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Promoting the rights of sexual minorities at the World Social Forum.

The 7th World Social Forum that was held in Nairobi, Kenya in January this year brought together activists, social movements, networks and coalitions from different parts of the world under the slogan "Another world is possible." This vision was strongly embraced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people from across the globe, and in particular by activists from across Africa, who came to Nairobi to share their experiences, build networks and advocate for their equal human rights as citizens of this continent.

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The World Social Forum provided a safe space for these activities at a venue called the Q-Spot, hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya. From all reports, this became the most popular venue at the Forum, a lively and colourful centre of information and debate on issues of sexual diversity and human rights, sexual orientation and the law, sexuality and social justice in Africa, and building collaboration across continents, in particular in the global south, to advance sexual diversity activism.

According to its director Fikile Vilakazi, the Coalition of African Lesbians found itself at the centre of these debates, engaging in feminist analysis of the position and treatment of women and girls in Africa, and the challenge of organising around sexual diversity as well as sexual health and rights in patriarchal cultures.

"The events at the Q-spot successfully demonstrated that there are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer people across Africa," said Fikile. "Many of us are out and proud activists despite the violence and hate that are still expressed in many forms against us. There is still a strong culture of denial of Africa's rich sexual diversity and the open embracing of love and sexual attraction between people of the same sex and same gender."

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The LGBTIQ activists found it encouraging that a representative of the Human Rights Commission of Kenya as well as a human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe participated in one of the panel discussions at the Q-Spot. The representative of the Commission affirmed the rights of sexual minorities and made an invitation to lesbian and gay people to report any violations against their rights to the Commission. "This call may be holding the freedom and emancipation of lesbian and gay people in Kenya," said Fikile, adding that it remains to be tested. She told Sister Namibia of the recent arrest of a young Kenyan transgender wo/man, who was charged with homosexuality and impersonation for daring to dress 'like a man.' Fortunately her lawyers managed to get the charges dropped.

The solidarity, networking and sharing at the World Social Forum has strengthened the African LGBTIQ movement and brought it into partnership with many other social movements in our common struggle for a better world for all.

RELATED ARTICLE: The meanings of LGBTIQ

There are many words in indigenous languages across Africa that designate people with diverse gender identities and sexual orientations or practices. Below are definitions of terms commonly used in English.

Lesbian a woman who is attracted to/loves other women

Gay a man who is attracted to/loves other men

Bisexual a person who is attracted to/loves both women and men

Transgender a woman who chooses to dress/live 'as a man' in her community, thus taking on a 'male' gender identity; or a man who chooses to dress/live 'as a woman' in his community, taking on a 'female' gender identity. Note that all gender identities are culturally constructed and vary from one society to another, changing over time.

Intersex a person born with a mixture of female and male physical characteristics, such as genitals, chromosomes and hormones. Intersex people challenge our understanding that there are only two biological sexes: female and male.

Queer people who are different from the heterosexual 'norm' in terms of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity but do not want to use any of the above labels to describe themselves

Q-Spot a play on the term G-spot, which denotes a gland behind the vaginal wall where women can experience sexual pleasure
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Title Annotation:HUMAN RIGHTS
Author:Frank, Liz
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6KENY
Date:May 1, 2007
Words:688
Previous Article:Who are you to tell me who I am?
Next Article:At the coalface: gender and local government.
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