END HOMOPHOBIA IN AFRICA
Geneva, April 3rd, 2006:
We are African lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and trans people, we are human rights defenders and we are delegates to the XXIII world conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). Here, in the city of Geneva that so many around the world identify with peace, we want to draw attention to the war we live at home.
It is a war over our sexuality and it is a war against ourselves. It is a war full of paradoxes.
Here is the first paradox: while many African leaders claim that we do not exist, their governments still criminalize our existence. In country after country throughout Africa, “sodomy laws” which were imported by the colonial invaders are still on the books, and are defended as part of “authentic” African culture. Other laws—on “obscenity,” “public indecency,” “public morals”—are used to harass us, abuse us, jail us. Religious fundamentalists are allowed to preach hatred and call for our elimination, but our own rights to free speech and assembly are legally curtailed. Politicians incite violence against us, calling us “people without rights” and “worse than dogs and pigs.” We are used as scapegoats, to summon up support for corrupt and crumbling and undemocratic regimes. Lesbian women are brutalized, punished, forced into marriages, sometimes raped—in their communities, on the streets, even by their own families. Trans people face retaliation because they do not live by artificial rules for how men and women should behave. Authorities refuse to defend us when hatred leads to harm. Police let us be robbed, blackmailed, even murdered. Police rob us and blackmail us themselves.
Here is the second paradox: in some regions, we are falsely held responsible for the spread of our continent’s worst catastrophe, HIV/AIDS—which in Africa is primarily heterosexually transmitted ; yet we are left out of vital HIV prevention and treatment programs. Politicians blame us for death and leave us to die in silence. Governments trumpet AIDS plans which ignore the existence of men who have sex with men ; then ordinary people are told that we are somehow behind their terrible suffering. Far too few “experts” seriously study our lives, behaviors, and communities. Far too few campaigns target us for outreach, education, prevention. Far too few medical professionals understand our needs—or are willing to respond to them. When we seek medical care, stigma means that we face mockery and rejection. Legalized brutality and violence drive us into hiding, where lifesaving interventions cannot reach us. Our lives are at stake. In an expanding epidemic, in a crisis which has shaken the conscience of the world, we are given a stark choice: we can be victims of a witch-hunt, or we can be invisible.
Here is the third paradox: our so-called allies are sometimes worse than our enemies. In the global North, in Europe and North America, “liberal” governments sit back and say they are shocked at our oppression. Yet when we arrive on their shores and claim asylum from persecution—a basic human right—they deny we are persecuted. They lock us in detention centers. They send us home to prison or death. They criticize homophobia while they indulge in racism. These governments often support the “structural adjustment plans” that divide our societies and create the poverty in which hatred, and homophobia, breed. They often support the drug companies that profiteer from desperately needed medicines, and turn Africans’ lives into a competitive scramble against death. They often fund “abstinence-only” AIDS programs which promote religious intolerance, ignore gay and lesbian existence, and contribute to the epidemic’s spread. They often quietly support the dictators who plague our continent—rapping their knuckles in public, while filling their pockets in private. We encourage governments in other parts of the world and international human rights mechanisms to put pressure on governments in Africa which do not respect the right to cultural diversity and human dignity.
At this ILGA World Conference, we constitute a new African Region of ILGA. And we are here to tell the truth. We are Africans. We are facing discrimination and sometimes death, but we are not defeated. We are living our lives and loving our friends and partners. And we are working toward a different Africa.
We believe in an Africa where colonial prejudices have disappeared along with colonial power.
We believe in an Africa freed from the evils of neocolonialism, neoliberalism, patriarchal oppression, homophobia, transphobia, religious fundamentalism, ethnic hatred, and all the forces that divide societies and bring death.
We believe in an Africa where men and women are equal and free to define themselves, where the family is a place of belonging rather than repression and rejection, where no one suffers for the sake of someone else’s image of what men and women should be.
We believe in an Africa where no one’s health is held hostage to either money or morals.
We believe in an Africa where no one faces violence or abuse because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
We believe in an Africa where "culture" is participated in by all, not hoarded by a few; where "tradition" means the inheritance of the living, not the hegemony of the dead; where these terms reflect our real diversity, not a false ideology, and are used to include, never to exclude.
We believe in an Africa where human rights are really for all.
We believe in a free, developed, democratic and open Africa.
-African Gay Christians (Nigeria)
-All Africa Rights Initiative (AARI, a coalition of 27 LGBT groups in 17 countries in Africa)
-Alliance Rights (Nigeria)
-Arc-en-ciel Plus (Ivory Coast)
-Association pour la Défense de l'Homosexualité (ADEFHO, Cameroon)
-Changing Attitude (Nigeria)
-Gays & Lesbians of Zimbabwe
-Inner Circle (South Africa)
-Rainbow Project (Namibia)
-Support Project In Nigeria
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