Criminalizing homosexuality through legal, cultural and religious structures and perceptions, sabotages the ability for sexually abused and sexually exploited boys to access appropriate healthcare and support. The manner in which communities respond to survivors significantly impacts the quality of life, health and well-being, experienced not only by survivors, but also their families, caregivers and friends.
Communities in which homosexual activity attracts social and legal penalties: Disclosure is further challenged in localities where male-directed sexual violence is erroneously perceived to be homosexual activity and homosexual activity attracts social & legal penalties.
Following the Ugandan government’s notorious proposal to introduce the death penalty for homosexuality, the vast majority of male rape victims who had fled conflict in the DRC for a relatively safer life across the border in Uganda were then accused of being homosexual if they dared to report their ordeal to Ugandan police or doctors alike. Some men were even thrown into prison without trial or simply ‘disappeared’ when they were forced to attend hospital appointments with life-threatening injuries (see Emma Pomfret, 2011)
In June 2003 the United States Supreme Court announced its landmark decision in Lawrence v. Texas holding state sodomy laws to be unconstitutional. Professor William Eskridge, an historian and a law professor at Yale University, told the court that sodomy technically isn't about homosexuality at all. Rather, it's about sex without procreative possibility (which can be hetero as well as homo sex). Eskridge traces in his book Dishonorable Passions – Sodomy Laws In America 1861-2003 (Viking 2008) how sodomy laws for most of American history, were understood to target coercive sexual assault by aggressive men against children, women, and sometimes other men; these laws were rarely enforced against private sexual activities between consenting adults. But since the 1870s, traditional values activists (from Anthony Comstock to Anita Bryant and Jerry Falwell) have periodically made consensual sodomy the object of public campaigns of purification. By the mid-twentieth century, these laws were associated with “homosexuals and other sex perverts,” and moralists (ranging from J. Edgar Hoover to Earl Warren) deployed sodomy laws to inaugurate an anti-homosexual terror unprecedented in American history. America’s perennial body politics, pitting moralistic themes of disgust and impurity against themes of sexual tolerance and equal citizenship, has in the last generation focused on homosexuals. Eskridge suggests that although the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision striking down Texas’s homosexual sodomy law seemed to be a breakthrough for gay rights, that decision is better read as a signpost that the body politics debate has shifted, away from private sex between consenting adults, and toward marriage and family (see, http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/eskridgepublications.htm).
According to a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report titled "Sexual Behavior, Sexual Attraction and Sexual Identity in the United States," which reportedly polled thousands of people between the ages of 15 and 44 from 2006 through 2008, 44 percent of straight men and 36 percent of straight women admitted to having had anal sex at least once in their lives.
Hate has no place in the house of God. No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity--or because of their sexual orientation. Nor should anyone be excluded from health care on any of these grounds. In my country of South Africa, we struggled for years against the evil system of apartheid that divided human beings, children of the same God, by racial classification and then denied them fundamental human rights. We knew this was wrong. Thankfully, the world supported us in our struggle for freedom and dignity. It is time to stand up for another wrong.
Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God's family. And of course they are part of the African family. But a wave of hate is spreading across my beloved continent. People are again being denied their fundamental rights and freedoms. Men have been falsely charged and imprisoned in Senegal, and health services for these men and their community have suffered. In Malawi, men have been jailed and humiliated for expressing their partnerships. Just this month, mobs in Mtwapa Township, Kenya, attacked men they suspected of being gay. Kenyan religious leaders, I am ashamed to say, threatened an HIV clinic there for providing counseling services to all members of that community, because the clerics wanted gay men excluded.
Uganda's Parliament is debating legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by life imprisonment, and more discriminatory legislation has been debated in Rwanda and Burundi. These are terrible backward steps for human rights in Africa.
Our lesbian and gay brothers and sisters across Africa are living in fear.
And they are living in hiding--away from care, away from the protection the state should offer to every citizen, and away from health care in the AIDS era, when all of us, especially Africans, need access to essential HIV services. That this pandering to intolerance is being done by politicians looking for scapegoats for their failures is not surprising. But it is a great wrong. An even larger offense is that it is being done in the name of God. Show me where Christ said "Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones." Gay people, too, are made in my God's image. I would never worship a homophobic God.
But they are sinners, I can hear the preachers and politicians say. They are choosing a life of sin for which they must be punished. My scientist and medical friends have shared with me a reality that so many gay people have confirmed, I now know it in my heart to be true. No one chooses to be gay. Sexual orientation, like skin color, is another feature of our diversity as a human family. Isn't it amazing that we are all made in God's image, and yet there is so much diversity among his people? Does God love his dark- or his light-skinned children less? The brave more than the timid? And does any of us know the mind of God so well that we can decide for him who is included, and who is excluded, from the circle of his love?
The wave of hate that is underway must stop. Politicians who profit from exploiting this hate, from fanning it, must not be tempted by this easy way to profit from fear and misunderstanding. And my fellow clerics, of all faiths, must stand up for the principles of universal dignity and fellowship. Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.
God Bless You
Gambia: (2008). President Yahya Jammeh told gays and lesbians to leave the country or have their heads cut off.
Brazil: (2011). 272 gay people were murdered. Attacks against gays have climbed steadily for most of the last decade. The absence of a law against hate crimes means most of these crimes are treated with silence.
India: (2013). The Indian Supreme Court let down the LGBT community and the Constitution of India by reinstating the 1860 law imposing a 10-year sentence for homosexuality.