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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid