Security and Safety Experts Give Tips To Queer Africans
These security and safety tips for Queer Persons were developed, designed and formulated by Tom Muyunga-Mukasa a Public Health Strategist and Human Rights Activist.
The Security and Safety Principles for Queer Persons commits them to five key principles:
Principle 1: Provide information, education and clear communication pointing out that Queer Persons do not demand special treatment but unconditional positive regard (UPR) to ensure security and safety concerns can be raised and are adequately addressed.
Principle 2: Adopt a systematic approach towards identifying security and safety-related dangers, threats, risks, and identify suitable preventive and control measures.
Principle 3: Build capacity so that they are empowered to take personal responsibility for their own security.
Principle 4: Read, discuss and understand the Security and safety Guidelines
Principle 5: Provide psycho-social support in the event of traumatic experiences at acute or prolonged phases during the course of their life.
Safe spaces, shelters and safer host communities are increasingly becoming the methods to create communities of peace. Many recommendations, reports and tips on security and safety revolve around a definition of security as a management issue. We have to proactively manage risks to dangers, threats and attacks; be consequence-conscious and get better positioned to deal with crises. This enables us to lead lives securely and safely. This in turn is a benefit to our individual lives, others and communities we live in.
Queer (LGBTIQQ) persons are more likely to face vulnerability to or susceptibility to dangers, threats, risks and homophobic attacks than straight women or girls. These attacks are in many forms including: threat to one’s life, physical battery, denial of access to services, deprivation, confinement, abuses, arbitrary arrests, deliberate mistreatment while in custody and disregard. The attacks are perpetrated by persons who come to know of their sexual orientation and use this knowledge to extort, blackmail, ransom and expose to other forms of dangers, threats and risks.
The political-legal-cultural-social factors are oft-quoted dimensions used to persecute Queer persons. In this primer we use the action-consequence analysis tool to help queer persons navigate life in the hope of avoiding dangers, threats and risks. We hope to impress upon you the fact that the materials, objects and accessories one has in possession may be used to enhance or expose one to safety issues. We shall use themes to establish a baseline against which to gain insight and use for security and safety intuitive or iterative survival skills.
In providing these tips we have made three self-awareness assumptions: Being queer is not an entitlement; not a disability; not a reason to be treated as a special needs person. Do not mistake standard courteous processing or treatment to mean you are “special” it is called unconditional positive regard. The expectation to be treated because of the SOGIESC issues should not be taken to mean that one has near-VIP privileges. Having laid down the assumptions, we then move on to conditions which need to be satisfied before one becomes exposed to danger, threats and risks.
There should be an expectation that sexuality, orientation, gender identity/gender expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC) manifest differently in different persons. This means each individual experiences SOGIESC differently. This in turn is what builds individual history, memories, and practices. It informs one’s idea of how to lead life which can be impacted by SOGIESC and vice-versa.
Pre-security of property condition:
There should be an expectation that sexuality, orientation, gender identity/gender expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC) manifest differently through access to or un-availability of given materials, objects and accessories e.g. hormones, Information/Education/Communication materials on SOGIESC and safe spaces. This means each individual will experience SOGIESC differently. This in turn is what builds individual history, memories, and practices. It informs one’s idea of how to lead life which can be impacted by SOGIESC and vice-versa.
Pre-security condition while in a safe space:
There should be an expectation that sexuality, orientation, gender identity/gender expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC) manifest differently in different safe spaces. This means each individual experiences SOGIESC differently. This in turn is what builds individual history, memories, and practices. It informs one’s idea of how to lead life which can be impacted by SOGIESC and vice-versa.
Pre-security condition while socializing/associating:
There should be an expectation that sexuality, orientation, gender identity/gender expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC) manifest differently according to how one socializes or associates with other people. These are issues that go into the friend-making, role-plays and home-making areas. Not all people go through same phases of rites of passages because each individual experiences SOGIESC differently. This in turn is what builds individual history, memories, and practices. It informs one’s idea of how to lead life which can be impacted by SOGIESC and vice-versa.
Pre-security condition while moving from one location to other:
It is imperative that one understands the local nature of lore, ethos, pathos and practices of the area they live in. This is to help them perform a community diagnosis or determine extent of tolerance in the area.
Pre-security condition to maintain your occupation or position in society:
It is imperative that one understands the ethos and practices of their places of work. This is to help them determine extent of tolerance in the area.
Sexuality, orientation, gender identity/gender expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC) impact on one’s safety and this depends on the normed cultures of a particular place. It is important for one to understand what may provoke animosity and what is considered tolerable.
Pre-safety of property condition:
Access, use and maintenance of materials, objects and accessories e.g. hormonal replacements, Information/Education/Communication materials on SOGIESC and safe spaces, impacts experience SOGIESC.
Pre-safety condition while in a safe space:
Availability, access to and maintenance of safe spaces impact sexuality, orientation, gender identity/gender expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC). Make sure you develop codes of conduct for the safe space. These must be read regularly to remind those who attend the safe space activities to ensure and enforce dignity affirmation.
Pre-safety condition while socializing/associating:
Materials, objects and accessories we use or have access impact how we experience sexuality, orientation, gender identity/gender expression and sexual characteristics (SOGIESC). This in turn, impact how we socialize or associate with other people to enhance bonding, friend-making, role-plays and home-making.
Pre-safety conditions while moving from one location to other:
It is important for one to avail themselves the means to understand or explore local nature of lore, ethos, pathos and practices of the area they live in. This is to help them perform a community diagnosis or determine extent of tolerance in the area.
Pre-safety conditions to maintain your occupation or position in society:
It is important for one to have an understanding of the ethos and practices of their places of work or communities. This in turn impacts interactions which also help to determine extent of tolerance or intolerance in the area. This may manifest as: how one conducts themselves in the community and this means that one has to gauge how well they are willing to participate in community meetings, activities or engagements. It means one has to visible as a member contributing to society but also cautious on what to reveal or not.
Security of persons:
Remember, security is a management issue and therefore plan for it, anticipate danger, threats and risks to your body, your place of residence and your materials/objects/accessories (clothes, car, keys, phone, laptop, wallet and the like).
Security of property:
Know what you have on you and in your house or office. First of all, is it your own property and do you have proof of ownership? Is it loaned or borrowed? Is it allowable to be possessed? Can it incriminate you or not? Can it be used against you? Is it a valuable that has resale value? How safe do you keep your possessions?
Security while in a safe space:
Your safe space is your bubble of peace, so do not compromise that condition. It is where you engage in self-care, self-love, self-recreate and self-rejuvenate. Make sure you do not make it a point of vulnerability. Privacy, anonymity and security are the benefits of safe spaces. These should be spaces where you do not tolerate violence, harassment, or hate speech and the spaces must be such that they ensure dignity for all. It means that in such a space there are reminders or cues in place remind people of that commitment.
Security while socializing/associating:
As much as you have planned for avoidance of danger, threats and risks to yourself. Ensure you do not expose yourself to danger, threats and risks just because you are going out of your house to shop at that next door retail shop, meeting friends or have gone out to dinner or at a club.
Security while moving from one location to another:
Take your security seriously by planning all your journeys in advance. Make sure you use daylight even if it is just planning a dash to the market to pick up tea leaves or salt. As much as possible avoid random things because they may derail you from the larger plans. They take time out of your schedule.
Security to maintain your occupation, position in society:
You are as dignified a being as any honourable member of parliament. So, do not despise yourself and do not demean your image. The place where you work and your position in society should never be compromised by insecurity. Make sure you learn the skills of the trade. That way you will feel more secure at your job because your performance is trackable and effective.
Safety of persons:
At all times, make sure that you take yourself through a safety drill. The premise is that the materials, objects and accessories you access, come in contact with or own must be used in such a way as not to cause dangers, threats and risks. Consider that phone of yours, it is valuable and has high resale value. Keep it safely and do not be careless with it. The carelessness may lead to attacks on your personal by those who want to steal it from you.
Safety of property:
Your property includes your shirt, trousers, watch in your arm, phone or any other property. Make sure they are not making you vulnerable to danger, threats and risks. Be careful how and what you dress, this may be the cause of problems or deterrents to problems.
Safety while in a safe space:
Does your safe space have doors that lock well? Is it secure? Do you invite so many people at your place? When they leave how do your other neighbours feel about it? All these are issues that may cause or deter problems for you. Watch who comes and goes, it helps you in the long run. Control the traffic at your safe space.
Safety while socializing/associating:
Your parties must be controlled, your outings must be regulated and your comings and goings planned.
Safety while moving from one location to another:
You always go out to the next door grocery or super market to buy consumables for your place. But, are you aware there are those who note these patterns? When you do so, do it in friendly areas and build networks of allies who can vouch for you once you are in trouble.
Safety to maintain your occupation, position in society:
Do not compromise your occupation and position in society by your conduct (or misconduct). Know your area so well, know the people you interact with and make sure you set boundaries.
A Case Study from Nigeria:
The Closet-Gay, Social Media Surfing and Visibility
This is when you are aware you are gay but, still want to guard to whom you disclose your sexuality and orientation. Ekene Williams, is a human rights activist and a Nigerian expert on SOGIESC Counselling and guidance who advises that “if you are still in the closet or stand the risk of being outed to your family and friends when you are not yet comfortable with discussing your sexual orientation with them, don’t post a picture of your face online unless you are totally in the closet there as well. For safety, consider using a picture of something that represents one of your hobbies or portrays an aspect of your personality. Consider limiting your new online contacts to friends of your real-life friends. The LGBTIQ community is a minority group, so almost everyone knows everyone, one way or the other. You may want to verify with a trusted friend or a friend of that friend whether a new acquaintance is really a member of the LGBTIQ community. Never share your nude photos or make a video or have phone sex with someone you have not met and know you can trust. Insist that your first meeting be in a public space or other safe location. Or talk on Skype or in a video call. Remember that sharing your personal information, such as your home address or workplace, can be risky. Before you do that, make sure that you have gotten to know a new acquaintance well. First, meet him at an LGBTIQ-friendly café or a safe public place. Let a friend know where you are meeting, or have a friend come with you. It is safer to have company on the first date if you are not comfortable and certain that you know whom you’re meeting. At the least, tell a friend where you’re going. Provide your emergency contact information to your trusted friend or ally. At that first meeting, take with you as little as possible. Do not take ATM cards, a bundle of cash, a smartphone or a laptop. Dress casually and carry only the identification documents you plan to use that day. In case of scandal or arrest, never confess or admit to anything. Even when there is proof against you, probably from chats or recorded calls, silence is the best bet. In the case of scandal, arrest or blackmail, visit a nearby human right or LGBTIQ organization for assistance and support. Do not give in to fear or shame. Find out about organizations in your area that provide legal services for LGBTIQ persons.
Three other rules have to do with your health:
Always insist on practicing safe sex. Always have conversations with persons you meet concerning your safety expectations. Get tested regularly for HIV and other STIs — at least three times per year.
In the case of any infection, adhere to appropriate treatment and medication. Do not resort to self-medication or hide your health status due to stigma or shame. Locate an LGBTIQ-friendly clinic in your area. It’s especially important to follow the 11 rules for protecting yourself against blackmail and extortion because those crimes have become so frequent and because the victims come from the LGBTIQ community.”
According to Ekene, “in Nigeria, a persecution atmosphere targeting LGBTIQQ, impunity, joblessness among many graduate and non-graduate youths include some of the backdrop against LGBTIQQ are lynched, robbed, abused and humiliated. He continues to say that “the perpetrators have incorporated various mechanisms and strategies into their modus operandi. Through fake social media accounts, they lure their unsuspecting victims with promises of discreet relationships, assumed love attractions, good sexual encounters, job opportunities and benevolent gifts, amongst others. In addition to blackmail and extortion, the crimes often also extend to gang rape, sexual abuse, physical assault and armed robbery. Gullibility, promiscuity and secrecy among LGBTIQ community members in Nigeria make it easier for homophobic criminals to prey on LGBTIQ victims. For a country with high level of religiosity, corrupt politics, incompetent governance, ethnic inequality and intimidating legislation, it is easy for such criminality to thrive without anyone batting an eye. Due to the country’s homophobia, anti-gay criminals are hailed by the society, supported by state officials and encouraged by the silence of human rights defenders. The general attitude is: ‘Gays deserve what comes to them because such sexual orientation is un-African and can’t be allowed in our country.’ In Nigeria, blackmail and extortion are a dreadful reality. They are a frightful evil that plagues the gay community. Our families and friends, the police and the judiciary cannot protect us, and many of them don’t care. That must change. All community-based organizations and non-governmental organizations should unite to condemn anti-LGBTIQ crimes and hold the government accountable for failing to protect the lives and properties of her citizens. The international community should decry the dangers and violence that LGBTI persons face in Nigeria. But our safety, well-being, and liberation are our responsibility, not someone else’s. Amid Nigeria’s poverty and its high rate of unemployment, LGBTIQ persons can develop their individual talents and acquire skills that will help them avoid the temptations that can lead to exploitation and violence. The gay community in Nigeria must shun gullibility, promiscuity, greed, self-loathing and hatred. Instead, we need to be our brother’s keepers. We need to protect our mutual interest and fight for sexual liberation. We must come together and look out for one another. We must stand up against our oppressors and put an end to intimidation.”