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Zipho Mnyandu
 
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African countries want to put gay people in jail

18 January 2014, 12:10
Our continent remains mired in backwardness, underdevelopment, and religious oppression. Most African populations live under abject poverty, where persecution of homosexuals is rife and on the rise. “Stone them! Kill them!” that is the mantra that echoes from Harare to Kampala to Lagos.

UGANDA

Ugandan President Yuweri Museveni, has declined to sign the antigay bill that would have made being homosexual and engaging in homosexual acts punishable by a life sentence imprisonment.

Initially, capital punishment for gays had been proposed by parliament. On the other hand his counterpart President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria, a proven homophobe, has signed anti-gay law in Nigeria with life-threatening consequences for gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community. When found to have broken the law, one faces up to 14 years in imprisonment.

While the rejection by the Ugandan president of this law is welcome, however his reasoning for refusing to make it law, underlines his homophobic tendencies that manifest in a letter he wrote to his parliament.
He said homosexuality was not an alternative lifestyle; it was “disgusting” and was caused by “random breeding” or the need to make money, while lesbianism was caused by sexual starvation by women that fail to find a man to marry.

Perhaps, one can sympathise with Museveni, given that he was dealing with a parliament populated by men and women of highest immaturity, who had proposed to kill homosexuals earlier and later changed to imprison them for life. He probably realised that telling them that homosexuality was natural, would have gone way over their heads, so he chose to lie to them, much like parents lie to babies about where they come from.

He has taken a good decision for wrong reasons, and that does not advance the course of promoting a human rights culture.

NIGERIAN LAW AND ITS EFFECT

The Nigerian piece of legislation though is far-reaching and devastating to GLBT community, because it not only criminalises the sexual orientation and “homosexual acts”, but also anyone who supports or helps this community in any way, be it on health related grounds or security is deemed to have broken the law.

If you are gay, and you happen to hold your partners hand in public, you can be imprisoned for 10 years, for that. The law says anyone who participates in gay clubs or "makes public show of a same-sex amorous relationship in Nigeria" commits an offense and faces up to 10 years in prison.

It is an established fact, that homosexuals are a permanent minority in any society. Therefore they are a politically powerless class. It is difficult even to determine GLBT representation in positions of political power because many of them keep their sexual orientation private to avoid hostility, discrimination, and ongoing acts of violence. It stands to reason that this is a vulnerable class in society that requires special protection by African governments from persecution by the majority.

However this law allows the state to use its overwhelming resources to hunt and imprison innocent people. Its principal effect is to expose gay people to physical harm without any prospect of getting any relief from the justice system or elsewhere.

It violates rights of association, and the individual’s right to choose how to organise his or her social affairs. It violates rights to equal treatment before the law, because in its most cruel outcome, it creates homosexuals as second-class citizens that are not worthy of love, care and not deserving of enjoying civil liberties and happiness.

HOMOSEXUALITY IN AFRICA

As of 2008 estimates by International Gay and Lesbian association homosexuality was outlawed in 38 African countries, and in at least 13 African countries, there were no laws pertaining to it.

Same-sex sexual activities are legal in:

Most middle African countries, CAR, Chad, DRC, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Republic of Congo.

In western Africa: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ivory Coast, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Niger, In Egypt, it’s not specifically outlawed.

In Southern Africa, it is legal in Mozambique and South Africa
In some countries, same-sex sexual activities are only legal for females: Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Lesotho

However South Africa is the only African state that has comprehensive laws that both protects and grants same civil rights to both opposite and same sex couples.

RELIGIOUS PRETEXT THAT FUELS HATE OF GLBT

It is under Christian and Islamic religious pretext that homosexuals are being persecuted:

Saudi Ministry of Education Textbooks for Islamic Studies: 2007-2008 Academic Year.

"Homosexuality is one of the most disgusting sins and greatest crimes.... It is a vile perversion that goes against sound nature, and is one of the most corrupting and hideous sins.... The punishment for homosexuality is death. Both the active and passive participants are to be killed whether or not they have previously had sexual intercourse in the context of a legal marriage.... Some of the companions of the Prophet stated that [the perpetrator] is to be burned with fire. It has also been said that he should be stoned, or thrown from a high place."

Leviticus 20:13 "If a man also lies with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them." (Leviticus 20:13 KJV)[

CONCLUSION

Africa is one of the most homophobic continents to reside in.
In 2014, in the beginning of the second decade of a new century, as a continent we ought to be embracing diversity, and instilling a deeper human rights culture of inclusivity and tolerance instead of spreading hate.

The architects of these hateful laws are on the wrong side of justice and history, and when posterity looks at them it will find them unworthy of being the leaders of a people, of a continent.

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