Not so different after all?


Above, a CNN London news report on the murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato. 

In December, Farouk Chothia  of the BBC called Africa “the new frontier” in gay rights. Western powers, particularly the US and the UK, threatened to pull foreign aid from African countries that refused to decriminalize homosexuality or, alternatively, use foreign dollars to help do so.

The Ugandan government, however, is having none of that. One presidential adviser responded to African gay rights addresses from US Secretary of State HIlary Clinton and British Prime Minister David Cameron by saying “they can go to hell.”

Just this February in Uganda, an anti-gay bill was reintroduced, calling for increased punishment for homosexual acts. The revised bill, at least, dropped one of its previous components: the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

There very often seems to be a Western perception of Africans as poor, helpless, victims. We saw this in many of the critiques of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 campaign (which I recently blogged and wrote an article about). We see villains and we see victims, but how often do we see the activists? The thing is that they exist and one place I’ve seen perhaps a bit more credit to that end is in some African countries’ gay rights movements. In fact, one gay rights activist in Uganda recently (last May) received the Martin Ennals rights award.

I’m currently working on a project about modern international protests for a sociology class, and I’ve been focusing on the gay rights movement in Uganda, keeping most of this months-old news fresh in my mind most days. Many of us who are not living under rocks have watched–and perhaps even participated in–America’s own LGBT rights and marriage equality movements. Acknowledging other countries’ similar movements brings us a little closer together; it makes us, here in the Western world, realize that we are not entirely different from and above all others.  We fight many similar battles, encounter several similar struggles. It’s time we stop acting like we don’t.

As somewhat of an aside, but still on the same topic, I found this very interesting post from Dayo Olopade of The New York TimesLattitude blog: Gay Bashing, a Government Diversion. This is all certainly a lot to take in–any thoughts about it? Any other helpful news or informational pieces out there?

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