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

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

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