The American roots of homophobia in Africa

The American roots of homophobia in Africa

In a new report launched today, the liberal group Political Research Associates (PRA) documents the role of U.S. right-wing evangelicals and religious institutions in fostering homophobia in several countries in Africa. With data from seven countries (Uganda, Liberia, Zambia, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Kenya, and Nigeria), the report exposes the impact of U.S. conservatives on policies toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people as well as reproductive rights. This latest report builds on PRA’s earlier research on the issue.

The report argues that the culture wars between pro-life and pro-choice groups within the U.S. have been exported to Africa. Homophobia has connected different Christian denominations which are usually suspicious of one another, such as Evangelicals uniting with Catholics and Mormons who promote a "pro-family" agenda.

While the architects of anti-gay bills in the different African countries are politicians or religious leaders, they all have strong links to U.S. Christian Right groups. The right-wing evangelicals have concealed the extent of their influence by using African proxies to declare that gay rights are a new form of neo-colonialism. In June, clergy in Uganda called for the parliament to look into the country’s anti-gay bill again.

In February I argued against the proposed U.S. aid cut to African countries that persecute their LGBT populations; the U.S. can look to its own backyard at the right-wing evangelicals who have instigated homophobia here. It has since become clear that the U.S. is not actually going to cut its aid, but rather channel additional funding to LGBT organizations.

The LGBT movement in Uganda has also sued American Pastor Scott Lively, accusing him of inspiring the anti-gay bill in Uganda that proposed the death penalty for persons found guilty of homosexuality. The Center for Constitutional Rights filed the case in the U.S. on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda, a non-profit group (seen protesting the anti-homosexuality bill in the image above). The revised bill reduces the punishment for homosexuality to life imprisonment. The story is also being covered in the U.S., including reports on the state of LGBT rights in Uganda and an interview with Lively.

So it will be interesting to see how the court case between against Pastor Lively turns out. Will the case set a judicial precedent? Will persecuted groups be able to hold proxy instigators of discrimination accountable for the abuses they cause?

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