20 January 2014

Africa: The Bigger Picture - Understanding Anti-Gay Laws in Africa

Photo: Wikipedia
Activists protesting Uganda anti-gay bill (file photo)


In the past month, both Nigeria and Uganda have come under the spotlight for their passing of severe anti-gay legislation. On Monday, Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill that carries a sentence of up to 14 years imprisonment for same-sex marriages or civil unions.

Any person who is openly gay and anyone who "registers, operates or participates in gay clubs, societies and organisations" can be sentenced for up to 10 years in prison (the law also applies to well-meaning foreigners who visit Nigeria to help promote LGBTI causes).

On December 20, Uganda passed the Private Members Bill which makes certain homosexual acts punishable with life in prison and also punishes anyone who "funds", "sponsors" or "abets" homosexuality in that country. In the same week, the Ugandan Parliament passed an anti-pornography law banning "erotic behavior intended to cause sexual excitement and any indecent act or behavior tending to corrupt morals" as well as a law banning mini-skirts.

The developments have been condemned by Western governments and have predictably sparked outrage amongst many people in South Africa. Purse-string holding countries in the north have threatened to withdraw millions of dollars in aid for the enactment of these laws,...

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