gay_groups_back_south_african_government_stance_uganda_gay_lawIn a surprising move, six leading LGBTI NGOs have backed the South African government’s “quiet diplomacy” stance on Uganda’s new anti-gay law.

The government has been slammed by numerous sectors of civil society for failing to loudly condemn the oppressive Ugandan law, or similar laws in other African countries.

In a statement, the groups – OUT, Gay and Lesbian Memory in Action, Forum for the Empowerment of Women, Durban Lesbian and Gay Community and Health Centre, Pietermaritzburg Gay and Lesbian Network and Triangle Project – said that they had met with representatives from the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on Friday on the issue.

“From developments over the past week it appears that the Ugandan Government remains publicly unmoved by the wide-ranging criticism of its homophobic legislation,” noted the groups.

They argued that “further public pressure from the South African Government might have the negative effect of further polarisation and hardening of attitudes,” adding that “at this point, a more constructive approach might lie within further relationship building to address homophobia within Africa on the longer-term.”

Dr Ingrid Lynch from Triangle Project commented: “We believe that the Ugandan and similar other laws such as the Nigerian Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Act are totally abhorrent.

“However, we need to think strategically and start building relations with Governments and civil society groups and individuals. This might be a very long-term process with no quick solutions. We will continue our involvement with DIRCO and other stakeholders to further the protection of sexual and gender rights throughout Africa,” she said.

The six groups warned of “rising threats not only to sexual minorities but also to women’s rights more broadly.” It highlighted the passing of the Ugandan Anti-Pornography Bill, which bars women from wearing “indecent clothing” like miniskirts, as indicating “a deepening in fundamentalism in the region.”

Last week, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) issued a statement that while expressing concern about “the situation of LGBTI persons worldwide” fell short of condemning the Ugandan law.

Home Affairs Minister Naledi Pandor also commented that “Countries pass many bills and we don’t really comment on them, so I don’t know why you need a special comment by the government on this.”

She added, however, that “the position of South Africa on sexual orientation and the rights to equality are very clear, both in the bill of rights and the legislation that has been passed in this country.”

Do you agree that the government should be allowed to quietly go about challenging anti-gay laws behind the scenes, or should it take a more visible and public approach?

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