WINDY CITY MEDIA GROUP
Original Article: bit.ly/1tu7RRG
For 41-year old James Wandera Ouma, LGBT activism has become his life’s work. As the executive director of LGBT Voice Tanzania ( formerly WEZESHA ), Ouma works to advance equality, diversity, education and justice for LGBT people in Tanzania.
Recently, Ouma was in attendance at the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association’s ( OPALGA ) annual awards gala at the invitation of two of the organization’s founders, Mel Wilson and Nathan Linsk. Wilson and Linsk met Ouma when they traveled to Tanzania two years ago and last year they wrote a viewpoint article for this publication about Ouma and his organization. Ouma also attended the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ( ILGA ) World Conference in Mexico City, Mexico following his visit to the Chicago area.
"Tanzania is a country where human rights are not respected. LGBT people need to be recognized and respected as human beings and Tanzania doesn’t recognize us as human beings," said Ouma. "We have a law that allows for a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison to life imprisonment for males who are accused and convicted of homosexual activity."
Ouma, who is openly gay, said that he’s been arrested nine times for LGBT activism. The biggest problem, Ouma noted, are police officers who arrest people and leave them in jail for weeks or months without a trial.
"I just got released from police custody after spending four days in jail. They charged me this time with trying to recruit young people," said Ouma. "Recently we started a safe house for young people who’ve been thrown out of their homes. Our goal is to provide food and shelter for these young people. We also encourage them to continue their education so they will have a better future. When the authorities learned about this project they immediately came to me and accused me of training the young people at the shelter to become homosexuals. That was my only charge.
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