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

    US Internet Giants, EU Reach Deal to Combat Online Hate Speech

    Facebook, Twitter, Google and Microsoft commit to ‘quickly and efficiently’ act to clamp down on use of social media to incite violence, terror

    Video Tunisia’s Ennahda Party Begins a New Political Chapter

    Party now moves to separate its political and religious activities; change described by party members as pragmatic response to political and economic challenges facing Tunisia today

    Virtual Reality Fine-tuned at Asia Tech Show

    Microchip designers hope to improve resolution for users of systems that can turn your bedroom into the ocean floor

    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.
    Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conferencei
    X
    Serginho Roosblad
    May 30, 2016 5:11 PM
    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video Tech Startups Showcase Wares at Amsterdam Conference

    More than 20,000 tech enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and lovers of digital technology came together in Amsterdam recently at the Next Web Conference to discuss the latest developments in digital technology, look to the future and, of course, to connect. In recent years, there has been an explosion of so-called startup businesses that have created devices and applications that have changed the way we live; but, as Serginho Roosblad reports for VOA, there are pitfalls for such startups as well.
    Video

    Video US Military's Fallen Honored With Flags

    Memorial Day is a long weekend for most Americans. For some, it is the unofficial start of summer -- local swimming pools open and outdoor grilling season begins. But Memorial Day remains true to its origins -- a day to remember the U.S. military's fallen.
    Video

    Video Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    The Rolling Thunder caravan of motorcycles rolled into Washington Sunday, to support the U.S. military on the country's Memorial Day weekend
    Video

    Video A New Reading Program Pairs Kids with Dogs

    Dogs, it is said, are man's best friend. What some researchers have discovered is that they can also be a friend to a struggling reader. A group called Intermountain Therapy Animals trains dogs to help all kinds of kids with reading problems — from those with special needs to those for whom English is a second language. Faiza Elmasry has more on the New York chapter of R.E.A.D., or Reading Education Assistance Dogs, in this piece narrated by Faith Lapidus.
    Video

    Video Fan Base Grows for Fictional Wyoming Sheriff Longmire

    Around the world, the most enduring symbol of the U.S. is that of the cowboy. A very small percentage of Americans live in Western rural areas, and fewer still are cowboys. But the fascination with the American West is kept alive by such cultural offerings as “Longmire,” a series of books and TV episodes about a fictional Wyoming sheriff. VOA’s Greg Flakus recently spoke with Longmire’s creator, Craig Johnson, and filed this report from Houston.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora