Minister of International Relations
and Cooperation, Nkoana-Mashabane

Following the revival of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill this week, the DA has called on the South African government to lobby for gays and lesbians to be protected by the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights.

On Tuesday, the bill, which proposes a mandatory death penalty for gay “repeat offenders”, was re-introduced into the Ugandan parliament.

In response, Ian Davidson, Shadow Minister of International Relations and Cooperation for the Democratic Alliance (DA), said that “it is time for the Minister of International Relations, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to speak out against state-sanctioned human rights violations against homosexuals on our continent”.

Davidson revealed that he will be writing to the minister to urge South African representatives at the African Union to actively campaign to amend the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights to protect gays and lesbians.

The charter came into effect in 1986 through the Organisation of African Unity, which was later replaced by the African Union. It aims to promote and protect human rights and basic freedoms on the African continent.

“As it stands, the charter does not list sexual orientation as a basis on which an individual may not be discriminated against, thus rendering it an ineffective instrument for keeping signatory states accountable for the violation of gay rights,” Davidson said.

He added that he will also be submitting parliamentary questions to Nkoana-Mashabane to ask for clarification on South Africa’s position on the violation of gay rights by African Union member states.

“Despite our progressive Constitution, which protects the rights of all South Africans regardless of sexual orientation, our government does nothing to push our own human rights agenda abroad,” said Davidson in a statement.

“President [Zuma] failed to use a state visit to Nigeria in December last year to raise concerns about anti-gay legislation in that country, and even deployed a diplomat known for his deeply prejudicial views on homosexuality as our ambassador to Uganda.

“Taking a stand on these issues on the continent would go a long way toward dealing with discrimination against homosexuals at home. Lesbians in South Africa, for example, face the threat of brutal sexual attacks, known as ‘corrective’ rape.

“If our government is not willing to speak out against violations of human rights based on sexual orientation in the rest of the African continent, it will make little headway in confronting such violence locally,” concluded Davidson.

Homosexuality remains illegal in 38 African countries. In Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria, homosexuality can be punishable by death. In Uganda, offenders can receive a sentence of life imprisonment for homosexual acts.

While South Africa has been praised for initiating the adoption of the first-ever UN resolution on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Geneva in June last year, it has generally failed to directly comment on or take action against African states that oppress and persecute their gay and lesbians citizens.

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