News / Africa

Some African Countries Pushing for Tougher Anti-Gay Laws

Some African Countries Push to Toughen Anti-Gay Lawsi
X
January 16, 2014 10:48 PM
Nigeria's president has signed a new bill into law that bans gay marriage, gay rights advocacy and public displays of affection between same-sex couples. Homosexual acts were already illegal in Nigeria. Human rights activists say the new law reflects a larger trend to ramp up anti-gay legislation and penalties. VOA's Anne Look has more.
Anne Look
Nigeria's president has signed into law a bill that bans gay marriage, gay rights advocacy and public displays of affection between same-sex couples.  Homosexual acts were already illegal in Nigeria.  Human rights activists say the new law reflects a larger trend to ramp up anti-gay legislation and penalties. 

Nigeria's new Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act has been condemned abroad but applauded at home.
 
And it has given President Goodluck Jonathan a much-needed popularity boost.
 
"I thought the Western world will so much pressurize us to bow to it, but hearing that the president signed against it, in fact it's a kudos.  I'm very glad that he could stand [on] his feet and sign against such a taboo, because, I mean, it's un-African," said one citizen. "We don't want such a thing in our country."
 
Many African countries inherited their anti-sodomy laws from colonial rulers.  Some have since added stiffer penalties and sought to broaden the list of offenses.

"It's a punitive trend that is not just about criminalizing same-sex conduct but is also about criminalizing the expression of ideas," said Neela Ghoshal, an Africa-based researcher for the LGBT division of Human Rights Watch. "That is what we are seeing in Uganda and in Nigeria.  The fact that governments feel they need to criminalize speech and organization and association is because there is a growing LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] movement in many African countries and governments find this threatening."

Activists said these laws violate international human rights conventions and, at times, the countries' own constitutions.

Uganda is waiting to see if its president will sign a new Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by parliament in December.  Under the bill, offenders could be imprisoned for life.  The bill also includes jail time for just providing services to those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
 
Ugandan activists, like Pepe Onziema, said they will fight the law.

"It is not going to change us from being gay, it's not going to stop us from speaking out, it's not going to stop us from showing our faces," he said.
 
Harassment and attacks against gays in Africa have surged over the past decade.
 
Same-sex acts are illegal in 31 sub-Saharan countries.  Actual enforcement varies widely and the punishment ranges from years in prison to the death penalty.
 
In South Africa, however, gay marriage and same-sex adoption are legal.  And countries such as Mozambique and Botswana have outlawed forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation.
 
But gay men and woman say discrimination and danger persist throughout Africa.  They can have trouble getting housing, jobs and even medical care and can face extortion and abuse from police.
 
Senegalese activist Seydou Djamil Ba said many hide their sexual orientation or try to go abroad.  He says he doesn't push anyone to come out and it is a risk to live openly as a gay man in Senegal, in Africa.  Any time your sexual orientation is known, he says, your life is in danger.
 
The push for tougher anti-gay legislation and policing in recent years has been accompanied by mob violence, the murders of activists, and street protests.

Defenders of anti-gay legislation in Africa said homosexuality is a threat to society and that the laws are about upholding religious and cultural values.
 
But analysts said politics play a role as well and the laws can reflect a scapegoating of the LGBT community.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

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

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