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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals 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.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More