Homophobia widespread within UK African communities

Published: January 1, 2002

Hostility towards gay men and women within African communities in the UK is on the increase, according to Mambo, the healthier lifestyle magazine for Africans.
Mambo is published by HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust and the new edition reveals what it is like to be gay in UK African communities, where people can experience a life of victimisation, abuse and discrimination based on misplaced beliefs about homosexuality.
 Discriminating against gay, lesbian or transgender people is a crime in the UK, yet Africans who are not heterosexual often suffer serious abuse, verbal and physical assault from their own community. Some are even disowned by their family. As a result of this hostility, only very few gay Africans have the courage to openly declare their sexuality.
Joseph Ochieng, Editor of Mambo, said: "Being forced to hide your sexuality can have serious health and social consequences, not just for the individual, but also for the wider African community. People who are subjected to abuse and ridicule can feel isolated and find it hard to cope emotionally, losing self-confidence or the ability to forge meaningful relationships. These people are vulnerable to sexual exploitation as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV."
In an opinion article written for the latest Mambo, award-winning journalist Sorious Samora describes his shock at the levels of hostility that he found towards gay people during his visit to east and central Africa to film his documentary, ‘Africa’s Last Taboo’, for Channel 4’s ‘Dispatches’ programme. He says that homophobia is actually being encouraged by religious leaders, the very people who should be promoting tolerance and understanding.

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