Out in Africa

November 8, 2011 in General

Sometimes you do wonder if you’ve woken up in a parallel universe. David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister of Britain, promising gay marriage will be legal by 2015? As in, personally promising? At the party’s annual conference, in his speech?

And then, saying that foreign aid will be cut to countries which persecute their GLBT citizens?

The first is extraordinary leadership from a party that less than two decades ago passed Section 28 into law, which forbade the discussion of homosexuality in British schools.

The second, in terms of using international sanctions to further human rights for GLBT peoples in such an outspoken and forthright manner, has to be a world first from the leader of a major Western country.

The reactions have been extraordinary. According to PinkPaper.com, here’s what Bernard Membe, Tanzania’s foreign affairs minister, had to say:

“We cannot be directed by the United Kingdom to do things that are against our set laws, culture and regulations…We are not ready to allow any rich nation to give us aid based on unacceptable conditions simply because we are poor.”

Yes, you must stick to your principles, Tanzania. Throwing two men in prison for life is a perfectly reasonable law, and one that is imperative to be upheld lest your culture fall to pieces overnight.

Clever one playing the poor card as well. School bullies should take note, especially if you come from a low-income household. When you’re expelled or suspended for beating up the other kids, say that it’s unacceptable for your education to be curtailed based on such unacceptable conditions simply because you’re poor.

Good analogy, really, the bullies at school one, because Ghanaian presidential advisor John Nagenda said he was:

“tired of these lectures” and of Ghanaian citizens being treated like “children” by David Cameron.

Oh, what a bore for you, Mr Nagenda. Mind you, I think given the choice that Ghanaian citizens would prefer to be treated like “children” than like subjects of the Third Reich.

In July this year, Ghana’s Western Region Minister, Paul Evans Aidoo MP put out an order for all gay citizens in the west region of the country to be rounded up and arrested. Landlords and tenants were encouraged to inform on people they suspected of being gay.

Aidooo has tasked Ghana’s Bureau of National Investigations and security forces to round up the country’s gay population and has called on landlords and tenants to inform on people they suspect of being homosexuals.

“All efforts are being made to get rid of these people in the society,” he said.

The move was fuelled by joint Christian and Muslim protests in the area – glad to see they can agree on something.

Meanwhile, Britain has already cut $30 million from payouts to Malawi “after it sentenced a gay couple to 14 months of hard labor for holding an engagement party.”

The couple were pardoned, but abuses continue under the radar. This, in a report on Malawi from the US Department of State:

“The Center for the Development of the People (CEDEP) reported that several cases of violence resulting in serious injury were perpetrated against gay men during the year. These attacks were not reported to police.

A 2008 study by CEDEP found that approximately 34 percent of gay men in the country had been blackmailed or denied services such as housing or healthcare due to their sexual orientation. Additionally, 8 percent of those surveyed said they had been beaten by police or other security forces due to their sexual orientation.”

And then we have the absolute granddaddy of medieval bigotry- Uganda. Gay men and women can face up to 14 years imprisonment for consensual sexual relations, but the last three years have seen moves to introduce the death penalty.

Widespread international condemnation and threats of aid cuts have stalled the bill, but it is by no means certain that it won’t proceed.

Some have written off Cameron’s support for aid-cutting as cynical, including the ultra-conservative Melanie Phillips, hardly known for her gay-friendly views:

“Treating gay-hunting nations as “pariah states” is “a welcome move, even if it is long overdue,” says Melanie Phillips at Britain’s Daily Mail. But it’s also a shamelessly cynical, “brilliantly PC solution to Mr. Cameron’s political problem with overseas aid.” This plan allows Cameron “to nod to his Conservative critics” by slashing aid, while simultaneously softening his party’s image by “posing as an apostle of gay rights.””

But given that many African states had no laws regarding homosexuality until they were colonised by the British in the first place, it seems fitting that the UK should be taking a lead in trying to undo some of the damage done by the bloody expansion of its empire-building from centuries past.

What then, should we make of the United States, who sent condemnation of Uganda’s bill from the White House (to US-based gay magazine The Advocate)…

“The president strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalize homosexuality and move against the tide of history,”

…while US evangelicals were stoking the fires on the ground in Africa:

It is easy for the West to dismiss the bill as a local phenomenon, emblematic of African opposition to ”civilised progress”. Deeply religious and protective of traditional family structures, Uganda has long been hostile to homosexuality.

But a disturbing link has been revealed between Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill and US evangelism. According to The New York Times, three US evangelists travelled to Uganda last March and spoke at a conference that conference organiser Stephen Langa said was about ”the gay agenda – that whole hidden and dark agenda”.

The Americans were invited to speak about ways of ”curing” gay people. It appears that their denunciations of homosexuality as a threat to family values added fuel to the fire. They were heard by thousands, including the future architects of the kill-the-gays bill.

Libellous and hatemongering ‘fact’ sheets were handed out, containing statements like the following:

Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.

Religion is as much of a destabilising force in America for human rights as it is in Africa, and until its extremities and influence are dismantled, the greatest hope for equality may lie with South Africa.

Post-apartheid, South Africa led the world in opposing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation by putting it in their Constitution. Same-sex marriage became legal in 2005, despite the opposition of the Prime Minister.

While it’s a society far from perfect (which one is?), when it comes to equality and safety for GLBT people in Africa, it currently shines like a gold filling in a mouthful of rotten teeth.

Out in Africa

One Comment

    1. Craig says:

      Unfortunately, the Obama administration has just sent troops off to intervene on the Museveni regime’s behalf, against the equally appalling Lord’s Resistance Army, a Northern Ugandan Akholi tribal seperatist group who practise child slavery, prostitution and military service.

Out in Africa

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