By Cameron Modisane, 26 December 2013
Homophobia in Africa has reached “dangerous levels” with more countries passing laws criminalising same-sex relations. Homosexuality is illegal in 38 countries on the African continent, with South Africa being the only country that recognises gay rights and allows same-sex marriage.
The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), under the leadership of Julius Malema, has highlighted in its complementary pillars the “Gender and Sexuality Question” in its founding manifesto which was adopted on 26-27 July 2013, “What is to be done?” conference which was held in Soweto, South Africa.
The EFF is against the oppression of anyone based on their gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation, meaning that we are against patriarchy, sexism, and homophobia in all of its manifestations. We are also against tribalism and religious and cultural intolerance. We oppose any cultural or religious practices that promote the oppression of anyone, especially groups that have been historically oppressed by such practices.
The Ugandan Parliament has passed a bill which entrenches discrimination and hatred against lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex people. The EFF unequivocally condemns the passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the Ugandan Parliament. The draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill was tabled and passed within minutes by Parliament on 20 December 2013. It was first introduced into Parliament in 2009.The Ugandan Penal Code already prohibits ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’, which is punishable with life imprisonment. However, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill goes much further by including a range of different people who could be targeted for arrest for “aggravated homosexuality” – an offence that now carries a punishment of life imprisonment, replacing a maximum of sentence of the death penalty in a previous draft of the Bill. Those who could be charged with “aggravated homosexuality” include “serial offenders” and anyone who is HIV positive and found to have had sexual relations with a person of the same sex – even when such conduct is consensual and protected. Other disturbing provisions of the draft bill include criminalising the “promotion” of homosexuality, compelling HIV testing in some circumstances, and imposing life sentences for entering into a same-sex marriage.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill would also have severe impacts on the right to the highest attainable standard of health for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people in Uganda; the provisions classing sex while HIV positive could deter people from seeking information about their HIV status, and in some circumstances the provisions on forced HIV testing could also violate this right. The passage of this Bill risks limiting the ability of health professionals to provide services to LGBTI individuals, particularly HIV prevention services for men who have sex with men. This bill will institutionalise discrimination, hatred and prejudice in law against lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex Ugandans, who are already marginalised. In addition, passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would give license to those committing hate crimes; violent attacks on people solely on the basis of their sexual orientation and “corrective rape” of lesbians would be exacerbated. Furthermore, such people would not be held accountable for their criminal acts of violence.
South Africa still mourns the passing our father, Nelson Mandela who stood for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. EFF calls upon all political leaders, religious leaders, cultural leaders and others in Africa to not only praise Nelson Mandela but to learn from his message of love for all not hate. This vision is encapsulated in one of Nelson Mandela’s famous quotes:
“I am not truly free if I am taking away someone else’s freedom, just as surely as I am not free when my freedom is taken from me. The oppressed and the oppressor alike are robbed of their humanity.”
Shortly after becoming president, Nelson Mandela appointed an openly gay judge to South Africa’s High Court of Appeal. Justice Edwin Cameron is now serving as a Constitutional Court Judge in the highest court in the land. We call on Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to emulate Nelson Mandela, take leadership and refuse to sign into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by the Ugandan Parliament on 20 December 2013. Same-sex love has long since existed in Africa, it was widely practiced and accepted on the continent for thousands of years. Homosexuality was not banned until the age of colonisation, when European powers and missionaries brought anti-gay attitudes and laws to Africa.
After World War II, when African countries began to win their independence, many European and Western societies decriminalized gay sex. But the new African nations stepped up their campaigns against it, reinforcing one of the worst colonial legacies. To many Africans, homosexuality and gay rights come from the West. But the West’s truly awful gift to the continent was homophobia, which the Africans then adopted as their own. Former colonial masters not only taught Africans about homophobia but they taught Africa how to codify homophobia. Racism, sexism and homophobia are all forms of supremacy and domination which Nelson Mandela fought against. Homophobia, misogyny and racial bigotry are the feelings that undergird, reinforce and perpetuate those structures of domination.
Criminalisation of same-sex love is a relic from Western colonisation. Why are African countries clinging to these antiquated laws against same-sex love? Why do African law makers seek to further strengthen a discriminatory law in a democracy? We make a plea to African countries to uphold the human rights and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, bisexual, transgender and intersex people.
When two consenting adults decide to enter into a committed relationship, the state should not criminalise their relationship. What two consenting adults do in the privacy of their own home is really not a matter of law or the state to intervene. Since homosexuality is not harmful to gay men and women, or to any gawking bystander, there is no reason to outlaw it in Africa or elsewhere.
Nelson Mandela non-violently fought for the equality and justice for all. He championed decriminalisation of homosexuality in South Africa. Nelson Mandela, enshrined equality for gay and lesbian people in law in South Africa’s new constitution. Because of him, it’s illegal to discriminate or persecute a person because of their sexuality or gender in South Africa. Therefore we argue those in power currently and political leaders to continue with Nelson Mandela’s work of tolerance, justice, equality and fairness for all by changing attitudes against lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender and intersex people in Africa and protecting their human rights and right to choose who to love irrespective of gender.
We strongly urge the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its entirety. African leaders must not legislate hate of one by another like it happened in South Africa during apartheid which Nelson Mandela fought strongly against.