Is there a homophobia fire sale going on in Africa?
The Office of the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights has gone on the attack against Cameroon’s penal code, which calls for imprisonment and fines for same-sex sexual relations, after reports of intimidation and convictions, sometimes based merely on the suspect’s appearance or mannerisms. In October, two men were jailed simply because they appeared effeminate and had been seen drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream.
The U.N. Human Rights office is receiving reports of death threats against civil-rights leaders working to help LGBT people in Cameroon. “Obviously laws that target people because of their sexual orientation are discriminatory by any nature,” says U.N. Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville. “That is why we strongly oppose them and we obviously try and convince governments that have such laws to change them. And, of course, many governments have changed them.”
If that wasn’t enough to digest, Nigeria’s legislature has introduced a bill that would not only imprison gay people, but those who stand up for them—criminalizing performing or attending a gay wedding. Gays and lesbians who marry will face 14 years in prison, while public displays of affection will land perpetrators a 10-year sentence.
“[Homosexuality] is alien to our society and culture and it must not be imported,” House majority leader Mulikat Adeola-Akande said. “Religion abhors it and our culture has no place for it.”
A similar bill passed Nigeria’s Senate last year but didn’t clear the Assembly. The international LGBT rights group All Out has posted an online campaign calling on President Goodluck Jonathan to veto the current bill.
In all, 38 countries in Africa have laws criminalizing homosexuality.