News / Africa

Obama's Gay Marriage Endorsement Not Popular in Africa

Rashidi Williams, a gay man, works on his laptop in Lagos, Nigeria, in this Nov. 17, 2011 photo.
Rashidi Williams, a gay man, works on his laptop in Lagos, Nigeria, in this Nov. 17, 2011 photo.
Anne Look
DAKAR - American President Barack Obama's public support for same-sex marriage has sparked criticism in sub-Saharan Africa, where gay men and women continue to face discrimination, violence and jail time in many countries because of their sexual orientation. 

President Barack Obama's endorsement for gay marriage has prompted debate in the United States and condemnation in many sub-Saharan African countries.

Desappointment

The president's immense popularity on the continent is taking a hit, even in his father's native Kenya, says Nairobi resident Vincent Ondera.

"President Obama, I just can't imagine that he supports gay marriage.  Why do I say so?  In fact, I'm very much bitter with him, the president of the USA supporting gay marriage?  Lesbian?  No, it can't happen"

Homosexual acts are illegal in many sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya.  Openly gay individuals on the continent face imprisonment, discrimination and physical violence.

Role of religion

Many Africans, like Kenyan pastor Nelson Otieno, cite religion as the source of disdain for gay marriage.

"I would say to our beloved president of America to rethink about the statement that he made and know very well that it is against our religion; we as Christians, we cannot support gays at all costs," said Otieno.

In Senegal, which is 95 percent Muslim, angry mobs have dug up the corpses of suspected homosexuals from Muslim cemeteries before dragging them through the streets and depositing them at their families' doorsteps.

A housekeeper in Dakar, Sokhna Fall, says marriage between two people of the same gender would sully this country and endanger its prosperity.  Islam says marriage can only be between a man and a woman, she says.  Senegal is a Muslim country that has always known peace and unity and she says they cannot allow homosexuality to destabilize it.

Western import?

Many Senegalese reject homosexuality as being "imported from the West."  Indeed, pressure from the United States, the United Nations and other international powers to protect gay rights has only further entrenched homophobia among many in Africa.  Threats to withdraw foreign aid have been met with defiance.

Amie Weeks, a mother of four in the Liberian capital, Monrovia, said gay marriage is out of the question.

"Very, very wrong.  We are not in favor of it at all.  So if they want to withdraw their support, let them.  God will make way for us because God would never be in favor of such a thing," she said.

Even in South Africa, the only sub-Saharan African country to have a law legalizing same-sex unions, political analyst Eusebius McKaiser says homophobia and opposition to gay marriage are the norm.

"In South Africa, we had a revolutionary break with the past which is why our legislation in favor of gay rights is so much more progressive, even though it is ahead of social attitudes," he said.

Hope among homosexuals

Still, Obama's endorsement of gay marriage has sparked joy and hope among homosexual men and women in Africa.

Seydou Djamil Ba is one of a handful of openly gay men in Senegal, where homosexual acts are punishable by five years in jail.  Violence and death threats have forced him to flee abroad twice in the past five years. 

Ba says he wishes people in Africa, particularly in Senegal, could understand that homosexuality is not the end of the world.  He says gays are people with the same rights as everyone else.  He says Obama has set an example that he hopes other world leaders will follow.

For now, however, Ba said he would settle for the right to live his life in peace and without fear.

You May Like

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Crowdfunding Helps Save Neil Armstrong's Spacesuit

Smithsonian turns to Kickstarter to raise more than $700,000 to help preserve the spacesuit worn by the first man to walk on the moon More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs