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In Africa, homosexuality is frequently treated as a taboo subject, and outspoken opposition to it is a political vote winner. However, according to Richard Dowden, director at the Royal African Society, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that homosexuality was accepted in many societies throughout Africa in pre-colonial times. In his article, ‘Getting Gay Rights Wrong in Africa,’ Dowden wonders if the missionaries in Africa were to blame.
“So, is it the fault of the missionaries? But, the missionaries also preached against theft and corruption, against sex before marriage, against marrying several wives, or covetousness. Why do so many Africans get outraged and censorious about homosexuality, something that isn’t even one of the Ten Commandments, while tolerating so many sins that are?” ponders Dowden in his article.
Homosexuality on the African continent is frowned upon, and those suspected of being gay face dire consequences. Thirty-eight African countries criminalize same-sex conduct, and LGBT people run the risk of lengthy prison sentences for expressing their sexuality. Sudan, Mauritania, and northern Nigeria even impose the death penalty. Despite variations in enforcement, what many African countries have in common is the criminalization of private acts between consenting adults whose sexuality and gender identity are considered “abnormal.”
Like many other nations, new legislation in Liberia calls for punishing homosexuality with longer jail time. Anti-LGBT rhetoric is escalating outside of the Liberian government with a group calling itself the Movement Against Gays in Liberia, or MOGAL, distributing a hit list of people who support gay rights, stating that these people “should not be given space to get a gulp of air.”
Gay rights debate in Liberia began getting this sort of unprecedented attention in the newspapers and radio stations after the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, announced in December 2011 that America’s foreign aid budget would promote the protection of gay rights. This, according to Tamasin Ford—a freelance reporter for the BBC and Britain’s newspaper, The Guardian, based in Monrovia —prompted speculation that funds would be tied to countries’ rights records and prompting two new laws.
In the two new bills, one would amend the penal code to make a person guilty of second degree felony if he or she “seduces, encourages, promotes another person of the same gender to engage in sexual activities, or purposefully engages in acts that arouse or tend to arouse another person of the same gender to have sexual intercourse.” The second bill put forward by Jewel Howard Taylor, a senator in Liberia, would make gay marriage a first degree crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Over the years, gay people have been attacked and activists for gay rights killed. In 2010, at least four gay men were attacked in Uganda after a newspaper ran a front-page story listing 100 ‘top’ homosexuals with a heading that read ‘Hang Them’, and a gay activist was killed in 2011.
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