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 Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora