In Africa, gays and lesbians are running for their lives.
In South Africa’s Western Cape, one gay rights organisation deals with up to 10 new cases of ‘corrective rape’ — pack-raping and beating a woman to ‘cure’ her homosexuality — every week. Some die.
In Malawi, two men face up to 14 years jail for having a relationship. They have suffered abuse, humiliation and violence while on remand, but were refused bail ‘for their own safety’.
After local minority rights group The Centre For The Development of People (CEDEP) Malawi came to their assistance, a staff member was arrested on charges labelling CEDEP’s HIV education materials pornographic.
Again in Malawi, a woman accused of being a lesbian was driven out of her home by her Member of Parliament. Nellie Somanje was cleared of sexually assaulting and abusing her maids, due to lack of evidence.
Nevertheless local MP and Minister for Women Patricia Kaliati declared Somaje persona non grata in her constituency, and will appeal the acquittal.
In Uganda, a bill currently before the Parliament redefines homosexual activity — punishable by life imprisonment — as “touch(ing) another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” Touching “(a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything.”
It creates the crime of “aggravated homosexuality” — punishable by death — for having sex with someone under 18, for HIV-positive people who have sex, for anyone having sex with a disabled person (consensual or not), and “repeat offenders” (anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who has had sex with the same person more than once).
Offering medical treatment to gay people brings seven years jail. Renting homes to LGBT people nets five-seven years for running a brothel. Friends or family face up to three years jail for not reporting LGBT persons to police within 24 hours.
The Bill has been publicly condemned by British PM Gordon Brown, Canadian PM Stephen Harper, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, 12 US senators, and 90 members of the US House of Representatives.
In response Uganda said it might drop the death penalty in favour of life imprisonment.
Our Senate, however, refused Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young’s motion calling on the Government to actively encourage the Ugandan Government to withdraw the Bill.
Australia’s High Commissioner in Kenya made personal representations to the Ugandan Government over the Bill and wrote to the Speaker of Uganda’s Parliament. And that’s it.
Meanwhile, 33 British MPs have signed a motion in support of the two men on trial in Malawi.
Hope you had a Happy Australia Day.