Africa

The Destabilising Heteronormativity Project

Of all the issues facing same-sex practicing – and gender variant – people in Africa, the lack of access to adequate HIV prevention and HIV-related health and social services are perhaps the most pressing. Although the role of bad policy and programming in limiting access to these services is often highlighted as a major obstacle, the role of culture and religion is often acknowledged but rarely prioritised as within the HIV response. This is often because of the complexities of religious dogma and cultural practices and the multiplicities of their expression especially across Africa.

The Destabilising Heteronormativity project is a multi-pronged approach with targeted interventions in various arenas with various partners:

  1. Academia: Conducting research and production of academic publications working in partnership with university of the Witwatersrand and 10 other southern African Universities.
  2. AFRICAN UNION COMMISSION AND SADC PARLIAMENTARY FORUM: conducting research, advocacy and capacity building amongst the continents bureaucratic and political leaders in the AUC and parliamentarians at SADC PF, based on aids accountability international’s existing relationships with these organisations.
  3. Litigation: DH made a small investment in legal advocacy by using strategic litigation by making a sub-grant TO INITIATIVE FOR STRATEGIC LITIGATION IN AFRICA (ISLA).
  4. Media: use of advertising agencies to change societal perceptions working in partnership with advertisers’ activist’s collective.
  5. Spirituality and inclusion: Lobbying and advocacy among the faith-based community members working in partnership with international network of religious leaders living with or personally affected by HIV AND AIDS (INERELA+) And African Men for Sexual Health And Rights (AMSHER).
  6. Spirituality and scriptures: Developing counter-intelligence based on the writings and knowledge of African spiritual leaders and other scholarly arguments to counter discrimination and stigmatisation of sexually diverse people, and building the capacity of sexually diverse and religious people to make these arguments, with the house of rainbow.
  7. Whosemytribe.com: A public campaign to change social norms around sexual diversity with hoka hey.

Abstract

Integrating sexuality and spirituality: promoting the inclusion of MSM/LGBTIQ populations in HIV interventions by faith communities.

Of all the issues facing same-sex practicing – and gender variant – people in Africa, the lack of access to adequate HIV prevention and HIV-related health and social services are perhaps the most pressing. Although the role of bad policy and programming in limiting access to these services is often highlighted as a major obstacle, the role of culture and religion is often acknowledged but rarely prioritised as within the HIV response. This is often because of the complexities of religious dogma and cultural practices and the multiplicities of their expression especially across Africa.

A number of studies and reports have noted the role that religious institutions play in perpetuating gender stereotypes, hetero-normativity and homophobia in Africa. A survey of MSM/LGBTIQ communities in 7 sub-Saharan African countries by the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights [AMSHeR] in 2013 placed religion- and culture-based homophobiain the Top 5 [out of 24] barriers to access to service.

The role that religious institutions and faith-based organisations played in turning the tide on HIV-related stigma, discriminations and misconceptions in the wake of the epidemic in Africa has also been widely acknowledged and documented through public awareness and the use of transformative theological reflections and -engagements. This same approach of inclusivity, dispelling of misconceptions and phobias, portends much hope for MSM/LGBTIQ communities within the context of the HIV response in Africa.

AMSHeR and INERELA+ employed an approach that emphasises dialogue, critical reflection, peer-sharing and learning within a sustained and facilitated multi-community engagement process. AMSHeR and INERALA+ have previously collaborated on a similar project in the past, in September 2013, titled the Dialogue on Transformative Theological Reflections on Sexual Minorities organised by INERELA+ which brought together 40 religious leaders from a variety of faith-communities. Over four days, the meeting reflected on topics such as HIV and sexuality, Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights, Faith Communities and Theologies, Inclusive Theologies, among others. The meeting provided a unique opportunity for religious leaders to explore these issues in the context of their various faiths and the realities of the HIV epidemic, as well as to enquire about basic issues around same-sex sexualities which they had no opportunity to explore in the past.

This project leveraged on the successes of that meeting by incorporating some of the religious leaders who participated in that meeting and using them to identify potential faith-based HIV service organisations from the selected countries who will participate in this project. AMSHeR will identity MSM/LGBTIQ organisations from its
membership in those countries to participate in this project.

Long term objective

Under this project, AMSHeR and INERELA+ worked with MSM/LGBTIQ individuals, religious leaders and faith-based HIV service organisations in four Southern African countries(Botswana, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia)to break the silence on, challenge stigma towards, and improve access to HIV services for MSM/LGBTIQ communities through a number of activities aimed at improving understanding of gender/gender identity, sexualities, sexual orientation and human rights within the framework of transformative theological engagements.

Medium term objectives

To improve knowledge among MSM/LGBTIQ communities, religious leaders and faith-based HIV service organisations on sexuality and spirituality in the context of human rights and the HIV response.

Initiate partnerships among MSM/LGBTIQ communities, religious leaders and faith-based HIV service organisation to challenge attitudes and practices that marginalise MSM/LGBTIQ communities and increase vulnerability to HIV.

The regional meeting was facilitated by at two consultants versed on the issues of sexuality and spirituality supported by AMSHeR and INERELA+ Programme leads and provided an opportunity for the participants to explore a number of topics and clarify misconceptions. [see project report]

The development of a documentary [ QUEER VOICES OF FAITH] detailing the reflections and experiences of members of the various queer communities regionally on challenging the silence, stigma and bigotry surrounding Sexuality and Spirituality.

Joint country-projects of MSM/LGBTIQ organisations, religious leaders and faith-based service organisations taking forward the lessons from the regional roundtable.

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