Thursday, August 16, 2007

Anti-gay barbarity in Nigeria, South Africa

A few times this year, I've written about the barbaric anti-gay witchhunt that seems to be sweeping through Nigeria. The federal government wants to ban not simply homosexual acts, which are already illegal. But they want to ban people from speaking about gay rights. And they want to "punish individuals who witness, celebrate with or support couples involved in homosexual relationships" with a 5 year prison term. Essentially, they want to imprison any citizen who treats gays as human beings.

Now, eighteen men in northern Nigeria may face death by stoning for alleged sodomy. The BBC reports that over a dozen Nigerian Muslims have already been sentenced to death by stoning, none have been carried out. [T]here have been two amputations in north-western Zamfara State which pioneered the introduction of the Islamic legal system in the country though the BBC doesn't indicate what was amputated.

South Africa, by contrast, has the first constitution in the world to specifically guarantee equal protection under the law for gay citizens. But societal attitudes remain extremely conservative. Human Rights Watch condemns the recent brutal murders of three lesbians in the country.

“Despite legal commitments to equality for all, lesbians in South African townships are still targeted for rape and murder,” said Jessica Stern, researcher in the LGBT Rights Program of Human Rights Watch. “Poverty, prejudice, homophobia and sexism are building a new pass system, where many women dare not walk openly on the street.”

Sadly, the hate crimes are not firsts. HRW indicates that the country is in the clutches of a 'climate of violent homophobia.'

African political elites often complain about the dehumanizing legacy of colonialism. And they spent many years agitating against the hideous apartheid system in South Africa and Rhodesia. But they are largely silent, if not eagerly approving, of aggressive homophobic state policy in places like Nigeria and Uganda.

If the three South African women had been murdered by whites because of their black skin, you can be sure there would've been continental, if not international, outrage. But since they were lesbians, their murders were seen as irrelevant, if not welcome.

I guess mindless hateful bigotry is acceptable so long it's based on one inate characteristic, but not another.

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