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Marina Yannakoudakis
MEP stands up for lesbian rights in Africa

in WORLD, 05/07/2012

British MEP moved to help lesbians in Africa after meeting woman from Uganda who was raped, tortured and made to give birth alone in a prison cell

A British Member of the European Parliament (MEP) is calling on the European Parliament to take a stand against the brutal persecution of lesbians in Africa.

Marina Yannakoudakis, who is Conservative spokesman on women’s rights in the European Parliament, has submitted a resolution which calls on the 38 countries in Africa where homosexuality is illegal to repeal their gay bans.

It also denounces hatred and violence on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

Being a gay woman is illegal in 27 African nations and Yannakoudakis initially tabled the motion earlier this year when the first women ever to be charged with homosexuality in Cameroon were due to be brought before a court on 8 March, International Women’s Day.

The country has also seen the routine harrassment of activist Alice Nkom and the government also recently opposed an EU-funded aid project to provide assistance and guidance to sexual minorities.

'Recent developments in Cameroon made me realize that we needed to stand up for the rights of LGBTI people in Africa,' she said.

'Lesbian women are particularly at threat from violence and rape when their sexual orientation is revealed and I and other members of the European Parliament’s women’s rights committee have been concerned by the worsening situation.'

She says she was also moved to take action after a woman in her London constituency who fled Uganda told of how she was violently abused because she was a lesbian.

'When her father discovered she was gay he beat her and then denounced her to the police,' Yannakoudakis explained.

'At the police station she was beaten further. Later two policemen came to her cell and brutally raped her.

'She spent over a year in the cell where she was tortured and raped almost every day. She fell pregnant and gave birth alone in her cell. The baby was stillborn and Theresa had to leave the dead, rotting baby in the corner of her cell for days.

'Theresa escaped and arrived in London in 2006, but she has permanent hearing loss from the beatings.

'I have been told that this is very typical of lesbians who flee persecution from some African countries.'

She added that she hopes her resolution will bring about 'real change' in countries which routinely persecute LGBT people.

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