Africa / Middle East / North Africa

Comment: Africa isn’t anti-gay, ‘just hopelessly confused’

An insightful commentary in the pan-African publication Mail & Guardian Africa notes not only that African countries are far from united in their attitudes toward homosexuality, but also that many individual countries have self-contradictory laws. An excerpt from the article “Forgive it. Africa is not anti-gay; the continent is just hopelessly confused”:

African countries where homosexuality is legal. (Click on the image for an interactive version of the map on the Mail & Guardian Africa website)

African countries where homosexuality is legal. (Click on the image for an interactive version of the map on the Mail & Guardian Africa website)

In Cote d’Ivoire, though homosexuality is legal the government has not stepped in to protect the community from attacks such as the one that shut down the headquarters of the LGBT-friendly anti-AIDS group “Alternative CI” earlier this year. Or in the case of Mali, even though this is a country where homosexuality is legal and there is an equal age of consent for heterosexuals and homosexuals, 98% of Malian adults believe that homosexuality is a way of life that society should not accept, which was the highest rate of non-acceptance in the 45 countries surveyed by the 2007 Global Pew Attitudes Project.

Be ready to get baffled

In other countries things are even more baffling – in Mozambique for example homosexuality is not considered legal, yet there are laws that prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the workplace.

Meanwhile in Lesotho, though homosexuality is legal homosexuals are prohibited from entering the country – how they expect to make the distinction between a gay and non-gay person is unclear.

In Libya and Tunisia, though homosexuality is clearly illegal both of these North African countries do not prohibit homosexuals from entering the country.

While there are clearly laws in place that state whether homosexuality is illegal, in three African countries the laws are completely contradictory. In Mozambique, Angola and Botswana homosexuality is considered illegal and yet anti-discrimination laws are also in place.

Whilst African nations debate the gay question, this has still not stopped the continent’s LGBTI community from adapting to the situation and continuing to live their lives as normally as possible – which for most means keeping a low profile. With no official discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation at the national level, what these groups have to deal with the most on a daily basis is societal discrimination that continues to be widespread.

Mail & Guardian Africa is published by South Africa-based M&G Media, has a Zimbabwean majority owner and has a Ugandan editor.

One thought on “Comment: Africa isn’t anti-gay, ‘just hopelessly confused’

  1. Pingback: African scientists: Homosexuality is natural and African | 76 CRIMES

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