Are gay rights a luxury in Africa?
Yes In the past five years or so, around a fifth of African countries have taken the extraordinary step of re-criminalising same-sex sexualities by enacting new or reviewing existing legislations against such. There has been a marked increase, too, of American Evangelical work in some of these countries that share Evangelical views on social issues such as abortion, the death penalty and homosexuality. Whereas health and HIV have necessitated African countries to reconsider ‘working’ with certain populations, including men who have sex with men, bisexual men and transgender persons, in a bid to stem the spread of HIV, there still exists uneasiness from most governments in these dealings. But even as same-sex sexualities are further targeted, there has been a resounding ‘coming out’ of otherwise hidden communities of LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning) people who have been living in the shadows. Faced with new challenges both from within and without, these communities are slowly, yet subtly, taking charge of their own emancipation. They are on the streets, on social media, in schools and where you least expect them. The revolution is here. Whereas Europe and the Americas are said to have reached the pinnacle of ‘gay rights’, back home that remains a dream for most. Same-sex marriage is a minority issue, not a priority for us. Our priority remains the most basic: food, shelter, clothing, a good education, a stable income. The rest, well, the rest is just luxury. ● ￼Denis Nzioka, Kenya- based LGBTIQ and sex workers activist and journalist.
No From my understanding ‘luxury’ is used to refer to anything you do not necessarily have to have, can live happily without and only acquired because you can afford it. Therefore the use of the term luxury in reference to gay rights in itself is wrong. Gay rights, or human rights of gay people as we prefer to know them, can never be a luxury. Human rights should never be a luxury to any group. Human rights to all categories are an inherent and fundamental part of humanity. In Africa, the human rights of gay people are constantly abused or denied and the whole concept of asking to be treated as a human being with rights in contrast to the current position where such people are treated as second-class citizens is precisely how it has come to be termed as a luxury. We constantly engage in this fight for our rights, not because it is a battle we just enjoy taking part in, but because to continue is to live on our knees. Being treated as second-class citizens is simply not a luxury we can afford or one that we accept. We have rights as human beings and one’s sexuality should never be a factor in denying or recognising these rights. Therefore, the answer to your question is a no. The human rights of gay people are not a luxury but a right. ● ￼Kasha J. Nabagesera. Ugandan LGBT rights activist.