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First published at eurOut.


Homosexual acts are illegal in 36 African countries, yet recent developments in Africa show a further homophobic backlash. Visible in developments such as the proposed introduction of the death penalty for homosexuals and the ban on "promoting homosexuality" in Uganda, the arrest of guests at a gay wedding in Kenya and "corrective" rape in South Africa. In Malawi the first gay couple to seek same-sex marriage is held in a maximum security prison.


source: wikipedia


African anti gay politicians often claim that homosexuality was introduced by westerners colonising the continent and that it was essentially un-African. But as Blessing-Miles Tendi points out in the Guardian this is not really the case. There is evidence that the Azande, a tribe in north central Africa, had a practice until the early 20th century comparable to Ancient Greek pederasty, as the anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard recorded. (wikipedia)

What is more, colonisation introduced Christianity, which furthered the idea of homosexuality being a sin. Even today western campaigns aren't solely human rights efforts to support local LGBT people. Tendi mentions that the American evangelical right is in fact investing a lot of time and money to influence religious Africans against gay-rights.
"Black Africans and African-Americans must address [...] the myth that pre-colonial Africa was exclusively heterosexual and anti-homosexual attitudes emanating from religion if they are to rise above homophobia."
Blessing-Miles Tendi says in the Guardian
South Africa

Looking at the map above you might have come to think that South Africa is something of a safe haven for African gays. On a continent, where homosexuality in punishable in most countries, in some even by life in prison or indeed death, South Africa stands out as the only one that recognises same-sex marriage. So, all is well for lesbians in South Africa?

Sadly this isn't the case. While South Africa's legal system does ensure equality, there still remains a deeply ingrained homophobia in many people, which repeatedly comes to the surface as so called "corrective" rape.

IOL reports that last Tuesday (April 6, 2010) a 43-year-old suspect, who is accused of having raped and beaten up a 30-year old women on the Friday before, appeared before the Wynberg Magistrate's Court. Outside about 40 gay and lesbian activists had gathered to protest against bail; they'd brought signs saying "no bail for rapists" and "bring back the rope".

The victim is being cared for by Ndumie Funda, founder of Luleki Sizwe, an organisation supporting victims of homophobic rapes in townships.
Funda said the woman was not able to speak to the Cape Times as she had been strangled with a length of wire, as well as being beaten and punched.
[...]
He also allegedly threatened to kill her and throw her body in a nearby river.
iol.co.za
The Magistrate postponed the case to April 13. In the meantime the accused will be kept in prison.



Zimbabwe

The U.S. State Department's human rights report for 2009 finds that gays in Zimbabwe face widespread harassment. According to the report gay men have been forced into heterosexual acts and lesbian women have been raped.

Hate speech by politicians against gays is common and boosts homophobia, homosexual acts are illegal. This results in a climate where victims of homophobic violence are afraid to speak out.

Last month President Mugabe promised that gay rights would have no place in a new constitution and described homosexuals as "lower than pigs and dogs". Prime Minister Tsvangirai, while sharing an aversion against homosexuality, argued against "hate speech or the persecution of any sector of the population based on race, gender, tribe, culture, sexual orientation or political affiliation". (yahoo news) But Tsvangirai himself seems to be unable to hold true to his own ideals as he uses accusations of homosexuality to discredit Mugabe.
"Nowhere in our principles document is there any reference to gays and lesbians. For the record, it is well-known that homosexuality is practised in Zanu PF [Robert Mugabe's party, ed.] where senior officials from that party have been jailed while others are under police probe on allegations of sodomy. It is in Zanu PF where homosexuality is a religion."
Morgan Tsvangirai defends himself against the accusation of campaigning for gay rights. - guardian.co.uk


Uganda

Amnesty International publishes Uganda: "I can't afford justice", a report about violence against women in Uganda. They point out that due to a lack of government resources and political will perpetrators often get away without punishment.
"When I went to the police station they asked me for money for fuel which I did not have. My husband beat me again but I gave up going to the police because they always ask for money which I don't have," one victim told Amnesty International.
There also seems to prevail the believe that the women themselves are to blame for sexual violence directed against them. Since there are no state-run shelters for victims of gender-based violence many women don't have any other choice but to stay in a violent relationship. When abused women do seek help from the police they often find themselves subjected to humiliating lines of questioning by inadequately trained police and defence lawyers in surroundings that do not provide the necessary privacy.

With this report Amnesty International urges the Ugandan government "to take immediate action to provide survivors of violence against women with legal support and related health, safety and shelter needs."

As if all this wasn't bad enough, in 2009 a new law was proposed that would increase the punishment for male homosexual act up to the death penalty, as well as outlaw lesbian sex acts, which until now have been legal.

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Joan Y. Psmith
"Because we're grown-ups now, and it's our turn to decide what that means."
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