The persecution of LGBT people in Africa going “from bad to worse”
Ugandan gays aren’t the only ones facing persecution (see last posts). There’s a climate of fear for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across Africa. The Pink Triangle Trust released this news briefing in January:
THE SITUATION FOR LGBT PEOPLE IN AFRICA “GOING FROM BAD TO WORSE” SAY GAY HUMANISTS
Following the latest example of virulent homophobia in Ghana, the UK gay Humanist charity the Pink Triangle Trust (PTT) says that the situation for LGBT people in Africa is going from bad to worse.
A government minister in Ghana has called on the country’s intelligence services to track down and arrest all gays and lesbians. The call has come from Paul Evans Aidoo, the minister for the Western Region of Ghana. Mr Aidoo, a staunch Roman Catholic, said: “All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in society.” He called for the Bureau of National Investigations to round up gays and called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspect of being homosexual. “Once they have been arrested, they will be brought before the law.”
The move by Mr Aidoo has drawn support from other politicians, including the general secretary of the People’s National Convention (PNC) who declared “Homosexuality is abhorrent. Media discourse across the world is being dictated by the vulgar opinions of homosexuals. Ghana and probably Africa cannot sustain the menace of homosexuals.”
This development follows months of campaigning by the Christian Council of Ghana which last week called on Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals. Both Christians and Muslims in the region have been protesting since a local media report claimed there were around 8,000 gay men and lesbians in the district. It is the latest in a series of expressions of officially condoned homophobia across the continent, notably in Malawi and Uganda.
Homosexual acts are criminalised in 38 African countries. Last year, the launch of a parliamentary bill in Uganda proposing the death penalty for same-sex encounters sparked a campaign of “outing” of a dozen lesbians and gay men by a Kampala newspaper. One of those named, gay rights activist David Kato, was beaten to death with a hammer in January. The law is still under discussion. In Malawi, two men who staged a partnership ceremony in December 2009 were jailed for 14 years. They were pardoned in April 2010 after pressure from European and American aid donors. The prime ministers of Zimbabwe and Kenya have both denounced homosexuality.
The PTT’s Secretary George Broadhead commented: “The situation for LGBT people in African states seems to be going from bad to worse and, as in the rest of the world, it is clear that much of the hostility they face stems from religious teachings. Examples are the Anglican Church of Uganda’s support for the Anti-Homosexual Bill and the Anglican Church of Nigeria’s support for a similar bill.
“By contrast, Humanists, notably Leo Igwe of the Nigerian Humanist Movement and George Thindwa of the Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi, have spoken out bravely in support of LGBT rights.
“In 2006 Leo Igwe made an impassioned appeal to members of the Nigerian National Assembly not to pass a Bill that would not only criminalise gay marriage but also impose a five-year jail sentence on anyone who has a gay relationship or anyone who aids or supports a gay marriage or relationship. He and his family have been harassed by the authorities ever since. Not surprisingly, the Bill had the blessing of the Nigerian Anglican Church and its leader, Archbishop Peter Akinola, as well as the then Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo, who declared that homosexual practice ‘is clearly unbiblical, unnatural and definitely un-African’.
“In 2010 George Thindwa and his colleagues of the Association for Secular Humanism in Malawi made a courageous public stand for LGBT identity and rights taking great risks of retaliation from homophobic politicians, religious leaders, and a hostile mass media.
“The worldwide Humanist movement, represented by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, deserves to be recognised as an unequivocal supporter of LGBT rights.”
American fundamentalist Christians are fanning the flames of hatred across the continent, as they export their particularly nasty form of homophobia. Val Kalende, a “Queer Ugandan woman” studying in the US, has written an interesting paper on the subject, in which she says,
When U.S evangelicals bring their theology of “sexual uprightness” to Africa they meet a people who are not only threatened by the “return” of colonialism through Western human-rights oriented perspectives on sexuality, but are strongly attached to continuation of family lineage through child bearing. Out of these two best kept interests sprouts adverse anti-gay attitudes that are almost difficult to eliminate because of the underlying element of religion through which they are propagated.
Our man in Ghana has commented, “Christianity is industrialised here.”
Wikipedia has some interesting statistics about social attitudes towards homosexuality around the world. It shows that the Pew Global Attitudes Project asked, “Should homosexuality be accepted by society?”. 41% of American respondents said no, while British and Canadian respondents were more tolerant, Scandinavians and Europeans were the most tolerant, and Africans among the least tolerant. In most cases, the more religious a country is, the more homophobic the attitudes of its citizens will be.