechanisms, and to provide the “highest level of support” for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. (Paras. 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 86, 87, 88, 92, 93, 94, 95)
On trade related intellectual property rights, or TRIPS, the Declaration recognizes that countries have access to low cost medicines, and for the first time adopts language on generics, to protect public health and foster access to essential medicines. This includes the commitment to eliminate trade related obstacles that limit developing countries’ capacities to supply diagnosis, care, prevention and treatment supplies as well as medicines for other opportunistic infections. In addition, international organizations such as UNIDO, UNCTAD, WTO and WHO are named to take steps in assisting developing countries to strengthen national capacity in increasing access to medication, including through the adoption and activation of flexibilities existing in TRIPS agreements. (Paras. 12, 35, 71, 72, 87)
Adolescents and Young People
There are four mentions of young people in the document. Thirty years into the AIDS epidemic, nearly half of all new infections a day occur among those ages 15-24, primarily young women in Sub-Saharan Africa. There is no strong recognition of the need for investments in comprehensive sexuality education, access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, and protection of reproductive rights as essential to HIV prevention among women and young people in the Outcome Document.
There is mention of a central role of the family in guiding children to prevent HIV, HIV and AIDS education in curricula, sexual health information and education, and abstinence, fidelity, and condoms to this end.
OP25: Express grave concern that young people aged 15 to 24 account for more than one third of all new HIV infections, with some 3000 young people becoming infected with HIV each day; note that most young people still have limited access to good quality education, decent employment, and recreational facilities, as well as limited access to sexual and reproductive health programmes that provide the information, skills, services and commodities they need to protect themselves; that only 34% of young people possess accurate knowledge of HIV; and that laws and policies in some instances exclude young people from accessing sexual healthcare and HIV-related services such as voluntary and confidential HIV-testing, counselling and age-appropriate sex and HIV prevention education; while also recognizing the importance of reducing risk taking behaviour and encouraging responsible sexual behaviour, including abstinence, fidelity and correct and consistent use of condoms;
OP 56 Commit to encouraging and supporting the active involvement and leadership of young people, including those living with HIV, in the fight against the epidemic at local, national and global levels; and agree to work with these new leaders to help develop specific measures to engage young people about HIV, including in communities, families, schools, tertiary institutions, recreation centres and workplaces;
OP 59 Commit to redouble HIV prevention efforts by taking all measures to implement comprehensive, evidence-based prevention approaches, taking into account local circumstances, ethics and cultural values, including through but not limited to:
a) conducting public awareness campaigns as well as targeted HIV education to raise public
awareness about HIV;
b) harnessing the energy of young people in helping to lead global HIV awareness;
c) reducing risk taking behaviour and encouraging responsible sexual behaviour including
abstinence, fidelity and consistent and correct use of condoms;
d) expanding access to essential commodities, particularly male and female condoms and sterile injecting equipment;
e) ensuring that all people, particularly young people, have the means to exploit the potential of new modes of connection and communication;
OP 68 Commit to develop and implement strategies to improve infant HIV diagnosis, including through access to diagnostics at point-of-care; significantly increase and improve access to treatment for children and adolescents living with HIV, including access to prophylaxis and treatments for opportunistic infections, as well as increased support to children and adolescents through increased financial, social and moral support for their parents, families and legal guardians and promote a smooth transition from paediatric to young adult treatment and related support and services;
OP 83 Commit to promoting laws and policies that ensure the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for young people, particularly those living with HIV and those at higher risk of HIV infection in order to eliminate the stigma and discrimination they face;
Women and Gender Equality
In every region of the world, HIV infection among women has risen steadily in the past 30 years. However, there is nothing in this document that prioritizes women’s sexual and reproductive rights and health and gender inequality through sound investments as part of the AIDS response. Although paragraph 53 is strong in terms of women’s sexual rights and access to health services, paragraph 81 places women in the context of violence and exploitation “for commercial reasons” which can lead to violence against sex workers and hinder progress in HIV prevention programs. Finally, it is disappointing that the language on women and girls was relegated to the exact same phraseology adopted in 2006 and did not go further, including in recognizing and ensuring women’s reproductive rights as an essential component of HIV responses, including access to contraception, prevention and treatment of reproductive tract infections, and safe pregnancy care. Female-controlled prevention methods are mentioned three times (OP 100); expanding access to female condoms (OP 59 d) and microbicides OP 59 n).
OP 21 Remain deeply concerned that globally women and girls are still the most affected by the epidemic and that they bear a disproportionate share of the care-giving burden and that the ability of women and girls to protect themselves from HIV continues to be compromised by physiological factors, gender inequalities including unequal legal, economic and social status, insufficient access to healthcare and services, including for sexual and reproductive health and all forms of discrimination and violence, including sexual violence and exploitation against them;
OP 53 Pledge to eliminate gender inequalities, gender-based abuse and violence; increase the capacity of women and adolescent girls to protect themselves from the risk of HIV infection, principally through the provision of health care and services, including, inter alia, sexual and reproductive health, and the provision of full access to comprehensive information and education; ensure that women can exercise their right to have control over, and decide freely and responsibly on, matters related to their sexuality in order to increase their ability to protect themselves from HIV infection, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence; and take all necessary measures to create an enabling environment for the empowerment of women and strengthen their economic independence;
OP60 Commit to ensure that financial resources for prevention are targeted to evidence-based
prevention measures that reflect the specific nature of each country’s epidemic by focusing on geographic locations, social networks and populations vulnerable to HIV infection, according to the extent to which they account for new infections in each setting, in order to ensure that resources for HIV prevention are spent as cost-effectively as possible; and ensuring particular attention is paid to women and girls, young people, orphans and vulnerable children, migrants and people affected by humanitarian emergencies, prisoners, indigenous people and people with disabilities, depending on local circumstances;
OP81 Commit to ensuring that national responses to HIV and AIDS meet the specific needs of women and girls, including those living with and affected by HIV, across their lifespan through strengthening legal, policy, administrative and other measures for the promotion and protection of women’s full enjoyment of all human rights and the reduction of their vulnerability to HIV through the elimination of all forms of discrimination, as well as all types of sexual exploitation of women, girls and boys, including for commercial reasons, and all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful traditional and customary practices, abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, battering and trafficking in women and girls;
Men who have sex with men, drug users, and sex workers
Although this paragraph for the first time in a high level UN Political Declaration names these groups of people, it does not have human rights protections in the same paragraph. This is not ideal because it leaves these groups vulnerable to be targeted for testing and treatment programs but can also heighten stigma and discrimination and violations of human rights.
OP 26 Note that many national HIV prevention strategies inadequately focus on populations that epidemiological evidence shows are at higher risk, specifically men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs and sex workers, and further note however that each country should define the specific populations that are key to its epidemic and response, based on the epidemiological and national context;
The human rights paragraphs do not include sexual and reproductive rights, which in the context of HIV and AIDS are quite simply the most important to recognize. There is strong language on protecting the human rights of people living with HIV, full respect for privacy and confidentiality in service provision, and to consider reviewing laws and policies that hinder effective AIDS responses (this would have been much stronger if these were named, such as decriminalizing sex work, HIV transmission, and same sex relationships).
The opposition was able to insert a number of clauses and paragraphs with language on “the family”; taking into account local circumstances, ethics and cultural values (which is often rhetoric for not implementing prevention programs that include sexual and reproductive rights and health, human rights prevention programs, and harm reduction programs, for example). However, these paragraphs were in the end limited to a few insertions while at one point there were over 28 paragraphs throughout the document.
OP 38 Reaffirm the commitment to fulfill obligations to promote universal respect for and the
observance and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all in accordance with the Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other instruments relating to human rights and international law; emphasize the importance of cultural, ethical and religious values, the vital role of the family and the community and in particular people living with and affected by HIV, including their families, and the need to take into account the particularities of each country, in sustaining national HIV and AIDS responses, reaching all people living with HIV, delivering HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and strengthening health systems in particular primary healthcare;
OP 39 Reaffirm that the full realization of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all is an essential element in the global response to the HIV epidemic, including in the areas of
prevention, treatment, care and support, and recognize that addressing stigma and discrimination against people living with, presumed to be living with or affected by HIV, including their families, is also a critical element in combating the global HIV epidemic; and
recognize the need, as appropriate, to strengthen national policies and legislation to address such stigma and discrimination;
OP 77 Commit to intensify national efforts to create enabling legal, social and policy frameworks in each national context in order to eliminate stigma, discrimination and violence related to HIV and promote access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support and non-discriminatory access to education, healthcare, employment and social services; provide legal protections for people affected by HIV including inheritance rights and respect for privacy and confidentiality; and promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms with particular attention to all people vulnerable to and affected by HIV;
OP 78 Commit to review, as appropriate, laws and policies which adversely impact on the successful, effective and equitable delivery of HIV prevention, treatment, care and support programmes to people living with and affected by HIV and consider their review in accordance with relevant national review frameworks and timeframes;
OP 79 Encourage Member States to consider identifying and reviewing, in order to eliminate, any remaining HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence;
OP 80 Commit to national HIV and AIDS strategies that promote and protect human rights, including programmes aimed at eliminating stigma and discrimination against people living with and affected by HIV, including their families, including through sensitizing police and judges, training health care workers in non-discrimination, confidentiality and informed consent, supporting national human rights learning campaigns, legal literacy, and legal services, as well as monitoring the impact of the legal environment on HIV prevention, treatment, care and support;
OP 81 Commit to ensuring that national responses to HIV and AIDS meet the specific needs of women and girls, including those living with and affected by HIV, across their lifespan
through strengthening legal, policy, administrative and other measures for the promotion and
protection of women’s full enjoyment of all human rights and the reduction of their vulnerability to HIV through the elimination of all forms of discrimination, as well as all types of sexual exploitation of women, girls and boys, including for commercial reasons, and all forms of violence against women and girls, including harmful traditional and customary practices, abuse, rape and other forms of sexual violence, battering and trafficking in women
OP 84 Commit to address, according to national legislation, the vulnerabilities to HIV experienced by migrant and mobile populations and support their access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support;
OP 85 Commit to mitigate the impact of the epidemic on workers, their families, their dependants, workplaces and economies, including by taking into account all relevant ILO conventions, as well as the guidance provided by the relevant ILO recommendations, including ILO Recommendation No 200, and call on employers, trade and labour unions, employees and volunteers to eliminate stigma and discrimination, protect human rights and facilitate access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support;
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
The Y2N spoke at the II Conference on Human Rights of LGBTQ people in Africa. The conference was organised by Foundacion Triangulo (www.foundaciontriangulo.es)with support from the Spanish ministry of foreign afairs, Dutch embassy in Spain, CASA AFRICA and the University of Grand Canaria where the conference was hosted.
Part of the objective of the conference was to reinforce the support of Foundation Triangle towards African activists in fighting the injustices, discrimination and attacks LGBTQ people and human rights activists face in Africa, the aim was to also create a safe space where these activists coming from Nigeria, Cameroun, Sierra Leone and Tunisia, can talk about their fears, fights,challenges and the way forward.
There were different presentations and paperwork presentations from the speakers at the conference, including the Executive Director of the Youths 2gether Network who spoke on the work of the Y2N which uses a human rights approach to address HIV and ultimately empower LGBTQ people in Nigeria, some topics that were also spoken on includes: Influence of media on homophobia, working closely and building allies with LGBTQ activists in Africa, International development work and its linkage with sexual health and rights in Africa.
Speakers had different press releases to highlight the importance of the conference, there were also a lot of interview to highlight the issues and a live television broadcast that also called for support and attention on the ugly situation that LGBTQ people face in Africa and the need for the full actualization of sexual rights for all.
The conference happened for 3 days and during the final day of the conference, participants, speakers and supporters came up with a strategic plan on how to work together to make use of international support in working and liberating LGBTQ people in Africa from the pangs and violence that goes on with homophobia.
Monday, November 29, 2010
There has been great attention and speculation by LGBTQ activists on this culture that is perceived to strongly support same sex loving individuals, but there is been little effort to research on this culture and find out the real truth behind this culture and why it is practiced.
The Y2N challenges cultural taboos around sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity and so aims at researching on this currently practiced culture in this region, thereby eliminating the claim that homosexuality is a western import.
The research is aimed at following a very comprehensive and clear methodology, using professionals, while report/findings would be shared with partners and widely made known amongst individual interested in the research findings as well.
Youths 2gether Network
Friday, October 1, 2010
Y2N CELEBRATES NIGERIA’S 50th INDEPENDENCE ANNIVERSARY
The Youths 2gether Network is pleased to join the world in celebrating the 2010 Independence day of Nigeria. The Y2N marked this day with a gathering of some of our members and Board of Directors to share drinks and discuss on the way forward on how to achieve a Nigerian society free from discrimination of any sort.
The Y2N during the chat with its members stressed on the importance of the protection and respect of diversity regardless of age, gender, disability, tribe, race, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression and other status. The Y2N used the medium to call on government most especially the Nigerian government as it celebrates its 50th Anniversary to domesticate and ratify the various human rights treaties such as; International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Convention Against All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child among others, to do so in order to ensure the full protection of the rights of their citizens.
Human Rights violations on any grounds is unethical and should be purged from our society, Unfair hearings on abuse, attack to individuals who society considers to be abnormal is injustice and should be dealt with, with all transparency so as to ensure a Nigerian society where it’s people are happy and work together for a peaceful coexistence.
The Youths 2gether Network is an organization that works to ensure that LGBTI and other marginalized community’s rights are recognized, respected and protected at all levels in Nigeria.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Pretoria, South Africa, February 13-16, 2011
• To promote understanding and further study of male and female same-sex sexual practices, identities and communities, including expressions of gender diversity, in Sub-Saharan Africa.
• To promote understanding of social and structural prejudice towards sexual and gender diversity and strategies to address this prejudice.
• To explore how social and structural factors affect the well-being and health of persons engaging in same-sex sexual practices or with gender diverse backgrounds and identify ways of enabling the social environment and reducing vulnerability.
• To support capacity building in research and advocacy and to strengthen the development of MSM/WSW/transgender ed communities.
Who can submit?
Abstract submission is open to anybody who is able to contribute to listed conference objectives, regardless of institutional affiliation. Persons living in Sub-Saharan Africa are strongly encouraged to submit. Abstract selection will take into account representation in terms of geography, gender, and gender identity.
How to submit?
Abstract submission is only possible online via (www.asssgd.org.za) .
Abstracts are solicited that will contribute to the conference objectives. Conference topics include:
• How male or female same-sex sexuality and gender diversity are expressed in local cultures
• How same-sex sexuality and gender diversity are understood in local cultures and indigenous histories (including contexts of colonialism)
• Health issues in LGBT/MSM/WSW/ Trans persons (including HIV/AIDS)
• Expressions of heteronormativity and homonegativity in local cultures
• Local organization of LGBT/MSM/WSW/ Trans communities
• Local LGBT/MSM/WSW/ Trans cultures
• Programmes to support LGBT/MSM/WSW/ Trans expressions and address health problems
• Same-sexuality and gender diversity in relation to rights-based discourses
• Integrating sexual minority issues into national, regional and Global Civic society (including areas such as sports, education, ageing, social security, employment)
Abstracts should have a title (maximum 20 words), authors names (full first name and surname; intended presenting author first), affiliations (if any; if none: "independent" ), and summary of the proposed presentation of maximum 300 words. Abstracts should indicate how data, sources, or evidence, on which the abstract has been based, have been assembled. Abstracts should include a conclusion summarizing the meaning or implications of the proposed presentation. Abstracts can be submitted in either English or French. An abstract-sample can be found on the conference website (www.asssgd.org.za) .
Abstracts will be reviewed by an international committee. Review criteria include: (1) Originality of contribution; (2) Relevance in terms of conference goals; and (3) Level of scholarship) . Final selection of abstracts will also take into account representation (nationality and gender/gender identity) and resources available to sponsor people's participation.
A limited number of scholarships will be available to facilitate the conference participants who submitted abstracts that have been selected. Application for these scholarships will have to occur simultaneously with abstract submission. While applying for scholarships, persons will be asked to indicate why financial support is needed and which parts of the conference costs they will be able to carry themselves. No scholarships will be available that will fully cover all travel, lodging and conference participation costs.
October 1, 2010 Final date for abstract submission and request for participation support
November 1, 2010 Information regarding acceptance of abstracts and support available
January 15, 2011 Submission of conference presentation
Conference Organizing Committee
Shivaji Bhattarcharya, Théophile Habonimana, Paul Jansen, David Kuria, Thuli Madi, Lydia Makoroka (co-chair), Monica Mbaru , Vasu Reddy (chair), Theo Sandfort (co-chair), Liesl Theron
The organization of this conference is a joint initiative from: AMSHeR (African Men for Sexual Health and Rights), Behind the Mask (South Africa), GALCK (Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya; Kenya), Gender DynamiX (South Africa), HIV Center for Clinical and Behavioral Studies (New York), Hivos (Netherlands, main sponsor), Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC; South Africa), Humure (Burundi), International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC), Oxfam, UNDP (Southern & Eastern Africa.
Friday, September 17, 2010
Who are transmen?
Transgender (‘trans’) is an umbrella term for people whose gender identity and expression do not conform to norms and expectations traditionally associated with their sex assigned at birth. Transgender men, or transmen, are people who were assigned ‘female’ at birth and have a male gender identity and/or masculine gender expression. Transgender people may self-identify and express their gender in a variety of ways and often prefer certain terms and not others. Some who transition from female to male do not identify as transgender at all, but simply as men. In general, transmen should be referred to with male pronouns. However, if you are unsure it is best to respectfully ask a person what terms and pronouns they prefer.
Accurate information about the diversity of transmen’s bodies is not widely available. Transmen have different types of bodies, depending on their use of testosterone and gender confirmation surgeries (which may include chest reconstruction, hysterectomy, metoidioplasty, phalloplasty, 1 etc.; see www.ftmguide. org for further information) . Transmen use a broad range of terms and language to identify their sex/gender, describe their body parts, and disclose their trans status to others. For instance, some transmen are not comfortable with the terms ‘vagina’ and ‘vaginal sex’ and may prefer ‘front hole’ and ‘front sex’ or ‘front hole sex’, although this is not true for all transmen. This diversity creates unique needs and barriers for negotiating and adhering to safer sex practices that are not addressed by current HIV prevention programs.
What do we know aboutand transmen?
The transgender community is diverse and not enough research has been conducted with trans people in general. We have very limited information about transmen in particular. To date, research related to HIV among trans people has almost exclusively focused on transwomen (people who were assigned ‘male’ at birth and have a female gender identity and/or feminine gender expression). However, there is evidence that there is a significant subgroup of transmen that engage in unprotected sex with non-trans men (trans MSM), including some transmen who engage in sex work.
Several cities have conducted needs assessments that focus on or are inclusive of transmen and HIV risk, such as Philadelphia, Washington D.C, San Francisco, and the province of Ontario. The few published studies that report HIV rates among samples of transmen have reported 0–3% prevalence.2- 4 These rates are self-reported, however, and are based on small, non-representative samples, so we do not have conclusive data about the actual rates. Due to the assumption of low rates of HIV among transmen relative to other high-risk groups, there has not been much research on risk behaviors among transmen.
We do know that HIV prevention messages are not reaching most transmen.5 We also know that many trans MSM seek services at gay men’s organizations, where there is little to no education for transmen and their non-trans male partners.4 Providers are generally not trained to identify or serve gay and bisexual transmen in culturally sensitive ways or understand their specific risks and prevention needs.
What don’t we know about HIV and transmen?
We do not have enough information about HIV and transmen. Data collection methods at testing sites do not accurately identify and track transmen or capture their experiences, which contributes to the lack of clarity around HIV rates among transmen.
Rates of HIV and sexual risk behaviors among transmen are also not well understood because transmen are often assumed to be primarily having sex with non-trans women. However, transmen, like other men, can be of any sexual orientation and may have sex with different types of partners, including (but not limited to) non-trans men, transgender women, and transgender men.6,7
What puts transmen at risk?
In one study, a majority of trans MSM reported not using condoms consistently during receptive anal and/or frontal (vaginal) sex with non-trans male partners and low rates of HIV testing and low perception of risk.4 In urban areas where HIV prevalence rates among non-trans MSM are estimated to be 17-40% and STI rates are increasing, trans MSM who engage in unprotected receptive anal and/or frontal (vaginal) intercourse with non-trans MSM may be especially vulnerable to HIV/STIs.8,9
Transmen may face complicated power and gender dynamics in their sexual relationships with non-trans men.4 For some trans MSM, having sex with a non-trans gay male partner is a powerful validation of their gay/queer male identity, especially in the early years of transition, and may be more important than insisting on condom use. Some transmen who use testosterone have reported increased sex drive and increased interest in sex with non-trans men after beginning hormone use, which may contribute to their willingness to take sexual risks.4,10 Transmen on testosterone and/or who have had a hysterectomy may have frontal (vaginal) dryness, which increases their risk for frontal (vaginal) trauma during penetration, thus increasing their risk for STIs, including HIV.10
Low self-esteem may contribute to sexual risk-taking among transmen. Rates of depression, substance use, and suicide attempts are high in this population, but multiple barriers exist to accessing culturally competent support and treatment.3, 11
Drug and alcohol use is a major risk factor for every community, regardless of their gender identity. Transmen may use alcohol or drugs to enhance sexual experiences or help to relieve anxiety about their bodies during sex.4 Some transmen may feel pressure to use drugs in order to fit into some gay men’s communities or subcultures. Although we have very little information about needle sharing for hormone or drug use among transmen, it may also be a risk factor for some.
What can help?
Online dating. Many transmen meet their non-trans male sexual partners on the Internet. Meeting partners through personal ads may allow transmen to describe their body and gender identity upfront (if they choose to do so) and discuss safer sex with potential partners before meeting in person.4
Educational materials for non-trans partners. Transmen’s non-trans male partners often do not have experience with transmen nor access to education about sex with transmen, which can lead to misconceptions about safer sex. For non-trans gay men, safe sex often simply means condom use with anal sex and they may not be aware of the risks associated with frontal (vaginal) sex. See the next section for information on available materials.
Greater visibility in the gay community. Gay and bisexual men need to be educated about the presence of transmen in their community. Increasing visibility and knowledge about transmen may help create a welcoming environment, help increase inclusivity, and help transmen feel more powerful in their relationships with non-trans men.7
What’s being done?
tm4m (tm4m.org) is a San Francisco-based project for transmen who play with men (or want to). They provide information, education, and support to transmen who have sex with men through monthly educational workshops and discussion groups, informational materials and continuously working to foster acceptance and build community. tm4m is a collaborative effort co-sponsored by Eros, Trannywood Pictures and TRANS:THRIVE (a program of the API Wellness Center).
The Gay/Bi/Queer Trans Men’s Working Group in Ontario has conducted a needs assessment with trans MSM, developed a sexual health resource,12 and a website at www.queertransmen. org. They are also providing training and consultation about trans MSM inclusion for prevention workers serving gay men across the province.
All Gender Health Online (www.allgenderhealth .org) is a study exploring the sexual health of non-transgender men who have sex with transgender people. The results will be used to develop an online intervention to prevent the spread of HIV and promote the sexual health of transgender people and their partners.
The STOP AIDS Project in San Francisco, CA strives to include transmen in their programming and community education. They include transgender men in their mission statement and have changed their data collection methods to better reflect varying bodies andin gay men’s communities.
What needs to be done?
We need to implement more inclusive data collection methods to better capture subgroups of transgender people. HIV prevention and care providers should not assume that all men they see were assigned ‘male’ at birth. You cannot tell if a guy is trans just by looking at him. The best method for data collection is a two-part question: 1) ask about current gender identity and 2) ask what sex was assigned at birth.13 If unsure, programs should ask transmen for their preferred name and pronoun and use those terms.
If rates of HIV among transmen are indeed low, we now have the opportunity to engage in true prevention work to keep those numbers low. Gaining a better understanding of transmen’s risk behaviors and the different ways that they protect themselves will aid in providing appropriate and effective HIV prevention education to transmen and their sexual partners.