Amnesty International condemns homophobia in Africa

Published: June 25, 2013

Homophobic attacks have reached dangerous levels in sub-Saharan Africa and must stop, Amnesty International has said in a report.

Governments are increasingly criminalising "homosexual acts" by seeking to impose new laws and draconian penalties, it adds.

This sends the "toxic message" that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are criminals, Amnesty says.

Many Africans regard homosexuality as un-Christian, correspondents say.

In 2011, the US and UK warned they would use foreign aid to push for homosexuality to be decriminalised on the socially conservative continent.

However, Amnesty said Western countries like the US "actively fund and promote homophobia in Africa".

Inflaming hostility

Homosexual acts are still a crime in 38 sub-Saharan African countries it said in a report titled "Making Love a Crime: Criminalisation of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa".

In the last five years, South Sudan and Burundi introduced new laws criminalising same-sex relations, it says.

The parliaments of Uganda, Liberia and Nigeria have draft laws before them, seeking to increase penalties, Amnesty adds.

"These poisonous laws must be repealed and the human rights of all Africans upheld," Amnesty said.

"In some African countries political leaders target sexual orientation issues to distract attention from their overall human rights records, often marked by rampant discrimination and violence against women, corruption and lack of media freedoms," it added.

In South Africa, at least seven people, five of them lesbians, were murdered between June and November 2012 in what appears to have been targeted violence related to their sexual orientation or gender identity, the report says.

This is despite the fact that homosexual acts are not illegal in South Africa and the country boasts one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, it adds.

In many instances, media reports also inflame hostility towards people not conforming to heterosexual norms, Amnesty says.

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