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Africa reacts to Obama's pro-gay rights foreign policy

Most of Africa's 54 nations ban homosexuality, so President Obama's promotion of gay rights as a human right draws quick ire from African governments.

By Correspondent / December 8, 2011



Nairobi, Kenya

The enshrinement of equal rights for homosexuals into US foreign policy activities has drawn quick ire from African nations, with one senior figure saying the notion is “abhorrent” across the continent. 

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President Obama has instructed officials across government to “ensure that US diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of lesbian, gay, and transgender persons” around the world. 

Under the move, legal, moral, and financial support will be boosted for gay rights organizations, emergency assistance will be sent to groups or individuals facing threats, and asylum in the US will be offered to people forced to flee homophobic persecution in their countries, Mr. Obama said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the new focus in a speech marking international human rights day in Geneva Tuesday night. 

Calling discrimination of homosexual and transgender people “one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time,” Secretary Clinton said “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” 

“It is violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation, or because they do not conform to cultural norms about how men and women should look or behave,” she said. “It is a violation of human rights when governments declare it illegal to be gay, or allow those who harm gay people to go unpunished.” 

John Nagenda, a senior adviser to Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, told The Monitor that this view would be “anathema” to most African nations. 

“I don’t like her tone, at all,” he said.

“I’m amazed she’s not looking to her own country and lecturing them first, before she comes to say these things which she knows are very sensitive issues in so many parts of the world, not least Africa. 

“Homosexuality here is taboo, it’s something anathema to Africans, and I can say that this idea of Clinton’s, of Obama’s, is something that will be seen as abhorrent in every country on the continent that I can think of.” 

Almost all of Africa’s 54 nations ban homosexuality. Uganda drew opprobrium from across the West last year when a bill was tabled in parliament that would have imposed the death penalty for what was termed “aggravated homosexuality.” The bill has since been shelved, but being found to be gay still risks a maximum 14-year jail sentence and Amnesty International has reported arbitrary arrests and torture of suspected gay people in Uganda.   

More recently, Nigeria’s Senate last week agreed a proposed law banning same-sex marriages, again imposing 14-year jail terms for people found guilty, and adding a 10-year sentence for anyone who helps homosexuals marry. 

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