In January, Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke out against the African Anglican Church’s homophobic stance. Speaking at a news conference in Nairobi, while visiting Kenya to attend the World Social Forum, Tutu said that the Church should stop persecuting lesbians and gays and instead focus on more pressing issues such HIV/AIDS and poverty.
Sadly, African Anglican leaders remained staunchly at the forefront of opposition to pro-gay church policies within the Anglican global body throughout the rest of the year.
Nigeria came under fire for planning to pass harshly repressive new laws which would imprison anyone who took part in a ceremony of marriage with a person of the same sex, was involved in gay clubs or organisations or showed any form of same-sex intimacy in public.
This reflected a growing inexplicable panic among some African nations on the issue of same-sex marriage – perhaps as a reaction to its legalisation in South Africa.
Opposition to the legislation led to a war of words between African gay activists and Peter Tatchell from OutRage! – the UK gay rights organisation – after he called for action to protest the laws without consulting with them. They claimed that his unilateral move could actually damage the cause. The European Parliament was to later pass a resolution calling on Nigeria to abandon the proposed legislation. Thankfully the law was stalled following new elections and has to-date not been passed.
In the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde, a High Court ordered the immediate release of a man named Alexandre D who was detained for more than two years without charge or trial on allegations of homosexuality. The ruling was received with relief by the Cameroonian gay and lesbian community.
In April, it was reported that a gay activist has gone into hiding after threatening to expose six allegedly gay Zimbabwean ministers. According to Zimdaily website, the country’s intelligence agency launched a manhunt to track down Dumisani Dube. The activist apparently said that he had an affair with a cabinet minister he claims infected him with HIV. The accuracy of the story was disputed by gay activists in Zimbabwe.
Despite Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s homophobia, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ) announced later in the year that it was spreading its wings. The organisation, which pushes for social tolerance of sexual minorities and the repeal of homophobic legislation in Zimbabwe, established a new centre for its members in Bulawayo in June.
In Nigeria, 18 men were charged with sodomy by an Islamic Sharia court in the northern state of Bauchi. Reports said that the men were arrested at a hotel, dressed in women’s clothes, while celebrating a gay wedding. Under Sharia law, the group, said to be in their late teens and twenties, faced the death sentence.
Thirty eights countries in Africa have laws which criminalise homosexual acts
Uganda’s LGBT community took a significant step forward in August when around thirty LGBT Ugandans made their public stand at a press conference and announced a campaign to press the government for equal rights. A number of the activists at the press conference wore masks out of fear of being persecuted.
That same month, the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) said that it was deeply alarmed by increased violence, arrests, and threats of arrest of LGBT people in Uganda, Nigeria and Cameroon, confirming these three African nations as anti-gay hotpots on the continent. “In each of these countries, LGBT people are challenging the wall of silence around homosexuality and gender identity,” said Paula Ettelbrick, IGLHRC Executive Director. “And in each country the government has responded with attempts to snuff out their peaceful pleas to be heard.”
In October, the US was criticised for supporting anti-gay groups in Africa. IGLHRC said that it had uncovered evidence that the US government had funded religious groups in Uganda that actively promote discrimination against lesbians and gay men.
Also in October, one of Uganda’s leading Muslim clerics suggested that gays and lesbians be exiled on an island. Speaking at a press conference Sheikh Ramathan Shaban Mubajje told journalists that he had recommended the move to the country’s president. He said, “I asked President Museveni to get us an island on Lake Victoria and we take these homosexuals and they die out there. If they die there then we shall have no more homosexuals in the country.”
Following demands that the bidding city of Abuja be rejected because of Nigeria’s anti-gay policies, The 2014 Commonwealth Games were instead awarded to Glasgow. Commenting on the Commonwealth Games Federation decision, gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said, “While it would have been great for Abuja to host the 2014 Games, sadly Nigeria is not yet ready for this honour, given its sad record of human rights abuses…”
There was no room for gays at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kampala, Uganda in November: A member of staff of IGLHRC Africa, Victor Juliet Mukasa, was assaulted by Ugandan police as she was trying to enter an event at the conference. Other Ugandan and Kenyan lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender speakers scheduled to give addresses at the Speaker’s Corner left fearing violence from the police.
World AIDS Day was marked around the world on December 1, and this included a rare gathering of gays and lesbians in Botswana near Gaborone. This was apparently a first in the country, and was hosted by the organisation Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo). Despite the bad weather around 50 people turned up for the party. Many wore t-shirts proclaiming “Not alone anymore.” Gay male sex is illegal in Botswana, and is punishable by up to seven years imprisonment.
A week later, the same group threatened to sue the Botswana government because the department of civil and national registration refused to register the organisation. LeGaBiBo was refused registration on the basis that its aims are contrary to the country’s penal code which outlaws homosexuality. Without registration the group is not able to raise funds to sustain itself.
Human rights activists in South Africa, France and the United States descended on Cameroonian embassies in December to express their anger at the arrests and harassment of gay men and lesbians in the African nation.
In Pretoria over 100 protesters held a demonstration outside the Cameroon High Commission. More than 30 people have been arrested in Cameroon in the last two years on charges of homosexuality. Dozens of students, particularly girls and young women, have been expelled from schools as result of their real or perceived sexual orientation.
On the eve of the European Union-Africa summit in Lisbon in December, African and European LGBT organisations called on all African nations to reject homophobia. In their appeal, the organisations noted that LGBT people continue to be persecuted under anti-gay laws in nations across the continent. Thirty eights countries in Africa have laws which criminalise homosexual acts. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown boycotted the summit because Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe was allowed to attend.