Prime Minister David Cameron

In an unexpected move, African LGBTI and human rights activists have slammed the British government for threatening to cut aid to countries that have anti-gay policies or laws.

On Sunday, Prime Minister David Cameron told the BBC: “We want to see countries that receive our aid adhering to proper human rights, and that includes how people treat gay and lesbian people.”

He added: “British aid should have more strings attached, in terms of do you persecute people for their faith or their Christianity, or do you persecute people for their sexuality. We don’t think that’s acceptable.”

In a statement, backed by more than fifty organisations and almost 90 individuals from across the continent, activists said that they were concerned “about the use of aid conditionality as an incentive for increasing the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the continent”.

They acknowledged that the intention may well be to protect the rights of LGBTI people but said that such a move would “disregard the role of the LGBTI and broader social justice movement on the continent and creates the risk of a serious backlash against LGBTI people”.

The statement cited recent events in Malawi, as an example, where the government blamed and targeted LGBTI people after donor cuts were made due to the country’s poor human rights record.

“In a context of general human rights violations, where women are almost as vulnerable as LGBTI people, or where health and food security are not guaranteed for anyone, singling out LGBTI issues emphasises the idea that LGBTI rights are special rights and hierarchically more important than other rights,” said the groups.

They further expressed concern that if Western countries cut aid to African countries in a bid to force governments to change anti-gay laws this “supports the commonly held notion that homosexuality is ‘unAfrican’ and a western-sponsored ‘idea’… “

The organisations also pointed out that cuts in aid will have a direct impact on LGBTI people who are already vulnerable and whose access to health and other services is already limited.

“In seeking solutions to the multi-faceted violations facing LGBTI people across Africa, old approaches and ways of engaging our continent have to be stopped. New ways of engaging that have the protection of human rights at their core have to recognise the importance of consulting the affected,” reads the statement.

The groups said that instead of cutting aid, the British government should rather increase its funding and support of LGBTI rights groups and programmes in affected countries.

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