News / Africa

    Report: Homophobia Rising in Sub-Saharan Africa

    Bathini Dambuza, left, and Lindiwe Radebe at engagement ceremony, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, undated file photo.Bathini Dambuza, left, and Lindiwe Radebe at engagement ceremony, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, undated file photo.
    x
    Bathini Dambuza, left, and Lindiwe Radebe at engagement ceremony, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, undated file photo.
    Bathini Dambuza, left, and Lindiwe Radebe at engagement ceremony, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, undated file photo.
    Anita Powell
    When Nthabiseng Mokoena announced she was getting married to another woman, her small South African community was scandalized.

    “Pastors came together and started preaching to their own congregations that it’s the end of the world," recalls the advocacy coordinator for Pretoria-based Transgender and Intersex Africa. "'As you can see, one of our own is now going to marry a woman; it’s the end of the world!'"

    According to Amnesty International, Mokoena's is but a milder version of a story told repeatedly by Sub-Saharan Africas who don’t conform to traditional gender roles, including those who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender.

    For Mokoena, who identifies as intersex — meaning she was born with ambiguous genitalia — it is a rare privilege to openly call upon the key politicians and religious figures who often fuel the homophobia, and demand that they speak out for equality.

    Documenting gays and lesbians in Cameroon who were imprisoned for years without trial or charge, and Kenyans who said police threatened them over their sexuality, the new report finds that members of Mokoena's wide demographic are facing an increasingly bold threat of attacks and harassment across much of the continent.

    A crime in many nations

    On a continent where many religious figures preach that homosexuality is a sin, the attacks, Amnesty says, are also fueled by an increase in anti-gay laws and prominent politicians who promote them.

    Largely a reflection of public attitudes, homosexuality is illegal in 38 of 54 fully recognized sovereign African nations, where such laws appear set to remain on the books or get stronger. Uganda, for example, is set to again debate a law that in its original form mandated the death penalty for gays, while late last year government officials in Malawi backtracked on a plan to scrap anti-gay laws in response to pressure from religious groups.

    According to Amnesty, in the last five years alone, South Sudan, Burundi, Liberia and Nigeria have made attempts to further criminalize homosexuality.

    Jackson Otieno, spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, says if governments pave the path toward acceptance, people will follow.
     
    “I’d like to use this analogy: Picture a handicapped person on a wheelchair trying to get on a bus. ... You cannot make it the obligation of every passerby to put this person onto the bus if there’s no ramp," he says. "You cannot force them unless they want to do it. You’ll get people who want to do it and others will just ignore it because they have no time to do it. But it’s the obligation of the bus company to ensure the bus has a ramp to get this person on the bus."

    For some activists, however, even new tolerance laws aren't enough. According to Mokoena’s organization, at least seven people were killed in what appeared to be attacks targeting sexual and gender orientation over a five-month period last year in South Africa — the continent's only nation to permit homosexuality and gay marriage.

    Mokoena, who says more education is helping to change attitudes, chose to speak directly to the very pastors and congregants who condemned her sexuality and gender.

    "How can it be the end of the world just because I’m getting married?" she recalls asking them. "Does my marriage have so much power that if I say ‘I do,’ apocalypse is going to come down on us?

    "People will really start to really analyze that it’s all propaganda, and it’s all things they’ve been taught," she adds. "And so once we begin to be more visible, once we begin to voice our opinions ... somebody, somewhere, will listen. They always say reach out to ten thousand and touch one."

    That’s the basic message activists say they now hope to spread across Africa. Being different, they say, is not the end of the world. Maybe it’s the start of a world fuller of love and acceptance for everyone.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Xenephon from: Australia
    June 26, 2013 6:29 AM
    When will the "west" cease in imposing its' libertarian values on the third world countries who still regard homosexuality, as do many in the U.S.A., as a mortal sin and an affront to the institution of marriage. There are many in Australia who regard the appointment of an openly homosexual male as ambassador, an open contepteous affront to the dignity of this country. Enforced lagalistic penalties will only go far in inciting an open backlash against that which it hopes to impose tolerance by penalties against those who still regard hetrosexuality as the normal and only valid course for the continuation of the human race.

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora