Obama promotes gay rights in Africa

2013-06-27 17:15
Gallery  |  click on thumbnail to view larger image

Barack Obama arrives in Senegal

US President Barack Obama has arrived in Senegal, his first destination in a three-country visit to Africa.

kalahari.com

  • The Amateur
    A gripping read that reveals never before published details about the Obama administration's... Now R321.00
    buy now
Senegal - President Barack Obama on Thursday praised the Supreme Court's ruling on gay marriage as a "victory for American democracy", but clashed with his African host over gay rights in a sign of how far the movement has to go internationally.

Obama said recognition of same-sex unions in the United States should cross state lines and that equal rights should be recognized universally. It was his first chance to expand on his thoughts about the ruling, which was issued on Wednesday as he flew to Senegal, one of many African countries that outlaw homosexuality. Senegalese President Macky Sall rebuffed Obama's call for Africans to give gays equal rights under the law.

"We are still not ready to decriminalise homosexuality," Sall said, while insisting that the country is "very tolerant" and needs more time to digest the issue without pressure. "This does not mean we are homophobic."

Obama said gay rights didn't come up in their private meeting at the presidential palace, a mansion that looks somewhat similar to the White House. But Obama said he wants to send a message to Africans that while he respects differing personal and religious views on the matter, it's important to have non-discrimination under the law.

"People should be treated equally, and that's a principle that I think applies universally," he said.

A report released on Monday by Amnesty International says 38 African countries criminalise homosexuality. In four of those — Mauritania, northern Nigeria, southern Somalia and Sudan — the punishment is death.

These laws appear to have broad public support. A 4 June Pew Research Centre survey found at least nine of 10 respondents in Senegal, Kenya, Ghana, Uganda and Nigeria believe homosexuality should not be accepted by society.

Sall sought to reassure Obama that gays are not persecuted in Senegal.

Under Senegalese law, "an improper or unnatural act with a person of the same sex" can be punished by up to five years in prison.

And as recently as February of 2008, police rounded up men suspected of being homosexual after a Senegalese tabloid published photographs of a clandestine gay wedding in a suburb of Dakar.

Gays went into hiding and those who could, fled to neighbouring countries, but they were pushed out of Gambia by the president's threat of decapitation.

As for Wednesday's court ruling, Obama said he's directing his administration to comb through every federal statute to quickly determine the implications of a decision that gave the nation's legally married gay couples equal federal footing with all other married Americans.

He said he wants to make sure that gay couples who deserve benefits under the ruling get them quickly. Obama said he personally believes that gay couples legally married in one state should retain their benefits if they move to another state that doesn't recognise gay marriage.

"I believe at the root of who we are as a people, as Americans, is the basic precept that we are all equal under the law," he said. "We believe in basic fairness. And what I think yesterday's ruling signifies is one more step towards ensuring that those basic principles apply to everybody."

Mandela

Obama also offered prayers for former South African President Nelson Mandela, who is gravely ill, ahead of Obama's planned visit to his country this weekend.

Obama said he was inspired to become political active by Mandela's example in the anti-apartheid movement of being willing to sacrifice his life for a belief in equal treatment.

"I think he's a hero for the world," Obama said. "And if and when he passes from this place, one thing I think we'll all know is that his legacy is one that will linger on throughout the ages."

Later Obama plans to reflect on the ties many African-Americans share with the continent as he takes a tour of Goree Island, Africa's westernmost point. Africans reportedly were shipped off into slavery across the Atlantic Ocean through the island's "Door of No Return".

Thousands of boisterous revellers welcomed Obama's motorcade Thursday morning in Dakar, cheering and waving homemade signs as the first African-American president made his way to the presidential palace. A large sign outside his hotel gate had pictures of smiling Obama and Sall that read, "Welcome home, President Obama".

Some in the crowd drummed, danced and sang, and many wore white as a symbol for peace. Sall and his wife, Marieme Faye Sall, greeted Obama and first lady Michelle Obama before entering the palace for a bilateral meeting between the two presidents.

Obama's focus in Senegal is on the modern-day achievements of the former French colony after half a century of independence. Sall ousted an incumbent president who attempted to change the constitution to make it easier for him to be re-elected and pave the way for his son to succeed him.

The power grab sparked protests, fuelled by hip-hop music and social media, that led to Sall's election.

"Senegal is one of the most stable democracies in Africa and one of the strongest partners that we have in the region," Obama said. "It's moving in the right direction with reforms to deepen democratic institutions."

But such people-powered democratic transitions are not always the story of the African experience. Fighting and human rights abuses limited Obama's options for stops in his first major tour of sub-Saharan Africa since he took office more than four years ago.

Obama is avoiding his father's homeland, Kenya, whose president has been charged with war crimes, and Nigeria, the country with the continent's most dominant economy. Nigeria is enveloped in an Islamist insurgency and military crackdown.

Obama's itinerary in Senegal was designed to send a message, purposefully delivered in a French-speaking, Muslim-majority nation, to other Africans in countries that have not made the strides toward democracy that Senegal has.

Obama plans to meet with civil society leaders at the Goree Institute and visited the Supreme Court to speak about the importance of an independent judiciary and the rule of law in Africa's development.

- AP

Read more on:    macky sall  |  barack obama  |  senegal  |  gay rights  |  west africa
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
107 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Tuesday Mitchells Plain - 19:35 PM
    Road name: M7 Vanguard Drive
    ROADWORKS - traffic restrictions between the R300 and Highlands Drive - expect delays
  • Tuesday Belhar - 17:58 PM
    Road name: Belhar Drive
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Alabama Drive
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Up to 60% off - clearance sale!

Save up to 60% on appliances, books, electronics, toys, movies and more. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Deal of the Week!

Get bestselling John Green novels now just R99 each! Hurry and get yours while stocks last. Shop here.

Mind blowing deals on beauty & fragrances

Save up to 30% off beauty and fragrances. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 3G 9300

Keep it together Text. Email. Social. With all the different ways to...

From R2499.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Something may come up to alert you of your security needs. It may be that you need to create a better structure for your finances...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.