During the 2014 Family Synod, some attention was paid to African bishops’ complaints that some Western countries were attempting to make development aid conditional on African acceptance of gay marriage. The complaint is unjustified – there are no countries attempting to do so. There are however, some attempts to make aid conditional on progress with lesbian and gay equality in other areas – and that could be counter – productive. Africans can be very suspicious, and with good cause, of anything that looks to them like neo – colonialism, or “colonialism of the mind”.
In a recent interview with Okayafrica, David Kuria, former chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya (GALCK) and Kenya’s First Openly Gay Political Candidate, explained the difficulty. He also came up with a constructive counter proposal, which would not make aid dependent on legal change, but which could nevertheless contribute to progress on LGBT equality.
OkayAfrica: Do you believe that it is appropriate for the west to condition support for Kenyan development programs (USAID provided ~$150 million in aid for disease prevention, treatment, and support in 2013) on the decriminalization of homosexuality, the implementation of affirmative action programs, etc.? Or would you prefer that the Kenyan LGBTI movement continue to grow of its own accord, considering the momentum that the community has already built?What do you think?
David Kuria: The language of “conditionalities” is thoroughly humiliating to aid-recipient countries, which then makes the intention of supporting LGBTI rights counterproductive. For us at our foundation, we believe that development aid can actually get governments in Africa to move to decriminalize homosexuality by creating an opportunity cost to these laws. What if the US said, we do not think people should be criminalized on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity BUT we also cannot dictate to you whether you (Kenya or any other country), should engage in legal reform. What we will do however is of the $150 million that we are donating to you, $2 (0r 20) million will go towards providing legal aid to gay and lesbian people in your country who are hauled into courts and criminal justice systems.What do you think?
This creates a cost to the country – the $2 million is being reallocated on account of criminalization, and should the country decriminalize the funding would go to education, health or other sectors – this is an opportunity cost for the government, and they soon enough realize they really do not care for criminalization after-all.What do you think?
That is the strategy we have been advocating, by calling for a fund to cover for legal liability on account of criminalization. This we believe would have domino effect on all criminalizing countries in a matter of years if not months.What do you think?