Jailed For Love: Africa and Homosexuality

Image: Permanent Provocation

Nelson Mandela once said “to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

I wanted to take a minute, and reflect on an ongoing topic that has people concerned.

I was trolling down my Facebook homepage and I came across a video of a CNN interview with the Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.  When asked if he personally disliked homosexuals he promptly responded with “Of course they’re disgusting.”  There’s no accounting for taste, people like what they like, believe in whatever they want to believe in. So I will not condemn the Ugandan President for his statement. His opinions, as radical as they may be, are his opinions.

What troubles me on the other hand is the fact that he allows his emotions to blur his judgment concerning homosexuality legislations (i.e. life sentences for gay sex or same sex marriages and possible jail time for those who do not report those crimes or promote homosexuality).

Let us suspend talks on politics for a minute and remind ourselves of the meaning of  Human Rights. Man or woman, black or white, Christian or Muslim, big or small, smart or not, it is our God given right to love and it is our birth right to make our own decisions.

President Museveni is not the only African Leader who is curious about other people’s sex lives. In Nigeria, the law provides for jail terms of up to 14 years for gay couples who live together and 10 years for public displays of affection between gays.  In Zambia, same sex relationships have been banned since British colonial rule and a sodomy conviction carries a 14 year prison sentence.

In fact, there are many more (too many in my view) African countries, whose leaders spend more time passing outrageous bills on sexual orientation than tackling the important social issues that are plaguing our continent, such as poor educational system, poor healthcare system, lack of employment opportunity and many others.

What justifies these anti-gay legislations?  What are the crimes committed?  How do we justify imprisoning innocent people for having consenting sex?

Western countries also have had their share of struggles when addressing this issue.  France, for example, passed a bill on May 18th 2013, granting same-sex couples the right to marry and jointly adopt children.  Note, that was not so long ago.

Although, we cannot expect our African leaders to adopt western views and policies, I believe that our leaders should take a step back and address these issues with an objective eye.

The Bible has been used many times to condemn homosexuality as immoral and sinful.  The same Bible that justified slavery in Genesis 9:25.

This sounds to me like an image of God made by man.

Let me be clear, I am not anti-Christian, I believe in God, nor am I a homosexual.  I will not pretend to have the solutions to this issue or to even comprehend all of it.  However, I do believe that we have more important matters to attend to. Instead of denouncing homosexuality why not educate the young, oppressed and scared gay and lesbian teens who are having sex in secret without protection.  Why not help those frightened girls who fear to be themselves and end up married for all the wrong reasons.  Let us put our heads together, think, read, question our values and those who lead us.  Let us pick our fights wisely and make sure we do not affect innocent people in the process. Let’s pray to God for forgiveness because whatever he believes is true and right and I’m strongly confident that it does not involve harming any of His children.

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