Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) demonstrate against African anti-LGBT laws

The historic EU-Africa Summit in Brussels has been overshadowed by outrage at the harsh new anti-gay laws enacted in some African countries.

This week’s two-day summit brought together heads of state and government from the European Union and the African continent, as well as EU and African Union leaders to discuss trade and human rights.

However, discussions were tainted by the anti-LGBT laws recently adopted in Uganda and Nigeria, and currently discussed in the Ethiopian Parliament.

Politicians in Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya are pushing to follow suit.

Anti-LGBT laws were also at the heart of the Pan-African-European Parliamentary Summit, on Monday and Tuesday. European Parliament President Martin Schulz called the new laws “a disgrace” and “an unacceptable violation of the basic rights of individuals.”

He also stressed “the need to redirect aid to civil society and other organisations that fight against exclusion and discrimination based on sexual preference.” His statement was met with resistance by many African MPs.

“The bushfire of anti-LGBT legislation that is spreading across Africa must be stopped,” commented Michael Cashman, Member of the European Parliament and Co-President of the LGBT Intergroup.

“It is fuelled by the lies of US evangelical missionaries, repeated by some African leaders who seek to hide their own political incompetence and mask corruption scandals.”

Last month, the European Parliament called for targeted sanctions, including travel and visa bans, against “the key individuals responsible for drafting and adopting [the] laws,” but this call has not been taken up by EU member states.

The openly gay Prime Minister of Belgium Elio Di Rupo also spoke out against the laws on Wednesday at a summit dinner of around 80 leaders, including those from Nigeria and Uganda.


Prime Minister of Belgium Elio Di Rupo

“We cannot tolerate that some are denied their rights and persecuted for their origins, their sexual orientation, their religion and their convictions,” he said.

In 2011, di Rupo became the second openly gay head of state in the world after Iceland’s Johanna Sigurdardottir, who is no longer in office.

While the African anti-gay laws were not on the official agenda at the summit, the EU hoped to sign a mutual pledge upholding “the rights of the most vulnerable groups, including persons belonging to minorities.”

According to AFP, this was ultimately changed to exclude LGBT people, now referencing the rights “of the most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, the elderly and refugees, as well as to women, youth and children rights.”

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma did not attend the summit – apparently because of a spat with the EU over who was invited to the event – sending International Relations and Co-operation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies in his place.

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