News / Africa

Gay Rights in Africa Move Slowly, Cautiously Forward

Malawian Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R) shares some of her experiences with Charlie Takati, outreach officer at the local charity Gender Dynamix, a gay rights organization, at their offices in Athlone, 15 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa.Malawian Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R) shares some of her experiences with Charlie Takati, outreach officer at the local charity Gender Dynamix, a gay rights organization, at their offices in Athlone, 15 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa.
x
Malawian Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R) shares some of her experiences with Charlie Takati, outreach officer at the local charity Gender Dynamix, a gay rights organization, at their offices in Athlone, 15 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa.
Malawian Tiwonge Chimbalanga (R) shares some of her experiences with Charlie Takati, outreach officer at the local charity Gender Dynamix, a gay rights organization, at their offices in Athlone, 15 kilometers from Cape Town, South Africa.
TEXT SIZE - +
Gabe Joselow
— Gay rights activists in Africa are watching the proceedings of the U.S. Supreme Court as it considers measures that could ensure marriage rights for same-sex couples in the United States. The activists acknowledge gay marriage is not a possibility at this time in most African countries - but say a heated conversation on gay rights is well underway.  
 
In Washington, the High Court is hearing two landmark cases that could protect rights for gays and lesbians to get married and to be treated equally in the eyes of the federal government.
 
In Nairobi, meanwhile, gay rights activists are still fighting against laws that make their sexual activity criminal. Under Kenyan law, homosexual acts are punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
 
Rigid views persist

Staunch opposition to the gay rights movement remains strong across much of Africa.
 
In Uganda, a bill proposing the death penalty for homosexuals once again has resurfaced.
 
In Cameroon, two men were sentenced to prison by a judge who said the suspects appeared gay, in part because they ordered Bailey’s Irish Cream at a bar. The sentence was later overturned.
 
This resistance to gay rights across the continent, though, actually may be a sign the movement is starting to gain some momentum, according to Neela Ghoshal, an LGBT Researcher for Human Rights Watch, based in Kenya.
 
“We know that this backlash demonstrates that we’re making progress. If the governments weren’t getting a little bit nervous, if religious leaders weren’t finding it necessary for them to speak out and say homophobic things, it might be because the movement hadn’t advanced enough,” he said.

Gains for gay rights

Ghoshal said civil society groups in Africa are getting stronger, and becoming more open and less afraid to promote gay rights.
 
South Africa was one of the first nations to approve gay marriage, which it did in 2006. It is the only country in Africa to have done so, though being openly gay can be challenging in more traditional communities.
 
Mbuyiselo Botha, a spokesman for the Sonke Gender Justice Network, said his experience with apartheid in South Africa has influenced his view of the issue.
 
"Well, we think that it is indeed a civil rights issue, as it is human rights issue. And separating the two would, in fact, conflate, confuse issues. Our view is that gay marriage should, in fact, be elected, should be a constitutional matter, and be approved and protected," said Botha.
 
The argument about same-sex marriage is a non-starter in many African countries where the concept faces massive popular resistance. Even activists say the marriage issue is not on their agenda.
 
Incremental steps

Stephen McGill is the executive director of Stop AIDS in Liberia, a group that works primarily with gay men. He said most gay Liberians are more concerned with ensuring they have fair access to housing, employment and health care, and that the gay marriage debate is only brought up by lawmakers looking to score political points.
 
"I think it's just individuals and politicians wanting their will to be done, and having people who are uneducated about these things use an issue that is of universal discourse in the world," he said. "Because every country in the world, around the globe, is talking about issues like this, but what is the significance to our own reconstruction and development in Liberia at this time?"
 
The opponents of gay rights in Africa often accuse western nations of trying to impose their pro-gay values on Africans.
 
Ghana’s Chief Psychiatrist Akwasi Osei argued in a newspaper column last month that homosexuality goes against nature, but should not be criminalized.
 
He said “avoiding persecution is not the same as legalizing or recognizing homosexuality, which is what the West wants.”
 
While the gay rights movement is becoming more vocal in Africa, so are its critics. Crackdowns on activist meetings continue across the continent, and politicians are quick to denounce homosexuality in almost any context.
 
But the conversation is well underway, and those on both sides of the argument are more charged than ever.

Robbie Corey-Boulet and Anita Powell contributed to this report.

You May Like

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid