Countdown to Tolerance

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Wed Feb 29, 2012

Maurice Tomlinson's Countdown to Tolerance: The Cultural War Against Homosexuals is Heating Up

By Maurice Tomlinson

I am loath to return to a topic more than once, but in this case I must make an exception. You see, the cultural war being waged against recognizing the human rights of homosexuals is heating up on the African continent, and the losers will inevitably be Africans themselves. 

Since my last post on this subject, Uganda’s Minister of Ethics—ironically, acting unethically and illegally—broke up a private conference of LGBT activists just a week after the parliament saw the reintroduction of the bill that provides for the state-sanctioned murder of gays. After driving nearly 20 miles to personally trample on the constitutional rights of fellow Ugandans, the Minister admitted to the media that he had no legal right to deny the group their right to assemble. However, he justified his arbitrary abuse of power by claiming that Ugandans don’t want gays even associating in private. Adding insult to injury, in the very same week, Uganda’s President Museveni made the astonishing statement, during a BBC HARDtalk interview, that gays are “not persecuted or discriminated” against in his country. Such willful and transparent denialism by a world leader beggars belief.

Meanwhile in West Africa, a “kill the gays” bill similar to the one before the Uganda parliament was introduced into the Liberian Senate by Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, the former first lady whose ex-husband is currently on trial for his role in the savage atrocities committed during the Liberian Civil War. Apparently, Mrs. Taylor learned well the art of inflicting misery on innocent civilians from her ex-husband. It is remarkable that the President of this former US protectorate (and reputed US dual citizen), Nobel Peace Prize winner Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has been silent on this proposed bill, which would strengthen the already draconian laws against homosexuals in her country.

In the same week, a meeting of gays to discuss safer sex techniques was broken up by a mob led by Muslim imams in Mpato, Kenya. Kenyan news coverage of the event showed the group of homosexuals fleeing in chaos as the enraged rabble descended. Thankfully, no one was hurt in this latest violation of the human rights of Kenyan gays.

The supreme irony in these stories is that those responsible for these human rights violations actually believe their actions are in some way preserving African culture and, ostensibly, preventing the spread of HIV and AIDS. Such misguided logic is a function of centuries of western indoctrination in the art of divide-and-conquer which was used to keep Africa underdeveloped. Africans are once again being taught that resolving their differences (this time on the sensitive issue of sexual rights) should be done through the adoption of the most extreme measures, instead of relying on the spirit of tolerance for diversity which once saw advanced civilizations appearing on the continent while Europeans still lived in caves. Bankrupt African governments are also seeking to deflect attention from their poor performing economies by making scapegoats of gays.

Those who think trying to suppress homosexuality will somehow cause it to disappear must not have been paying attention during biology/bible class. Same-sex attraction is a fact of human sexuality.  Pyramid paintings in Egypt show the first record of a homosexual couple in history, Khunmhotep and Niankhkhnum, who lived around 2400 BCE. Homosexuality is therefore clearly not un-African. Instead, it is homophobia that was imported into the continent, usually by western fundamentalist evangelical Christian missionaries. Trying to suppress same-sex attraction is futile; it can also be deadly. Male homosexuals are biologically more vulnerable to HIV, and unless they are allowed access to effective HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions, they will become infected with this still incurable virus. Professor Chris Beyrer of Johns Hopkins University has produced research that demonstrates that the median access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support interventions is much lower in contexts that criminalize male same-sex intimacy. And if these men have to take female partners as a “cover” for their sexuality, the result is that the virus becomes entrenched in the general population. 

Africa already has the highest HIV and AIDS burden. Efforts by those engaged in the cultural war against homosexuals on the continent are ensuring it stays that way.