It's A Small World, After All

Christina Engela's picture

When Uganda tabled its Bill which would effectively have instituted the death penalty for homosexuality and a pink genocide, many countries applied great pressure to Uganda to drop the Bill. So far this Bill has been put on hold, yet in Uganda gay people still face an existing law which prescribes a 14-year prison term simply for being gay - just as in Malawi and several other countries.

Malawi has just this week rewarded a gay couple with the maximum prison term for loving each other - 14 years hard labor, a potential - and even likely death sentence in such a prison. The world has begun to apply pressure on Malawi because of this human rights abuse, but the question remains - how much pressure will they apply, and what will happen if Malawi doesn't budge?

Will the outcome of this issue encourage other African states to say "oh well, Malawi didn't give the West what they wanted, they didn't give in - and nothing happened to them. They're still getting aid"? Will this encourage Uganda to pass the Bill and thumb their noses at their donors as if their bark is worse than their bite - as one does to a dog without teeth?

Gay people in Africa are living in fear. And why should gay people in Africa not be afraid? Today it is illegal to be gay in aproximately 38 countries in Africa, with many countries applying lengthy jail terms as well as a measure of draconian homphobia in laws and society. Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, as is the case in Malawi and most other African countries. The only country on the continent of Africa which has laws protecting the human and civil rights of sexual minorities, is South Africa - a country whose government, has to date not once spoken out against human rights abuses and violations in any other African state - and which continues to do business with and even to support their governments.

In some countries, rampant homophobia stemming from religious fundamentalist attitudes and archaic anti-homosexuality laws dating back to the British colonial era of the nineteenth century has been on the increase. While most scholars today dispute claims made by African homophobes, that homosexuality is "un-African" and "a result of Western influence" - the same cannot be said of homophobia. Much of this can be linked directly to foreign influence, particularly if one looks at Uganda, where most of the anti-gay sentiment stems from the influence of the US religious right - which has been very active there in the past 20 years. Of these religious fundamentalist groups, many are also active in other African states, with similar results.

Yes, gay and trans people are living in fear in Africa, and Malawi is no exception. And why should gay people not be afraid? If the Malawian government could imprison two men simply for being in a gay relationship - without concrete proof that any crime had been committed, why shouldn't gay people going to clinics for HIV testing, sex-education or counseling, or fear being arrested and imprisoned also? After all, they could claim anything they liked - that they contracted HIV through gay sex for example, making that a crime.

Promoting intolerance creates fear - and fearfulness will do no less than sabotage the efforts of governments and organizations to provide HIV prevention services and treatments by driving them further underground. Fear discourages people from using clinics and healthcare services, including HIV testing - and further erodes their fundamental human rights.

It is a vicious circle. Homophobes blame gay people for AIDS, so they oppress them - driving them underground, in turn limiting their access to education and services which would help stem the spread of the disease. Even more people then contract HIV and the homophobes again blame gay people for being gay, having sex (like homophobes don't have sex or don't spread HIV), and not adhering to sex education guidelines - so they crack down even harder. Yup. Vicious.

I wonder what those overzealous, ignorant homophobes in America - who have been active in Africa for the past half century - and who have been influencing the Ugandan government to table the Genocide Bill - have to say about their handiwork? They are probably happy as pigs in... mud. In fact, some of them are again taking up where they have left off. Scott Lively Initiates Renewed Push TO Pass Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill. Read how this "ex-gay" bigot and hypocrite is now rationalizing how to wage the global US-religious right led war on us more successfully in the long run. It is time the USA put a limit on the activities of its citizens abroad - particularly those who damage the cause of human rights - and act like terrorists.

I wonder what the UK has to say about their archaic colonial laws from more than a century ago still sowing misery in Africa? Not their problem, right? Talk about the "gift" that keeps on giving. They could try to help by apologizing publicly for this dark legacy and admonishing former colonies - and especially Commonwealth states - to update their laws to embrace human rights ethics. As givers of foreign aid, they could start playing hard-ball instead of making pathetic and cowardly statements like "Malawi gay conviction is shocking – but we cannot stop aid'". Uhuh. "Cannot"? Why ever not?

Some people feel that donor countries should stop sending their hard-earned tax money to help African countries because they seem to end up sponsoring homophobia and other human rights abuses instead. I think their fears are well founded and justified.

Recent examples of this include Uganda and Malawi. I think countries which receive foreign aid should be held accountable by donor countries for how they use this aid, and that they should be evaluated on an ongoing basis. If they don't adhere to a workable human rights ethic, cut them off.

If an NGO receives sponsorship from a donor group, they not only need to account for how the money was spent, but when they apply for the funding to begin with, they need to specify what they need the money for and how the money WILL be spent. I fail to see why it should be different in this case.

Humanitarian aid is a prime concern, yes - but sending money to governments who show no regard for human rights or the well-being of their own people contradicts the humanitarian concern out of which the money is donated in the first place. It's just plain stupid.

While this may seem like blackmail, I would like to point out that it is after all the donor country's money - and if countries receiving foreign aid use it for purposes other than intended - it is not only fraud on a grand scale - but it also gives tacit approval for whatever the money is used for and further implicates the donor countries in whatever human rights abuses are committed by these governments using their foreign aid to fund these abuses - especially if the donor country is made aware of these cases - and simply goes on sending these fuckers more money anyway.

For example, the USA should say, "Okay, so you used our aid to fund pointless abstinence-only "education" programs instead of proper sex-education, your utterances, policies and social prejudice are sabotaging the work of groups trying to fight the HIV/AIDS pandemic, your human rights ethics are questionable, and you have laws which persecute sexual minorities - fix it, or no more aid for you."

(Posted at Sour Grapes)

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