News / Africa

Lesbian, Gay Rights in Africa Hit Roadblocks

Members of Uganda's gay community lead a choir during a memorial service for David Kato, one of the country's most visible gay campaigners, on his first death anniversary in Kampala, January 26, 2012.
Members of Uganda's gay community lead a choir during a memorial service for David Kato, one of the country's most visible gay campaigners, on his first death anniversary in Kampala, January 26, 2012.
Rizwan Syed
The arrest in Uganda of British theatre producer David Cecil, who staged a play about a gay man despite a ban by the country's media authorities, has raised questions about the influence of some Western Christian groups in Africa. Analysts say this influence has had a part to play in a number of African governments cracking down on gay rights.

Released on bail Monday, after being arrested two weeks ago over a play about a gay businessman who was killed by his staff, David Cecil’s case highlights the recent homophobic activity across Africa.

“On the one hand there is a noticeable increase of homophobia on the continent but that's also a reflection of the growing strength of the LGBT movement,” said Graeme Reid, the Director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights Program at Human Rights Watch.

Phil Clarke, a lecturer in comparative politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, says the main reasons behind this apparent increase in anti-gay activity are religious lobbying and African governments’ desire to express self-determination.

“I think the reason we're seeing crackdowns in some countries is that firstly politicians are reacting to very powerful religious lobby groups that they need to curry favor with and there's also, I think, a sense that this is one way in which African governments can express some degree of self-determination and difference from western interference,” he said.

According to a report released earlier this year by the progressive group Political Research Associates, or PRA, Western Christian groups such as Human Life International, Family Watch International and the American Center for Law and Justice have been building up influence across the region.

Clarke says much of this funding is promoting homophobia.

“We've seen, especially in Uganda and Kenya, the very powerful influence of  Western churches which have poured a great deal of funding into these anti-homosexuality campaigns in Africa," he said. "So an anti-homosexuality stance has become very lucrative for many Ugandan and Kenyan parishes. Those churches on the ground in Africa have often made homosexuality a bigger political deal than they may have in the past.”

Members of religious groups campaigning against homosexuality hold placards during a rally in Kampala, Uganda, August 21, 2007.Members of religious groups campaigning against homosexuality hold placards during a rally in Kampala, Uganda, August 21, 2007.
x
Members of religious groups campaigning against homosexuality hold placards during a rally in Kampala, Uganda, August 21, 2007.
Members of religious groups campaigning against homosexuality hold placards during a rally in Kampala, Uganda, August 21, 2007.
Kapya Kaoma, a Zambian Anglican priest and researcher for the group, says African homophobia is being encouraged by American conservatives.

“The growth of the evangelical or Pentecostal movement across sub-Saharan Africa has also brought about the growth in homophobia because of the teachings which have been promoted by the conservatives in America across Africa," said Kaoma.

The Catholic group Human Life International disputes these claims. According to the PRA report, the group has been involved in drafting amendments and constitutions in Zambia and Kenya, as well as working against the decriminalization of abortions in the Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Stephen Phelan, a spokesman for the Catholic group, says the group’s message on sexuality agrees with African values.

“The term homophobia is itself a Western import," he said. "We're the ones who tend to speak very naturally to African values so there's little conflict in what we have to say. We just want to reaffirm them and let them know that the culture wars that we're having in the west are sadly coming to Africa, being imposed not by Africans a lot of the time but by western governments who are much better funded than the small Christian and Catholic organizations like ourselves.”

Despite speeches and statements made by a few Western countries and groups threatening to withdraw aid unless African governments recognize gay rights, Clarke says that Western leaders aren’t likely to act on their threats because they have other priorities in the region.

“I wonder how much this is talk from international donors as opposed to action," he said. "I haven't seen a case yet where this has actually translated into a deliberate cut of international aid. I think because the countries in Africa where we're seeing these anti-homosexuality laws become an issue are also countries that are considered to have been very successful in how they've used international aid and so issues of anti-homosexuality laws simply aren't big enough to change the policies of major donors. They have other incentives for being involved in these countries.”

Meanwhile the charges against producer David Cecil in Uganda are still in place as the movement for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender rights comes up against traditional African religious beliefs and the influence of several large Western conservative religious organizations.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

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 Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs