Subscribe

Obama chides Africa for discriminating against homosexuals

Anti-gay laws often have broad public approval in African nations where many hold conservative religious views and see homosexuality as immoral.

  • close
    President Barack Obama, center, and Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta, right, arrive to speak to the media after meeting together at State House in Nairobi, Kenya Saturday, July 25, 2015.
    (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

President Barack Obama told Africans on Saturday that discriminating against gays was like treating people differently because of race, drawing criticism from anti-gay activists who said he was imposing his morality on the continent.

The comments in Kenya by Obama, whose father was Kenyan and who Africans claim as their son, exposed the divide on gay rights between Western states and religiously conservative Africa where many states ban homosexual relations.

"As an African American in the United States I am painfully aware of what happens when people are treated differently," Obama told a news conference in Nairobi during his first trip as president to his father's homeland.

Recommended: DOMA and Prop. 8 struck down: Gay marriage laws around the globe

Standing next to Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Obama said his message across Africa was the same: "When you start treating people differently, not because of any harm they are doing to anybody but because they are different, that's the path whereby freedoms begin to erode."

Obama, who has shown increasing support for gay rights during his presidency, hailed last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision to allow same-sex marriage in the United States.

Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto, who attended talks with Obama, had said in May there was "no room" for gays in Kenya, where homosexual relations are outlawed.

“Right now there is a lot of visibility and talk of homosexuality. When that happens, there is a spike in violence,” Anthony Oluoch, executive director of the media and advocacy group Gay Kenya Trust, told The Christian Science Monitor. “Visibility is a double-edged sword.”

Anti-gay laws often have broad public approval in African nations where many hold conservative religious views and see homosexuality as immoral.

As The Christian Science Monitor reported:

It's dangerous to generalize for an entire continent, but on this issue it seems that there is a common popular majority feeling, and it is disdain for homosexual rights. A 2013 study by the Pew Research Center found only 3 percent of Ghanaians and Senegalese, 4 percent of Ugandans, and 8 percent of Kenyans said their societies should accept homosexuality. In Nigeria, 98 percent said it should not accept homosexuality, the highest ratio in the world, the study found. (Outside influence may be a factor. As the Monitor recently reported, human rights groups in Africa have long pointed a finger at visitors from US evangelical groups who have advocated against homosexual behavior and rights in some African states.) 

"He is connecting himself to Africa but he is offending the values of Africa," said Kidaha Vincent, who heads Kenya's fringe Republican Liberty Party.

In response to the same question, Kenyatta said the United States and Kenya shared many values but not in all areas, saying gay rights was a "non-issue" for Kenyans.

"There are some things that we must admit we don't share - our culture, our societies don't accept," Kenyatta said, drawing scattered applause after speaking.

Eric Gitari, who heads a Kenyan gay rights groups, praised Obama for tackling the matter on the basis of "the dignity of people by speaking about simple human to human interactions."

U.S. group Human Rights First also issued a statement praising Obama for addressing the issue as one of "equality under the law."

Some African rights groups had urged Obama to tread cautiously on the issue to avoid inflaming public opinion. South Africa is the only African nation to allow same-sex marriage.

Neighboring Uganda, which moved to toughen prison sentences against gays in 2014, faced stern Western criticism and a halt in some aid before a court struck down the law. U.S. Secretary State John Kerry had called the code "atrocious." (Writing by Edmund Blair)

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK