Doing something about anti-gay lobbying in Africa
If you’ve frequented any LGBT media at all, you’ve heard about Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill (often referred to as the “Kill the Gays Bill”), and possibly other anti-gay legislative bills that have been debated in African nations. Perhaps you’ve signed on to petitions directed to various governments to urge them to put pressure on those nations to drop this type of legislation.
And if you’ve been paying close attention, you’ll have seen that when governments do put the pressure on nations like Uganda, often the situation for LGBT Africans becomes worse, with political leaders vowing to enact extreme punitive laws at the earliest opportunity, and the public hatred surging and escalating further. This has caused LGBT people in Uganda to ask for concerned folks to avoid media and public admonitions, and avoid threats to cut aid, or to avoid tying aid to human rights.
The current approach has enabled anti-gay lobby groups to spin our concern into a perceived colonial will to impose homosexuality on Africa. In reality, of course, it’s these neo-conservative groups who wish to import their homophobic version of morality on the Ugandan peoples, but when this becomes a pressure-on-nation scenario, it still gives the appearance of validity to claims of colonialism. Uganda and several other African nations have long histories of suffering under the will of other nations, so this proves to be a powerful and effective point of deflection and deception.
But for those of us in North America who are concerned for LGBT people around the world, this creates a quandary. We care for the safety and well-being of our sisters, brothers and everyone in between. We want to do something.
It turns out that we can. Although it’s best to leave the situation in Uganda and elsewhere to citizens of those nations, we can take the battle to western organizations that are exporting hate. In the early days of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, we understood this, and challenged people like Rick Warren (successfully) to cut ties with anti-gay agitators, and exposed the full extent of the hateful agendas of others, like Scott Lively. This, we can still do. Rather than appearing to impose our will on Africa, we are combating the genuine attempts of neo-conservative groups to impose theirs.
Last week, I posted one such challenge, calling on LifeSiteNews to explain its extensive partnership with Human Life International, one of the groups identified in Colonizing African Values – How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa as being a key anti-gay lobby group in Africa (along with the American Center for Law and Justice, a part of Pat Robertson’s extensive ministries). To that end, I ask that people sign onto the petition at Avaaz to push LSN for a reply. I also ask that people encourage their friends to do the same.
This is not the only campaign of the sort that can be launched, of course.
This morning, Canadian publications are reporting that a Canadian group which listed homosexuality, lesbianism and “transvestitism” as “sexual sins” it considered to be “perversion” has been receiving funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for work in Uganda. It is not yet known if Crossroads Christian Communications (a televangelist empire which grew out of the program 100 Huntley Street) has used any of the $544,813 in funding it has received for anti-gay lobbying or even if the group has taken a position on the bill at all — the grant was intended to dig latrines and promote hygiene. But questions are being asked. [This report follows on the heels of a January report in Quebec media that indicated CIDA funding of theological aid groups grew by 42% since the Harper Conservatives came to power in 2005, while non-religious groups working internationally saw their funding stagnate (details will be released in the spring edition of the Canadian Journal of Development Studies).]
And on Thursday, February 7th, President Obama spoke at the 61st annual National Prayer Breakfast, sponsored by the Fellowship Foundation, a.k.a. “The Family,” another group involved in funding and supporting anti-gay hatred and lobbying. GetEQUAL condemned the President’s attendance:
“We’d like to see the President stop coming to events that are sponsored by people who are trying to kill and imprison us,” said Cathy Kristofferson, co-lead organizer with GetEQUAL Massachusetts and active supporter of LGBT Ugandans. “We’re disappointed that the president is sending mixed messages to our youth and to our friends abroad, by giving supportive speeches one day and then supporting those who was to murder us four days later.”
Challenge the groups involved in anti-gay lobbying in Africa. Challenge those who fund, support and cheer them on. Challenge those who would lend their presence and prestige to these groups, even if some of them are our allies. The connection to anti-gay lobbying in Africa needs to be called out, shamed, defunded and isolated.
This, we can do.