A month ago I watched the documentary “Missionaries of Hate” which portrays the lives of gay men and women living in Uganda amidst the country’s recent move to pass a bill that would make homosexuality illegal, punishable by prison time and, in some cases, even death.
Today on Facebook, a friend (currently living and working in Senegal) posted a map of Africa and each country’s penalties towards gays and lesbians. It’s pretty shocking to see that 4 countries seek the death penalty if someone is caught up in their witch hunt and many other countries (including some of our major allies) can initiate prison terms up to 10 years if convicted. Only 1 country, South Africa, recognizes gay rights and same-sex marriage.
Uganda, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, and Botswana (all major allies to the west) have been pressured by the U.S. and U.K to start ratcheting down their views against homosexuality or face sanctions that may include cutting funding and aid that many countries rely on. However, there are no signs that any country takes U.S. or U.K. threats seriously or that they will loosen their restrictions and views against gay rights
Some blame U.S. Christian evangelical groups for Africa’s increasingly staunch views and hostile actions against homosexuals. Since the 90s, these groups have been pushing their anti-gay message throughout the continent and evangelical lobbyists have even helped Uganda’s parliament introduce anti-gay legislation, that if passed would institute the death penalty for those convicted of performing homosexual acts.
Although Ugandan President and Christian groups who support the anti-gay bill claim their convictions have not been influenced by American evangelical groups, the increase in violence and hatred toward gays living in Uganda and elsewhere has been on the rise since these organizations first started their campaign in Africa.
One thing is for sure, Africa is quickly becoming a battleground for both gay rights activists and anti-gay supporters.