Homophobia: Africa’s Moral Blind Spot | LGBTQ
On April 17, Sheila Adhiambo Lumumba, a 25-year-old non-binary lesbian, was found murdered in Karatina, Kenya. Lumumba had been missing for several days before their bodies were found. An autopsy report revealed that Lumumba had been raped, strangled, stabbed several times in the neck and eyes, and had their legs broken.
Human rights groups have mourned Lumumba’s untimely and violent death. The hashtag #JusticeForSheila was trending on Kenyan Twitter for several days after their deaths. The Kenya Human Rights Commission called on the authorities to investigate the horrific murder and pointed out that “too many gay Kenyans are being killed without the perpetrators held to account”. Amnesty Kenya shared similar sentiments and asserted that “no one deserves such cruel treatment. Sheila didn’t have to go through all that pain,” and the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission described Lumumba’s death as “part of a pattern of attacks and violence against LGBTIQ+ people in the world. country “.
And sadly, it’s true that this horrific murder was no anomaly – members of the LGBTQ community face discrimination, hate and violence because of who they are and who they love across the world. ‘Africa.
In Kenya – just like the rest of Africa – gay sex is a criminal offence, and it is punishable by up to 14 years in prison. And it’s not just discriminatory laws that criminalize and target LGBTQ people across the continent. Political leaders also stoke the fires of homophobia and act as willing vessels for conservative and religious paranoia.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, for example, dismissed LGBTQ rights as a “non-issue” in a 2018 interview with CNN and said Kenya does not view “homosexuality as a human right”. “It’s not a question, as you would like to say, of human rights,” he said. “It’s a matter of society, of our own base, as a culture, as a people, whatever community you come from.”
And Kenyatta is not the only politician in Kenya to voice anti-LGBTQ views. Presidential aspirant and former prime minister Raila Odinga, for example, called for gay couples to be arrested in 2010. He also claimed it was “madness” for a man to fall in love with another man. when there were “many women”.
Kenya’s Vice President William Ruto is also open about his homophobic views. In 2015 he said, “The Republic of Kenya is a republic that worships God. We have no room for gays and the like.
Institutionalized homophobia in Kenya is representative of a malaise that is ravaging all of Africa.
In Ghana, for example, security forces raided and closed the office of an LGBTQ rights group in the capital, Accra, after politicians and religious leaders called for it to be closed in February 2021. A few months later, in May 2021, 21 people attending an LGBTQ conference in the southeastern city of Ho were arrested for the crime of “advocating LGBTQ activities”. Last year, a bill proposing up to 10 years in prison for LGBTQ people as well as groups and individuals who defend their rights, express sympathy or offer social or medical support was also submitted to parliament. from Ghana.
Meanwhile, clinics in several countries, from Uganda and Tanzania to Kenya, offer highly discredited “conversion therapy” services known to be harmful to LGBTQ people. A survey by Open Democracy last year found that in Uganda such anti-gay “counselling” activities are recommended to LGBTQ people by staff employed in government hospitals.
South Africa is an exception on the continent as LGBTQ rights are enshrined in its constitution. Nevertheless, violence against homosexuals is still rampant in the country. Between February 2021 and April 2022, for example, at least 20 LGBTQ people were murdered in appalling circumstances because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Some optimists in Africa, such as Ugandan lawmaker Fox Odoi-Oywelwo, seem to believe that since “new access to knowledge, information and different viewpoints is having a vast transformative effect on the electorate”, the acceptance LGBTQ numbers across the continent will naturally and inevitably increase over time.
This, however, is not the case.
Homophobia is rooted in eugenics and has always been fueled by fascist and authoritarian regimes. The Nazi regime in Germany, for example, waged a campaign against male homosexuality and persecuted homosexuals between 1933 and 1945. Authoritarian political leaders around the world continue this trend today.
Homophobia – as well as vigilante violence against LGBTQ people – is rampant in Vladimir Putin‘s Russia. A law on gay propaganda unanimously approved by the Duma in 2013 makes it illegal to publicly promote the rights and culture of the LGBTQ community in the country. In the United States, the Republican Party – with support from the far right – is waging a war on LGBTQ rights. Florida’s Republican administration recently signed into law a controversial bill, dubbed “don’t say gay,” that would ban all questions about “sexual orientation and gender identity” in classrooms.
African progressives and human rights advocates should learn from the ongoing attacks on LGBTQ rights around the world and see that things will not change for the better on the continent without immediate action.
LGBTQ repression is often – if not always – part of an authoritarian agenda and a broader, systematic assault on civil liberties. This can be seen easily and clearly in countries like Kenya, Uganda or Nigeria, where homophobia, police brutality and political repression go hand in hand and together serve to silence marginalized and oppressed sections of society and consolidate the power of established political forces.
Thus, the fight for LGBTQ rights should be seen not as a niche issue that concerns only the West, but as part of a larger and universal battle to expand access to social, economic and political rights. and strengthen democracy.
Therefore, across Africa, not only LGBTQ activists, but everyone who cares about human rights and democracy should stand up for the rights of LGBTQ communities. Everyone who dreams of a better future for all Africans, including political parties, should push for fairer and more inclusive laws that would protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of all Africans, including those of LGBTQ people.
In this fight, the still lethargic African Union could and should lead the way. Although LGBTQ lifestyles and needs are unfairly projected and dismissed as “un-African”, history tells us otherwise: the LGBTQ community is an indelible and ubiquitous reflection of our incredibly diverse and beautiful humanity.
Lumumba was not the first, and sadly will not be the last, a young African life lost to violent homophobia. This wave of “corrective” rapes, beatings and murders of LGBTQ people should no longer be allowed to continue unabated. It is high time for African countries to reassess their positions and take action to protect marginalized, victimized and often criminalized LGBTQ communities.
No matter what Kenyatta and many other politicians like him may try to argue, LGBTQ rights are human rights. Africa cannot move forward and build a better future for all Africans without taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety and acceptance of LGBTQ people.
JThe opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial position of Al Jazeera.