President Salva Kiir Mayardit (Pic: Jenny Rockett)
The government of South Sudan, the world’s newest country, has claimed that the UN has called for it to legalise same-sex marriage.
According to The East African, Justice Minister Paulino Wanawila told journalists in the capital Juba that the country would not deviate from its “traditional values”.
This was in response to the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) apparently recommending that the country “legalise gay marriage and abolish [the] death sentence”.
Eye Radio quoted the minister as stating that, “same-sex marriage is in conflict with our national laws and our cultures”.
It is, however, extremely unlikely that the UNHRC actually called for the legalisation of same-sex marriage. It would have instead urged that the basic rights of LGBT people be upheld, including decriminalising homosexuality.
A number of African governments have used the hot-button issue of same-sex marriage to rebuff calls for the decriminalisation of private and consensual gay sex, often conflating the two in an attempt to ramp up the perceived foreign “threat” to “traditional values”.
South Sudan, which gained its independence from Sudan in 2011, outlaws homosexuality by prohibiting “carnal intercourse against the order of nature”. Punishment includes up to ten years’ imprisonment.
According to a 2011 US Department of State Human Rights Report, there is “widespread” societal discrimination against LGBT people in South Sudan.
In 2010, President Salva Kiir Mayardit said that homosexuality “is not in our character. It is not even something that anybody can talk about here in southern Sudan in particular.” He added: “It is not there and if anybody wants to import or to export it to Sudan, it will not get the support and it will always be condemned by everybody.”
The country has been slammed for a range of human rights abuses since the outbreak of a violent civil war in 2013, including the quashing of opposition to the government and rampant sexual violence against women by soldiers and police.
Mass atrocities have led to a surge of refugees and, shockingly, the government has been accused of allowing the starvation of around 5.5 million people as a means to crush a revolt by its own citizens.