On Saturday 15 May 2010 I joined hundreds of protestors on the steps of South Australia’s Parliament House to observe the International Day Against Homophobia. While gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Australians continue to experience homophobia and discrimination – it is the horror currently faced by homosexuals in Africa that I wish to draw attention to today.
Out of the 58 countries in Africa, homosexual sex is criminalised in 38 countries. Homosexuals in Africa experience beatings, blackmail, death threats, harassment, public naming in newspapers, even so-called correctional rape and of course murder.
We might think that this situation arises as a hangover from colonialism in Africa. But this is not always the case. For today we are seeing the deliberate encouragement of this homophobia by American evangelical Christians.
Uganda is an extreme example of this.
Recently I wrote to Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to express my strong objection to the Anti-homosexuality Bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament. The Bill proposes the death penalty for homosexuals and jail for anyone who doesn't report suspected gay/lesbian activity within 24 hours – this includes family, friends and medical professionals.
This Bill is of enormous concern.
It is in direct violation of Uganda’s own constitution and international human rights laws. If passed, it will force doctors, counsellors and other service providers to abandon their professional ethics, or face the consequences.
And if we dig a little deeper, the story behind this Bill should cause even greater alarm.
For Uganda has become a recruiting ground for US conservative evangelical Christians.
These American conservatives were once isolated from Africa for supporting pro-apartheid, white supremacist regimes, but in the past decade they have successfully reinvented themselves.
Although lacking enthusiasm to tackle poverty and disadvantage amongst African Americans at home, these US conservatives dominate social services in Uganda - running orphanages, schools, universities and health facilities.
And they bring with them a seemingly endless supply of finances, Christian television networks – and a vicious anti-gay campaign.
In March 2009 three prominent American Conservatives - Scott Lively, Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge – visited Uganda to give a series of talks about ‘the gay agenda’.
Those who attended report the theme of the talks were:
- Western homosexuals are a threat to Africa – they are looking to recruit
- Homosexuals are a threat to bible-based values and to the traditional African family.
Scott Lively is the author of The Pink Swastika – which blames the holocaust on gay people - and author of ‘7 Steps to Recruit-proof your child’. Mr Lively believes that legalising homosexuality is on par with accepting the molestation of children or having sex with animals.
Don Schmierer is a board member of the so called ‘ex-gay’ organisation Exodus International. Caleb Lee Brundidge is a self confessed former gay man who leads healing seminars that supposedly turn gay people straight.
Over the past five years in particular, American conservative evangelicals have travelled extensively throughout Africa spreading this homophobic message.
Some of the other US Conservatives who have strong ties to Africa include:
- Doug Coe of The Fellowship (AKA The Family) one of America’s most powerful and secretive fundamentalist organisations.
- Lou Engle - an American anti-gay extremist who as recently as 2 May this year spoke in Uganda of his support for the Anti-Homosexuality legislation. He claims same-sex marriage “will release a spirit that is more demonic than Islam, a spirit of lawlessness and anarchy. And a sexual insanity will be unleashed into the Earth.”
- Rev Rick Warren – who has compared homosexuality to paedophilia and claims “Homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right”
- And The Institute on Religion and Democracy – a neoconservative think tank that for decades has sought to undermine Protestant denominations’ tradition of progressive social justice work
These US right-wing evangelicals have imposed their own prejudices onto Africa – and are spreading a gospel of hate.
It is no co-incidence that just one month after that March 2009 conference, a Ugandan politician who boasts of having evangelical friends in the American government, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009.
This Bill has brought out into the open the sinister anti-gay campaign lead by US Conservatives in Africa.
But this is not just about a religious terror campaign waged against an innocent minority group.
Africa is collateral damage in America’s domestic war between liberals and conservatives. A war between US evangelicals and main stream Protestant denominations. That is where the real heart of this issue lies.
Whilst most conservative African religious and political leaders now view homosexuality as an immoral Western import, the truth is that it is not homosexuality that has been imported from the West – it is homophobia.
While the US fundamentalists watch with dismay the advance of human rights legislation in their own country – they are heavily investing in a new fundamentalist empire in Africa.
Preacher Lou Engle is quoted as saying: “NGOs, the U.N., Unicef, they are all coming to Africa promoting an agenda. Today, America is losing its religious freedom. We are trying to restrain an agenda. Uganda has become ground zero.”
It is a sinister campaign – exporting bigotry to a region still struggling with a history of racial intolerance and social instability. And one that may have future disastrous ramifications. We don’t have to look too far back to remember what happened in Rwanda when a majority in a country decided to target a minority group for political purposes.
I call on the Australian Federal government to condemn this Ugandan Bill, and to make sure that Australian overseas aid doesn’t go to any organisation associated with these religious bigots who are peddling hate in Africa.
Ian Hunter is a new contributor for LGBT Asylum News. He is a Member of Parliament in Adelaide, South Australia.