Homophobia: Africa’s moral blind spot | LGBTQ


On April 17, Sheila Adhiambo Lumumba, a 25-year-old non-binary lesbian, was discovered murdered in Karatina, Kenya. Lumumba had been lacking for a number of days earlier than their physique was discovered. An post-mortem report revealed that Lumumba was raped, strangled, stabbed a number of instances within the neck and eyes and their legs had been damaged.

Human rights teams lamented Lumumba’s premature and violent passing. The hashtag #JusticeForSheila trended on Kenyan Twitter for a number of days after their passing. The Kenya Human Rights Fee known as on authorities to analyze the ugly homicide and burdened that “too many queer Kenyans are getting killed with no accountability for perpetrators”. Amnesty Kenya shared comparable sentiments and asserted, “nobody deserves such merciless therapy. Sheila didn’t should expertise all this ache”, and the Nationwide Homosexual and Lesbian Human Rights Fee described Lumumba’s dying as “a part of a sample of assaults and violence towards LGBTIQ+ individuals within the nation”.

And sadly, it’s true that this ugly homicide was not an anomaly – members of the LGBTQ group are dealing with discrimination, hate and violence due to who they’re and who they love throughout Africa.

In Kenya – very like the remainder of Africa – homosexual intercourse is a prison offence, and it’s punishable by as much as 14 years in jail. And it isn’t solely discriminatory legal guidelines which can be criminalising LGBTQ people and placing a goal on their backs throughout the continent. Political leaders are additionally including gasoline to the fires of homophobia and appearing as keen vessels for conservative and spiritual paranoia.

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta, as an illustration, dismissed LGBTQ rights as a “non-issue” in an interview with CNN in 2018 and declared that Kenya doesn’t contemplate “homosexuality a human proper”. “This isn’t a problem, as you’d wish to put it, of human rights,” he mentioned. “This is a matter of society, of our personal base, as a tradition, as a folks no matter which group you come from.”

And Kenyatta is hardly the one politician in Kenya voicing anti-LGBTQ views. Presidential aspirant and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, for instance, known as for homosexual {couples} to be arrested in 2010. He additionally claimed it was “insanity” for a person to fall in love with one other man whereas there have been “loads of ladies”.

Kenya’s Deputy President William Ruto can also be equally open about his homophobic views. In 2015, he mentioned, “The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God. We have now no room for gays and people others.”

The institutionalised homophobia in Kenya is consultant of a malaise that’s devastating the whole thing of  Africa.

In Ghana, for instance, safety forces raided and shut down the workplace of an LGBTQ rights group within the capital, Accra, after politicians and spiritual leaders known as for its closure in February 2021. A couple of months later, in Might 2021, 21 folks attending an LGBTQ convention within the southeastern metropolis of Ho have been arrested for the crime of “advocating LGBTQ actions”. Final 12 months, a draft laws proposing as much as 10 years in jail for LGBTQ folks in addition to teams and people who advocate for his or her rights, specific sympathy or supply social or medical help was additionally submitted to Ghana’s parliament.

In the meantime, clinics in a number of international locations, from Uganda and Tanzania to Kenya, are providing extremely discredited and recognized to be dangerous “conversion remedy” providers to LGBTQ people. An Open Democracy investigation performed final 12 months revealed that in Uganda such anti-gay “counselling” actions are being really helpful to LGBTQ folks by workers employed at public hospitals.

South Africa is an outlier on the continent as LGBTQ rights are enshrined in its structure. However, violence towards queer folks remains to be rife within the nation. Between February 2021 and April 2022, for instance, at the very least 20 LGBTQ people have been murdered in ghastly circumstances due to their gender identification or sexual orientation.

Some optimists in Africa, resembling Ugandan legislator Fox Odoi-Oywelwo, seem to consider that since “newfound entry to information, info and differing factors of view is having an unlimited, transformational impact on the voters”, LGBTQ acceptance throughout the continent will naturally and inevitably improve with time.

This, nonetheless, shouldn’t be the case.

Homophobia is rooted in eugenics and has historically been fuelled by fascist and authoritarian regimes. The Nazi regime in Germany, for instance, carried out a marketing campaign towards male homosexuality and persecuted homosexual males between 1933 and 1945. Authoritarian political leaders the world over are persevering with this development immediately.

Homophobia – in addition to vigilante violence towards LGBTQ people – is rife in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. A homosexual propaganda regulation that was unanimously authorised by the Duma in 2013 makes publicly selling the rights and tradition of the LGBTQ group unlawful within the nation. In the USA, the Republican Get together – with help from the far proper – is waging a conflict towards LGBTQ rights.  Florida’s Republican administration just lately signed into regulation a controversial invoice, dubbed “don’t say homosexual” that will ban all “sexual orientation and gender identification” points from school rooms.

African progressives and human rights advocates ought to study from the continuing assaults on LGBTQ rights the world over and see that issues won’t change for the higher on the continent with out quick motion.

LGBTQ repression is usually – if not all the time – a part of an authoritarian agenda and a wider, systematic assault on civil freedoms. This will simply and clearly be seen in international locations like Kenya, Uganda or Nigeria, the place homophobia, police brutality and political repression come hand in hand and collectively serve to silence marginalised and oppressed sections of society and consolidate the facility of established political forces.

So the struggle for LGBTQ rights should be seen not as a distinct segment challenge that relates solely to the West, however as a part of a wider, common battle for increasing entry to social, financial and political rights and strengthening democracy.

Due to this fact, throughout Africa not solely LGBTQ activists however everybody who cares for human rights and democracy ought to arise for the rights of LGBTQ communities. Everybody who desires of a greater future for all Africans, together with political events, ought to push for fairer, extra inclusive legal guidelines that will shield the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Africans, together with these of LGBTQ folks.

On this struggle, the constantly torpid African Union might and will prepared the ground. Though LGBTQ existence and desires are unfairly projected and rejected as “unAfrican”, historical past tells us in any other case: the LGBTQ group is an indelible and omnipresent reflection of our extremely numerous and delightful humanity.

Lumumba’s was not the primary, and sadly won’t be the final, younger African life misplaced to violent homophobia. This spate of “corrective” rapes, beatings and murders of LGBTQ people shouldn’t be allowed to proceed unabated any longer. It’s excessive time for African international locations to reassess their positions and take motion to guard marginalised, victimised and infrequently criminalised LGBTQ communities.

It doesn’t matter what Kenyatta and plenty of different politicians like him could attempt to argue, LGBTQ rights are human rights. Africa can’t transfer ahead and construct a greater future for all Africans, with out taking the required steps to make sure the protection and acceptance of LGBTQ people.

The views expressed on this article are the writer’s personal and don’t essentially replicate Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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