Homophobic Attacks on the Rise in Africa
By Eric Sande
Bigotry against homosexuals in not a new word in Africa. Of the 53 states in the continent, same sex acts are illegal and punishable with long prison sentences. In some nations, like Mauritania, Somalia and Sudan, gays and lesbians can be put to death if convicted of “sodomy” or “indecent” sexual activities.
Perfecting homophobia, recently Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato was murdered in mysterious circumstances. Rape and beating to death of Sierra Leonean lesbian activist Fannyann Eddy; the 14-year jail sentences – subsequently revoked – imposed on a gay couple who “married” in Malawi; the imprisonment for “sodomy” of 11 Cameroonian men; the jailing for two years of four Ghanaian men for “unnatural acts” and Burundi’s president signing into law a bill criminalizing homosexuality.
Ugandan MP David Bahati last year introduced an Anti-Homosexuality Bill in parliament which awaits to be passed into law. The legislation calls for the execution of individuals who have gay sex with disabled people or under-18s, and the imposition of fines or imprisonment on anyone found to be “promoting” homosexuality. It also urged parents and school authorities to disclose any child believed to be gay. The international community, including U.S. President Barack Obama, the Netherlands, the UK, France, Canada and Sweden criticized the bill and threatened to cut financial assistance.
Police are also in the mission to arrest homosexuals on “trumped up” and repeated charges – such as public drunkenness, keeping them in cells “for as long as the specific legal system allows them to, and then releasing them without charge, simply to intimidate them and inconvenience them as much as possible.”
From this series of events, it appears that homosexuality in Africa has assumed some major significance. Archbishop Robert Sarah, Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, in a session during the synod, suggested that a materialistic ideology was being imposed on African countries from the West, bringing with it a host of evils including abortion, artificial contraception and the legitimization of homosexuality. He described it as a "lethal ideology" and "contrary to African culture."
Ghanaian Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle was asked if there really was a Western campaign to corrupt African values. He replied, "We don’t only suspect that there is a campaign, we think it’s deliberate."
“The hatred directed at gay people creates fear. And this creates the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. Some gay people flee and go underground. Others choose to fight fire with fire. That’s why you see a corresponding upsurge in openly gay activities all over Africa,” explains Denis Nzioka, one of East Africa’s most vocal gay rights activists, working for Africa’s Gay Activists Alliance.
International human rights groups are reporting increases in hate crimes against gays and lesbians across Africa. All over the continent, they say, homosexuals are being harassed and ridiculed, assaulted and arrested, tortured, jailed and murdered – and on an unprecedented scale.
About 25 per cent of new infections in Kenya among sex workers come from gays."Men-to-men sex is a major challenge in the war against HIV and Aids that we cannot ignore if we want to succeed," says Esther Murugi, Kenya’s Special Programmes Minister.
Research on homosexuality in Africa currently underway, pursued by Zambian Anglican priest Rev. Kapya Kaoma, Published on the London’s newspaper, The Times that the recent hatred directed at African gays and lesbians was “driven by so-called evangelism in the United States and being pushed on to Africa.”
Kaoma warned, “Unless the world moves fast, we should expect a lot of killings of gays – not by state sanction but through mob violence.”