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. Continue reading Neo – Colonialism and Gay Rights in Africa
The persecution of gay men and lesbians in much of Africa is a tragic hangover of the colonial period. It is not homosexuality that was introduced by the colonists and missionaries, but homophobia. Historians and social anthropologists have amassed extensive empirical evidence that a wide range of same – sex relationship patterns and gender variant behaviours were common-place in many traditional societies in all regions of the continent. An ILGA guide to LGBT rights worldwide has noted that only eight countries worldwide have never made homosexual activity illegal: ALL are in Africa.
So it is, that when Mozambique undertook a comprehensive review of its statute book to remove all outdated colonial laws, one of those discarded was a colonial law that allowed “security measures” to be taken against those engaging in so-called “social perversion” .
Gay Star News has the details.
Mozambique officially makes gay sex legal
Continue reading In Mozambique, decolonization includes decriminalizing gay sex
There only two paragraphs In the synod’s final “Relatio” referring specifically to homosexuality. The second of these, which was approved by the comfortable margin of 159 to 21, states (in a modified Google translation):
56 It is totally unacceptable that the Pastors of the Church suffer pressure in this matter and that international bodies make financial aid to poor countries conditional on the introduction of laws that establish “marriage” between persons of the same sex.
If this had any connection with reality on the ground, I would find this completely unexceptional I am a firm supporter of the principle of equal marriage in civil law. I am also an African, and deeply conscious of how well- intentioned Western attempts to influence African governments are perceived (all too often, quite justly) as neo-colonial interference. Such efforts can easily backfire, with serious unintended consequences. For that reason, I agree with the bishops that Western attempts to manipulate foreign aid to force gay marriage on African countries is unacceptable – if such pressure existed, or was even under discussion. It is not. In this matter, the bishops are tilting at windmills, a figment of their fevered collective imagination. The tragedy is that in their terror of the imagined threat of gay marriage, they are ignoring a serious reality, which even an African Archbishop at the synod. acknowledged is a real problem – the criminalization of gay people.
There just is not a single government, multilateral agency, or NGO that has ever suggested that aid should be tied to the introduction of gay marriage, or any other legal recognition of same – sex unions. What has been proposed is quite different: using aid to oppose the criminalization of homosexuality, and the victimization of gay people.
Archbishop Kaigama said the Church’s position against criminalisation has been misrepresented in the media:
“We would defend any person with a homosexual orientation who is being harassed, imprisoned or punished….so when the media takes our story they should balance it….we try to share our point of view (but) we don’t punish them. The government may want to punish them but we don’t, in fact we will work to tell the government to stop punishing those who have different orientations.”
– Vatican Radio
I’ve noted before that Archbishop Kaigama’s protestations that the Church’s alleged “misrepresentation in the media” would be more credible if he could demonstrate any actual record of having opposed the criminalization legislation, or other grievous harms against gay and lesbian people in Africa. It is disgraceful that the synod has ignored one real problem, by itself grossly misrepresenting the nature of Western concerns about criminalization and persecution of gay people.