The wind of state homophobia has swept over the African continent. Fueled by media hounding and outing of perceived same sex loving people, some governments in Africa are embarrassed and shamed before the world for their wild claims that homosexuality is un-African and does not exist in Africa. Instead of swallowing their words in a more dignifying manner, we are seeing leaders propose draconian laws against homosexuality, advocacy for the rights of same sex loving people (including unions, services, and registration) and other forms of social support.
Nigeria, Cameroun, Senegal, Egypt (with the arrest of the “seven Perverts” years back), the Gambia, and now Uganda have taken positions that have placed the human rights of same sex loving people and people who are perceived to be gay under attack.
Uganda, with its extreme stance and proposed capital punishment for homosexuality, has so far been one the most horrifying of these experiences, second only to the provisions of shari’a law in some states in Nigeria, which provide for death by stoning for persons found guilty of homosexuality. Also, Uganda has been rigid in its stance despite all the pressure that has been mounted against the bill by all who matter in the human rights movement.
As you may recall, Uganda earned our accolades not too long ago for its pragmatic handling of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It was the first country with a high infection rate to reverse the trend in transmission of HIV. One cannot but wonder where the new bill is coming from.
This leaves us with a number of fears.
1. Is it the “abstinence only” campaign that laid the “egg” of homophobia in Uganda?
2. What would it take to get Uganda to discard this bill?
3. Will defeat of the Uganda bill mark the end of state-engineered homophobia in Africa?
4. Does the nascent LGBTI rights movement on the continent have what it takes to weather the storm?
There is no doubt that we need to fight tooth and nail and lend our support to nation states that seek to obliterate the sexual rights and erotic justice of any selected group. We must henceforth be ready to make sure they fail.
We need to turn the tide. We must intensify efforts at that African Human Rights Commission to secure protection for LGBTI persons and groups. An additional protocol for this purpose will be helpful.
Dorothy Aken’Ova works with the International Centre for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights (INCRESE), the leading Nigerian NGO working for a favorable environment and expanding access to sexual health and rights information and services in Nigeria. For more information, visit INCRESE’s website.
This article was originally published on the Sexuality Policy Watch and is reprinted here with permission.