Arts | Politics | Economy | Education & Sciences19 Nov 2017
Africa, fight hunger not homosexuals
Politics, 7 Nov 2006 - Behind the Mask
William M. Gumede

If only some African political, cultural and religious leaders would pursue the fight against poverty, disease and underdevelopment with the same vigor, single mindedness and energy, as they go about crusading against gays and lesbians, the continent would be a much better place.
In many places across the continent, to be publicly known as gay or lesbian is a death sentence. Very few religious or political authorities are prepared to confirm a marriage or legitimate a relationship between people of the same sex.
The South African Parliament, however, rightly changed the definition of marriage in 1998 to include same sex unions. The country's Constitutional Court has also ruled that the common-law definition of marriage was unconstitutional, "insofar as it failed to give the same status, benefits and responsibilities to same-sex unions that marriage accorded to heterosexual couples". They instructed parliament to correct the issue before December 1 this year. It is currently the subject of parliamentary hearings and public debate. But it is clear that in spite of the model law, prejudice and discrimination remain deeply embedded in South African society, as it does elsewhere. There have been widespread protests from religious, cultural groups and political groups, across the racial and political divide. If only there was the same kind of resolve among the leadership of society to tackle the continued grinding poverty and inequality in South Africa .

Recently, South Africa 's former deputy president, Jacob Zuma, one of the candidates in the running to succeed current President Thabo Mbeki had to apologize following derogatory comments he made about gays and lesbians. Off course, Zimbabwe 's leader Robert Mugabe has a well-established reputation for gay-bashing, among other nasty habits. In August this year, a Ugandan newspaper decided to publish the names of alleged homosexuals in a country where homosexuality is illegal.
President Yoweri Museveni's government routinely threatens and harasses gays and lesbians. In 1999, President Museveni ordered the criminal investigations department to search out gays and lesbians and lock them up. In May, a British bishop visiting Kenya was ostracized by the head of the church in Kenya because of his liberal views on homosexuality. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has praised conservative Anglican bishops from Africa for what he called their principled stand against homosexuality.

To deny people in same sex unions the right to marry - if they choose so - is discrimination. It undermines their dignity, fundamental human rights and freedom. South African Anglican Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane sums up the societal challenge, when he said: "We should try to find solutions of living with difference and otherness. Diversity is the creation by the Almighty".
William M. Gumede
Source: via Behind the Mask

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