Several people have asked me in the past why I support gay rights yet am not one of them.To set the record straight, am a libertarian who believes that each an individual has a right to practice sexual orientation of their choice and thats what makes me despise homophobia which led to mass shooting of a gay club in Orlando, Florida recently. To those dimwits who hold such views, the days of it being a crime to be gay are, thankfully, a relic of a bygone era. By and large, American laws protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people from persecution and discrimination. Sadly, the same cannot be said of developing world like Africa where being a gay is worse than being a murderer.Almost all African countries still treat homosexuality as a crime and things seem to be getting worse rather than better. This trend is evident in some countries’ recent decision which make the “crimes” of gay sex punishable. The punishment for consensual same-sex sexual conduct in African countries ranges from fines to imprisonment and whipping, but there’s a possibility several countries are going to pass laws to introduce the death penalty for such.More than 400 species are homosexuals and its only in human species that homosexuals are discriminated. Many LGBTI and human rights activists around Africa have responded to these developments with even some countries financial aid being cut as a result.The significant trade relationship between Africa and western countries suggests that they are well-placed to exert some influence over Africa. It is important, however, that western countries not adopt a heavy-handed approach in sensitive matters such as LGBTI rights. President Barak Obama and other world leaders publicly condemned Uganda for enacting the Anti-Homosexuality Act. While not publicly reviling African countries for their introduction of harsh LGBT laws that will potentially lead to the execution of gays, the African government should not ignore such developments on their doorstep.
I think that the west and African countries should seek to engage in quiet diplomacy that respects African countries sovereignty, while at the same time calling for them to uphold universal human rights.African countries should also not ignore the ongoing criminalisation of homosexuality. Governments in several African countries are using such laws both to persecute LGBTI people and stifle political opposition.It is not all doom and gloom when it comes to LGBTI rights in Africa. Although Kenya is still ranked as one of the most homophobic countries in Africa, together with other African countries they are faring better.South Africa has a new Alliance for LGBTI rights, which is educating voters about where politicians stand on same-sex marriage. The alliance aims to make South Africa the first African country to legalise marriage for same-sex couples. Several other countries are considering amendments to the Law on Marriage and Family, which may legally recognise gay and lesbian couples for the first time in the continent.Western countries should not assume the role of a neo-colonial state, telling African countries what laws they can and cannot enact. Africans do not want to become the colonised again.At the same time, Western countries should not, by their silence, condone homophobia, regardless of where it occurs.The best way to address these issues is the establishment of a regional human rights body that is empowered to monitor compliance with international human rights standards. There is no doubt that African region could do with a judicial or quasi-judicial body to protect and promote human rights, including the rights of people of diverse sexual orientations and gender identities.