ACTIVIST PROFILE: Musoke
By Kellyn Botha
In 2014 the African Commission, the human rights body of the African Union, adopted Resolution 275 which expressed concern over and condemned the continuing violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.
Unfortunately, the Tanzanian government seems not to have taken this seriously.
Earlier this year, the Tanzanian government took a hard line stance against homosexuality, with the nation’s President stating that ‘even cows’ disapprove of homosexuality. Arrests of LGBTI Tanzanians have spiked, HIV-AIDS treatments denied, and several LGBTI-supportive organisations have been dissolved, threatened or forced underground.
Many are fearful, but some activists, such as Musoke*, feel that while the situation is bad, it is more nuanced than the media lets on. “Lots of bad stuff is happening in Tanzania but it is not all bad. The media doesn’t always show things in a balanced way,” says Musoke, “me, I just live my life as a transgender man and I’m all good.”
Musoke originally worked for a transgender rights advocacy organisation, but felt the group lacked the organisational skills required to make real progress – a widespread problem for many grassroots activist groups across the continent.
Today Musoke is employed at a large non-governmental organisation focusing on MSM health service provision, and is one of the few organisations that remains openly inclusive of LGBTI persons. The organisation fights against diseases such as HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis, and works toward more accurate research on the state of healthcare in the country, and rolls out its services across the mainland, as the organisation does not extend its services to the island of Zanzibar.
Acting as the main point of contact with communities, Musoke is inspired by the young people he works with, teaching them about their rights in regard to healthcare and access to medication.
Musoke believes that by using multimedia platforms, he can make a meaningful contribution to the fight for LGBTI rights in Tanzania.
Having faced multiple challenges in his personal life, Musoke has never given up the fight. When financial constraints within his family, meant he could not complete his studies, he started taking online courses to bolster his skillset. He was also turned away by several media-organisations, that he applied to for employment, seemingly because of his gender identity. But fought on and got the job he has at the moment which has inspired him to learn and push for change.
At home, Musoke’s family view him as a lesbian woman and he feels he is not going to come out to them as a trans man, any time soon. “My family is very religious, we’re Muslims. I am tolerated as a lesbian woman although we do not talk about it. To now tell them I am not a woman, but a man, will not be a positive thing for my family. They’re not really accepting of such things.”
But for Musoke life in Tanzania, goes. The struggle for LGBTI rights is a long one, and he is prepared to fight it – all the way!
One would hope that beyond research and resolutions, the African Commission will start intervening in situations where there is a clear violation of LGBTI rights, by governments.
*Name changed for security reasons