Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Are you prepared to die for what you are?

Being Gay and African have for long been considered taboo in many African countries. Even in present day emotions runs high when it comes to homosexuality and in the past week attempts on the lives of homosexuals in Africa have been reported yet again. Having travelled to some of these intolerant countries I must say I enjoyed the diversity of people, cultures and stunning fauna and flora but in the same breath found the festering fear, hatred and concealed homophobia disturbing. I have always researched the country I am to visit stance on homosexuality to prepare myself for any potential problems I may encounter - an essential task for any gay traveler. Anyone planning on visiting Africa here is a brief breakdown of homophobia on the continent and also asks the question: Are you prepared to die because of what you are?
First with the good news, African countries where homosexuality is legal for both Gays and Lesbians are South Africa, Rwanda (for now), Réunion, Madagascar, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Central African Republic, Guinea-Bissau, Côte dl’voire, Cape Verde and Benin. Queerly, in some African countries homosexuality between two men are illegal but lesbianism is not. Therefore, for all our dykes out there it’s safe to visit Nigeria, Kenya, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Evidently two women engaging in sexual acts are far less “unnatural” and more palatable in these countries which led me to infer that these laws were drafted by chauvinistic heterosexual bigots harboring sexual fantasies about threesomes with a lesbian couples and repressing their own flaming homosexual desires.
In some African countries homosexuality is illegal but not strictly enforced. In these countries being gay is unlawful but would not necessarily see you end up in jail or fined. Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Seychelles, Mauritius, Comoros, Angola and Mali are such countries. Even though these countries don’t strictly enforce these laws it by no means suggest that gay travelers should take unnecessary chances or risks, best be cautious and discreet. In other African countries these laws are enforced and the penalties are less harsh, in a few the maximum prison sentences are up to 3 years. These countries include Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Guinea, Liberia, Burundi and Botswana.
African countries best to avoid on your travels where the prison sentences are more than 5 years are Libya (up to 5 years), Gambia (up to 14 years), Nigeria (up to 14 years), Senegal (up to 5 years), Cameroon (up to 5 years), Djibouti (up to 12 years), Eritrea (up to 10 years), Ethiopia (up to 5 years), Kenya (up to 14 years), Zambia (up to 15 years) and Zimbabwe (up to 10 years). In these countries the reality of imprisonment are very real especially for their citizens. How these nations believe that homosexuals will be rehabilitated of their sexual preference in prison boggles the mind. Yet each year homosexuals go to jail and each year the fear grows.
Life imprisonment and the death penalty for the “crime” of homosexuality are still enforced in Africa. It’s frightening that the sentence of life imprisonment is still upheld in Tanzania and Uganda. Even more horrifying is the fact that in Sudan, Mauritania and Somalia the death penalty for homosexuality are still a legitimate sentence and enforced. These 5 African countries must be the worst offenders of human rights abuses towards homosexuals in Africa. However, Uganda tops my top 10 list of worst offenders. Not only is life imprisonment not enough now they also want to enforce the death penalty. As many know Uganda has an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which they hope to pass in their parliament. This bill has also been called the Genocide Bill as effectively it calls for the eradication of all homosexuals and HIV+ people in Uganda. Should this bill pass the consequences are dire and many people will die because they are gay.
Africa still has a long road ahead moving from a dark continent of intolerance and homophobia to a continent of peace and unity; Slowly but surely countries are enlightened and its people’s eyes are opened to new possibilities and a brighter futures. Luckily, I live in one such country on the southernmost tip of Africa. Being a South African I can’t honestly say I am proud of our neighboring fellow Africans. I don’t approve of their ancient laws and practices victimizing and persecuting my fellow gay brothers and sisters. I don’t condone the silence of the international community when human rights abuses occur in Mother Africa. Change does not happen overnight and neither can it succeed in silence. So there you have a breakdown of homophobia on the African continent. Should you be travelling to any of these countries be safe and be warned.

Till next time.

Homosexuality in Uganda

10 comments:

nothingprofound said...

It's so sad. You'd think one day the world would wake up to the cruelty and stupidity of all this intolerance and hate. But it just goes on and on.

Pierre said...

Some days it seems like the world is going backwards and that no real progress are being made regarding human rights especially for GLBT people. But we should never become complacent or silent or these travesties will continue.

JulyJeanie said...

I have to agree. Some days it does seem like the world is going backwards, instead of forward. Although I am a heterosexual female, I am definitely pro human rights, no matter the sexual preferences. People are individuals, and as such, should be able to pursue the relationships they desire in life, and what makes them happy. It is sad to say, but I believe (nothingprofound) has said it eloquently. The intolerance's and hate-rid continue to abound.

Jackrabbit said...

You know, the first question that popped in my head when you asked that question was, "why should you HAVE to?" And then I got very, very angry. This just reinforces to me why GLBT issues are human rights issues.

In any case, it continues to dumbfound me just how far the denial of gays and lesbians as human beings goes in the world. For instance, I read on the BBC website awhile back that a Malawi government official claimed after arresting a gay couple that "As far as the Malawi government is concerned we only have two gays in Malawi." So I guess that the thousands of others don't exist-- or don't have the right to exist if they're found out?

And it isn't just Africa. The laws in many African nations just put the problem in sharper relief. In Malawi, you can be arrested for openly being who you are. But in America we've spent decades trying to imagine a society where gays and lesbians don't exist (just ask your average American Protestant church. I should know. I'm in one.) I've lived in towns where openly being who you are will get you a fist to the face if a cowboy doesn't like it. Does that somehow make America better than Malawi or Kenya? I hardly think so.

Anyhow, your point, as usual, is a good one.

Pierre said...

@ JulyJeanie, true that's why we should work harder for human rights. Intolerance and hatred will only prevail if it's alowed.

@ Jackrabbit, don't even get me started on Malawi!!! If countries were celebrities I think Malawi & Uganda should fire their publicists. Since when did homophobia become fashionable in Africa anyway? It's also a shame that America still can't seem to come to terms with homosexuality.

Drea said...

I've always wanted to visit Morocco, but now it's off my list. Love is such a wonderful thing. It's sad that there are laws binding it.

Here on Guam, homosexuals are fighting for their right to marry. They're up against the Roman Catholic church, that is a large presence on the island. It makes me so sad that there are men and women here who can't marry because of the sex of their companions. I can't imagine them being imprisoned who threatened with the death penalty just for being gay or lesbian.

Pierre said...

Drea, it truly is a sad state of affairs. The Roman Catholic church has made it no secret that the don't condone homosexuality and most definately not gay marriage. This is one battlle that is far from over!

fagalicious said...

i'm not sure if this battle is gonna end, even if its gonna end certainly not in the next century cos there so many saddist n devile seeing to that.

Clueless said...

GLBT rights are definitely the current civil rights fight. I think about slavery and the prejudice of persons who are black. Although the laws have been changed centuries ago prejudice, harrasement, deaths still occur. You can't legislate peoples racism/prejudice. But, some laws definitely need changing. Thanks for sharing this.

Pierre said...

@ fagalicious, a positive attitude and an unwavering will to succeed may just make the difference ;-)

@ Clueless, very true but it starts with law and then gradually changing people's minds and hearts.

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