June 24, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Report documents anti-LGBT discrimination, violence in Africa

Uganda, Kill the Gays bill, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters gather outside the Ugandan embassy in Northwest D.C. in December 2012 to protest the country’s “Kill the Gays” bill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Amnesty International on Monday issued a report that documents increased anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in Africa.

The report — “Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of Same-Sex Conduct in Sub-Saharan Africa — notes 38 African countries continue to criminalize consensual same-sex conduct. These include South Sudan, Liberia and Burundi.

The Nigeria House of Representatives late last month passed a measure that would criminalize what Reuters described as same-sex “amorous relationships” and marriages and memberships in a gay rights group. Those convicted under the proposal that President Goodluck Jonathan has yet to sign into law would face up to 14 years in prison.

Mauritania, Sudan and portions of northern Nigeria and Sudan impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of consensual same-sex sexual acts. Ugandan lawmakers have faced criticism over the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone convicted of repeated same-sex sexual acts.

The Amnesty International report further notes at least seven LGBT South Africans were murdered between June-Nov. 2012 because of their sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

It also documents police officers in Cameroon who subjected those they detained under the country’s anti-homosexuality law to forced anal exams. Michel Togué, a lawyer who advocates on behalf of gay Cameroonians, discussed these and other human rights abuses during an interview with the Washington Blade earlier this year in D.C.

“Gay people are not seeking everyone to approve of their behavior,” he said. “They are seeking freedom.”

Widney Brown, director of law and policy for Amnesty International, stressed African governments have a responsibility to protect the rights of their LGBT citizens.

“These attacks — sometimes deadly — must be stopped,” Brown said. “No one should be beaten or killed because of who they are attracted to or intimately involved with.”

Amnesty International released its report less than two days before President Obama is scheduled to leave D.C. for a week-long trip to Africa that will include stops in Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania.

The White House and the State Department have repeatedly spoken out against Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill.

Secretary of State John Kerry last week responded to a question during Gays and Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies (GLIFAA)’s annual Pride event in Foggy Bottom about “a marked increase in anti-gay legislation and homophobic statements” by government officials and religious leaders in Nigeria, Uganda and other countries. The State Department in August 2012 criticized the Zimbabwean government after police arrested dozens of activists inside the offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ,) an LGBT rights organization, in Harare, the country’s capital.

“When they raid our offices they think they are going to find pornographic materials,” a GALZ member told the Blade during an exclusive interview earlier this year in D.C. “When they come in there, they find it is a resource center. People are busy working.”

The Obama administration and British Prime Minister David Cameron have both suggested the allocation of international aid should hinge upon a country’s record on LGBT rights.

Amnesty International cites progress on LGBT issues in Africa

In spite of the continued human rights abuses against LGBT Africans, Amnesty International’s report notes progress in many countries across the continent.

Cape Verde, Mauritius, São Tomé and Príncipe and the Seychelles have decriminalized homosexuality over the last decade. Botswana and Mozambique are among the African countries that have banned anti-gay employment discrimination in recent years.

Same-sex couples have been able to marry in South Africa since 2006.

African countries have responsibility to ‘protect, not prosecute’

The Amnesty International report contains a number of recommendations on how it feels African governments can eliminate discrimination and violence against their LGBT citizens. These include repealing laws that criminalize or “otherwise impose punitive sanctions on consensual same-sex conduct,” abolishing the death penalty and eliminating anti-LGBT discrimination in the judicial system.

“As the chorus for recognition grows stronger and stronger, African states have to stop denying that homophobia is a human rights issue and recognize that LGBTI rights are an integral part of the human rights struggle,” Brown said. “It is their responsibility to protect, not persecute.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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