The crisis in Africa: what is to be done?



A full-day Symposium: The crisis in Africa: what is to be done deals with the questions of rising anti-homosexuality backlash in the continent with scholars and activists from Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, DRC, Algeria and South Africa. How can we make sense of this rising hatred and anti-humanist turn in the continent? This session will also tackle the major institutional players that have been at the forefront of fuelling hatred and anti-homophobic thinking: the law, religion, culture and tradition. This symposium will be a think-tank on finding academic and activist collective responses to hatred and violence targeting LGBTI and queer people in Africa.


Date: Monday 2 June, 2014

Time: 9h00 – 16h45


 9h00 – 9h10 Opening: VC, Dr Max Price

 9:15 – 10:20 Keynote: Prof Vasu Reddy (HSRC)

 10:20 – 10:30 Tea

10:30 – 12:20 Religion, politics, African tradition and sexuality

Chair: Dr Ilana van Wyk (Huma)

Kudzai Biri, PhD (University of Zimbabwe) “Religion and Politics in Zimbabwe: A Critique of the Demonization and Criminalisation of Same Sex”.

Imam Zahed Ludovic (Stellenbosch, CALEM) “Radically alternative Islamic LGBT corporalities and religiosities: The vanguard of new Islamic liberation theologies?”

Fikile Vilakazi (UWC) “Decolonising sexuality and gender: A closer look at the intersections of sexuality, gender, tradition and spirituality in Africa”

12:20 – 13:20 Lunch

13:20 – 15:00: Law, Human Rights and Sexuality

Chair: Prof Deborah Posel (Huma)

Stella Nyanzi, PhD (Makerere University) “Alienating Citizens: Exploring the Poetics and Polemics of Foreign Influence over Homosexualities in Uganda”

Koko Guillain (PASSOP), “The struggle of LGBTI Refugees from Country of origin to South Africa: From persecution to barriers of integration in South Africa”

Pierre de Vos, PhD (UCT) :On LGBTI emancipation in Africa and the limits of a human rights discourse”

Jaco Barnard-Naude, PhD (UCT) “Sexual minority freedom in Africa, totalitarianism and the democracy to come”

15:00 – 15:10 Tea

15:10 – 16:30 Roundtable with activists on challenging the policing of bodies and sexuality – experiences from the field

Chair: Dr Zethu Matebeni (Huma)

Sandra Ntebi (Uganda), “Safety and Security for LGBT Ugandans”

Jabu Chen Pereira (SA), “Documentation and Reporting on LGBTI violations”

Neo Musangi (Kenya), title to follow

Unoma Azuah (Nigeria/USA), title to follow

Milumbe Haimbe (Zambia) title to follow

16:30 – 16:45 Closing Remarks: Prof Gloria Wekker



Prof Vasu Reddy, PhD is the Executive Director in the Human and Social Development Research Programme at the Human Sciences Research Council. Prior to joining the HSRC, he was Associate Professor of Gender Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (where he was based for 13 years). In the mid to late nineties he was a National Executive Committee member of the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality; served thereafter as Board Member of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project, and is a co-founder of the Durban Lesbian & Gay Centre. Vasu’s research interests are in genders, sexualities, HIV and issues of social cohesion and justice. Although steeped in social science research, he is also deeply interested in the broader humanities. In addition to conducting policy-driven research and serving as a Principal Investigator of a number of multi-year studies related to gender, sexuality and HIV & AIDS, Vasu has also published in local and international journals, most recently editing  (with Theo Sandfort) a special edition of Culture, Health and Sexuality on African same-sex sexualities and gender diversity. Some of his edited and co-authored books are: From Social Silence to Social Science: Gender, Same-Sex Sexuality and HIV/AIDS in South Africa (lead editor with Theo Sandfort & Laetitia Rispel, 2009), The Country We Want to Live In: Hate Crimes and Homophobia in the Lives of Black Lesbian South Africans (co-authored monograph with Nonhlanhla Mkhize, Jane Bennett & Relebohile Moletsane, 2010), South African women as champions of change: a civil society programme of action for the African women’s decade (co-authored with Margaret Chitiga-Mabuga, Selma Karuaihe and a few others, 2014). Forthcoming in July 2014 is Care in Context: Transnational Gender Perspectives (of which he is lead editor with Stephan Meyer, Tammy Shefer and Thenjiwe Meyiwa). If this is all Vasu does, then you’re wrong, because that would be a boring life. He is also interested in food, not just eating, but also thinking and writing about food (a new project which he is developing in coming months).

Gloria Wekker is a cultural anthropologist and professor emeritus of the Gender Studies Department, Faculty of the Humanities, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, since 2012. She was the academic coordinator of the one- year MA Program in Gender Studies and the director of GEM, the Expertise Center on Gender, Ethnicity and Multiculturality at the same university. Specializing in Gender Studies, African Diaspora Studies and Sexuality Studies, she is the author of Politics of Passion; Women’s sexual Culture in the Afro-Surinamese Diaspora (Columbia University Press, 2006), for which she won the Ruth Benedict Prize of American Anthropological Association (2007). She is currently working on a collection of essays, which collectively attempt an ethnography of the white Dutch psyche, entitled Innocence Unltd. Race and the Dutch cultural Archive, which will be published in 2015. Wekker has published in many different fields and also writes poetry and prose. She is on the editorial board of various international journals and co-chair of the scientific board of NINSEE,the National Institute for the Dutch Slavery Past and its Legacy. In addition to her government and academic posts, Wekker is also the cofounder of Sister Outsider, a Black lesbian women’s literary circle in Amsterdam.

Session 1:

Kudzai Biri (PhD) is a senior lecturer in the Department of Religious Studies, Classics and Philosophy of the University of Zimbabwe. Her area of specialisation is African Traditional Religions and Pentecostalism. She teaches African Traditional Religions and Religion and Ethics. She has published widely and attended several national and international conferences. She has published on religion and gender, religion and politics, religion and migration among others.

Imam Ludovic-Mohamed Zahed joined the Department of Anthropology at the EHESS (French school for advanced social studies) in fall 2010. He is about to finalize the writing of his anthropology PhD about Islam and gender diversity, after he studied Islamic theology in Algeria for five years; he also did a master in Cognitive Psychology at the Ecole Normale Superieur and a PhD in Social Psychology of religions at the University of Nantes – France. L. Zahed’s actual thesis is about radically alternative Islamic LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) corporalities and religiosities as the vanguard of new Islamic liberation theologies. His terrain is focusing on LGBT Arab-Muslim organizations emergence mainly in Europe, but also in North and South Africa, and the USA. His fields of expertise include Muslim communities in Europe and Diaspora, and social grammars concerning norm negociation around gender, sexuality, the public sphere, in relationship to alternative liberation theologies and mystical branches of Islam, such as Progressive, inclusive Islam and Sufism. He is the author of three books and numerous articles, including Le Coran et la Chair (“Qur’an and the Flesh” – Max Milo, 2012), and Queer Muslim Marriage (Kindle, 2013).  L. Zahed’s research languages are Arabic, French and English. Before coming as a visitor researcher to Stellenbosch (South Africa), L. Zahed was the international coordinator of the Euro-African network of citizens and intellectuals engaged and working towards an inclusive representation of Islam (”.

Fikile Vilakazi is a black lesbian feminist activist and social development scholar born in Soweto, South Africa. She is currently pursuing her PhD degree in Development Studies with the University of the Western Cape. Her PhD is focussed on food security, medicinal plants and the necessity for a globally accepted curriculum based on oral traditional medicine training informed by the power of ancient knowledge and wisdom. She has activist experience of more than 20 years dedicated in student movements, the liberation movement, social and spiritual justice, youth, gender and sexuality politics in South Africa, Africa and Internationally. She has presented, written and published papers in the field of poverty, sexuality, gender, traditional medicines and youth in various local and international platforms. Some of her recent publications include topics on participatory development’ regulation of African traditional medicine; and feminist leadership. Fikile is a qualified traditional healer and Reiki practitioner currently studying indigenous medicines and clinical trials.

Session 2:

Pierre de Vos (South Africa) is the Claude Leon Foundation Chair in Constitutional Governance at the University of Cape Town. De Vos studied at the University of Stellenbosch, Columbia University (New York), and the University of Western Cape, where he held a professorship. De Vos has published widely on issues of constitutional law, from housing to marriage equality and citizenship rights. South African Constitutional Law in Context His blog,, offers constitutional perspective on social and political issues of contemporary South Africa and is widely read and syndicated on the Daily Maverick, one of South Africa’s leading online news platforms. He is chairperson of the Board of the Aids Legal Network and a board member of Triangle Project.

Stella Nyanzi is a medical anthropologist based at the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in Uganda. Her research interests are sexualities, reproductive health, health policy, youths and children, alternative healing therapies, and race. Stella has research experience in conducting ethnographic fieldwork and qualitative research in Uganda, The Gambia and more recently Tanzania.

Guillain Koko is a human rights lawyer and a Social Justice Activist; he has experience working with the most marginalized and minority groups in Africa. As the Project Coordinator of LGBTI Refugees Support and Advocacy Project at PASSOP, he advocates for the rights of refugees fleeing persecution in their countries due to sexual orientation and gender identity and seek asylum to South Africa. He holds a LLB in Public Law from the Catholic University of Bukavu and is currently writing his mini thesis in International and Human rights Law (LLM part time program) at the University of the Western Cape. He has spoken at several universities around African continent and is recognised as an expert in his field. He is fluent in English, French, Kiswahili and Lingala.

Jaco Barnard-Naudé is professor in the law faculty at the University of Cape Town where he teaches and conducts research in post-apartheid jurisprudence. He holds the degrees BCom (Law), LLB and LLD from the University of Pretoria and an MA in creative writing from UCT. He is also a past recipient of the UCT Fellows’ Award. He has spent time on research fellowships at the Max Planck Institute for International Private Law in Hamburg and as Honorary Research Fellow at the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London. He is a director at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and at the Triangle Project in Cape Town. He also serves on the Advisory Board of HUMA.

Session 3:

Sandra Ntebi is the chairperson of the National LGBT Security committee, a Human Rights Defender and a Research Assistant at the Law, Gender and Sexuality Project at the School of Law at Makerere University in Uganda.

Jabu Chen Pereira (SA), is the Executive Director and founder of Iranti-Org, a Johannesburg based organisation since June 2012. Before founding Iranti-org, Jabu worked at Soul City and the Foundation for Human Rights advocating for the rights of marginalised groups. Jabu has a Masters degree in Museum Studies from New York University and largely uses curatorial space as a form of direct action in using visual art to express social change.

Neo Musangi (Kenya), Neo Musangi is a gender non-conforming feminist researcher and performer based at the British Institute in Eastern Africa, Nairobi-Kenya. Their research interests include: War, militarism/militarization and nationalism, toilet politics and urbanity, gender and body materiality, sexuality and citizenship.

Unoma Azuah is a Nigerian writer considered to be one of the focal voices of the third generation of Nigerian writers because of her award winning works and pioneer essays and research on sexuality issues in Nigeria. A graduate of the MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia, Unoma also has a Masters degree in English from Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. The University of Nigeria, Nsukka, is where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in English. Presently, she teaches English at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee.

Milumbe Haimbe was born in Lusaka, Zambia. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture attained from the Copperbelt University, and also holds a Master’s Degree in Fine Arts obtained from the Oslo National Academy of the Arts in Norway. Drawing on a background of painting, Milumbe’s current art practices are based in digital illustration, including sequential art as an intermedial process that combines and integrates illustrations and written texts into narratives. Milumbe asserts that these intermedial concerns are related to intercultural issues, with a focus on the forms of representation of cultural minorities within the context of popular media. She has exhibited her work in numerous shows both locally and internationally, including FOCUS 10 – Art Basal in Switzerland, and is an alumnus of the Art Omi International Artist’s Residency in New York. She has recently been selected to participate in the Biennale for Contemporary African Art in Dakar for 2014.

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