News / Africa

Homophobia Sweeping Africa Like a Disease, says Rights Group

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

The group Aids-Free World says there’s a wave of “homophobia sweeping across Africa.”  It’s calling on the African Union to take urgent measures to stop “a growing and insidious contagion.”

Co-director Paula Donovan says silence on the part of the AU about the issue is similar to silence during the early days of the AIDS epidemic.

“The problem is definitely getting worse.  Homophobia seems to be spreading like a contagion from country to country in Africa.  And the efforts to criminalize homosexuality…(have) been taken up by increasing numbers of parliaments and promoted by increasing numbers of African leaders, including heads of state and prime ministers.”

In the news

A number of anti-homosexual incidents have been reported recently in Africa.  Uganda has considered legislation that would impose harsh penalties for homosexual acts.  One measure even called for the death penalty in some cases.  In Malawi, a male couple was prosecuted when their gay relationship became public.  Donovan says other incidents can be found Kenya, Zimbabwe and most recently Ghana.

Paula Donovan, co-director, AIDS-Free World
Paula Donovan, co-director, AIDS-Free World

Bernice Sam, program coordinator for Women in Law and Development (WiLDAF), called for Ghana’s constitution to be amended.

“In Ghana, to our dismay, an advocate for women’s rights spoke publically about the need for the constitution to be reviewed.  She saw a loophole…that would allow gay marriage and that would not allow for the criminalization of homosexuality.  And she said publically on tape that we don’t want gay marriage in Ghana,” says Donovan.

Sam is also quoted as criticizing attempts on the continent to recognize the rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders.

Donovan says, “We were shocked to hear the statements coming from her.  As I think anyone who is aware of and supportive of WiLDAF’s work would be shocked. You know, you simply can’t categorize the rights of lesbians, gays and other sexual minorities as separate and distinct from the rights of all human beings.  To hear this sort of homophobia being promoted by people who purport to be human rights activists is incredibly troubling.”

30 years later

In the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, a number of African leaders stated that homosexuality did not exist in their countries, that it was a matter for Western nations.  Some 30 years later, it remains an issue.

“I’m not quite sure what happened to trigger this new wave of homophobia across Africa.  I think that it probably happens in any human rights debate.  That people who are theoretically in favor of human rights can speak in platitudes and then suddenly, when they see a particular subset of the human population about whom they’re fearful and distrustful, then they start to rethink their general support for the human rights of all people,” she says.

She says many African leaders have embraced the idea of ending stigma and discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS, but she adds the sentiment doesn’t go far enough.

“It’s been pointed too narrowly at people who are already HIV positive,” she says, “We need to understand that stigma and discrimination is what drives people into high-risk groups.  And so, as long as you discriminate against people and drive them into the margins of society, then you’re going to exacerbate your HIV problems.”

She adds that “tolerance, openness and refusal to discriminate have to apply to people before they are HIV positive, as well as after.”

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs