Africa divided on gay rights

Gay rights are a hot button issue across Africa, especially in Uganda where government agents raided an LGBT workshop in the capital, Kampala.  

The Minister for Ethics and Integrity of Uganda, Simon Lokodo, accompanied by police,  stormed into the hotel where the LGBT workshop was being held and ordered the participants out.

"Lokodo told activists that if they did not leave immediately, he would use force against them," according to a press release by Amnesty International. 

“This is an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. 

"The government of Uganda must protect all people against threats, violence and harassment," said Shetty. "The Ugandan government must allow legitimate, peaceful gatherings of human rights defenders, including those working on LGBT rights."

The raid comes hard on the heels of the re-introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to the Ugandan Parliament. The bill, if passed in its current state, would punish the support, practice or promotion of homosexuality with sentences ranging from fines to death.

The bill is reportedly written to protect Uganda's religious and cultural values, but Amnesty International condems it as "a grave assault on the human rights of all Ugandans, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity."

More from GlobalPost: Uganda News: Homophobia continues in Uganda 

MetroWeekly points out  a quote by Jim Burroway, a writer for Box Turtle Bulletin, noting the Ugandan law's broad language may well encourage a witch hunt against gays.

"Look again at Clause 2, 1.c. A person, under this clause, can be sent to a Ugandan prison for life for merely "touching" someone, which under the definition provided under the first clause which includes touching 'any part of the body' 'with anything else' (a finger? a foot? a ten foot pole?) 'through anything.'"

More from GlobalPost: Uganda: Anti-gay bill reintroduced in parliament

While Uganda debates that anti-gay legislation, South Africa is being lauded as one of the most forward-thinking countries in terms of LGBT rights. 

A recent article in the Atlantic website says the South African constitution, "provides among the most comprehensive protection of individual rights in the world."

The author, John Campell, points to South Africa's history as the source of inspiration to leading the gay rights movement in Africa. He believes it is partially due their sensitivity about human rights following apartheid which makes South Africa one of the most progressive countries in terms of the LGBT community. 

However, hatred and violence are still evident in South Africa toward the LGBT community, forcing President Jacob Zuma's government to back up its words with actions. A few weeks ago, a South African court sent four men to prison for 18 years for the murder of Zoliswa Nkonyana who was killed because of her sexual identity as a lesbian. 

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