Why We Must Help The LGBT Community In Africa

malawi-gay-rightsAs numerous U.S. states attempt to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, there is something much more horrifying going on in Africa. Most of us are aware, at least peripherally, of the laws recently enacted in Uganda and Nigeria, making it illegal to be LGBT. What you may not know is how much danger those people are in.

Pink News shared statements made by Ugandan president Museveni about being gay, and his words are filled with hate, misinformation, false science, and flat-out lies. His words echo what many right wing Christians say about the LGBT community, which makes sense, given how involved some fundamentalist pastors and right wing “leaders” were in the creation of the Ugandan bill. Scott Lively had so much influence over the Ugandan government, he’s being sued by a Ugandan gay rights group. Lou Engle also traveled to Uganda in 2009 and 2010, and initially backed what was then called the “Kill the Gays Bill,” but has since distanced himself from the legislation.

In Nigeria, President Goodluck Jonathan signed a bill into law that enforces a 14-year prison sentence for being LGBT, but does not punish activism. In parts of Nigeria, homosexuality is punishable by death. The Ugandan bill enforces much longer prison terms-up to life-and also makes activism illegal, but removed the death penalty. In Nigeria, fundamentalist Christianity and fundamentalist Islam have joined forces, and the penalties for being LGBT are severe. Uganda promises to be much more stringent that Nigeria, which is why the need for help is so urgent.

To put this is perspective, here are two of the statements President Museveni made about gay men specifically after signing Uganda’s anti-LGBT bill:

Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money.

No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature. That man can choose to love a man…is a matter of choice. After listening to the scientists, I got the facts. Can somebody be homosexual simply by nature? The answer is no.

Ugandan “scientists” advised President Museveni that being gay is a choice. The study Museveni commissioned did not use empirical evidence, did not use standard scientific method, and has been condemned by scientists and researchers all over the world. Over 200 scientists joined together to compose a letter to Museveni, trying to show the Ugandan government that their “science” was wrong.

There are ten countries where homosexuality is punishable by death: Yemen, Iran, Iraq, Mauritania, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, and United Arab Emirates. Again, the original Ugandan bill included the death penalty, but that provision was replaced with a life sentence in prison.

I have so many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends, and I cannot imagine what they must be feeling right now. My friend Scott wrote how helpless he feels, because he cannot help the LGBT community in these countries where they can be imprisoned or killed just for being who they are. My husband shook his head and said, “What are so many people afraid of?” I think we have to understand where the fear lies before we can fight it, and the fear lies in religious zealotry.

Much like the Taliban, Christian fundamentalists believe almost everything is a sin. I’m not referring to normal, loving Muslims or Christians, I’m referring to people like Scott Lively, Linda Harvey, Osama Bin Laden, Ayatollah Khomeini, President Museveni, President Jonathan, Michael Brown and others, all of whom are or were propelled to hate in the name of religion. And there is similar language used by both radical Islamists and fundamentalist Christians in regards to being LGBT.

In 1995, Scott Lively wrote a book entitled “The Pink Swastika.” He, along with his coauthor, Kevin Abrams, claimed that rather than being victimized by the Nazi regime, gay men were part of its inner circle. From Southern Poverty Law Center:

“While we cannot say that homosexuals caused the Holocaust, we must not ignore their central role in Nazism,” write Lively and Abrams. “To the myth of the ‘pink triangle’ — the notion that all homosexuals in Nazi Germany were persecuted — we must respond with the reality of the ‘pink swastika.'”

Historians agree that this “reality” is utterly false. But many anti-gay crusaders have used the “gay Nazi” myth as proof that gay people are immoral and destructive.

“When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany,” Pat Robertson once warned viewers of his 700 Club. “Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two seem to go together.”

The Pink Swastika has been promoted by anti-gay groups like the Family Defense Council. The FDC’s Dr. Howard Hurwitz called the book “a thoroughly researched, eminently readable, demolition of the ‘gay’ myth, symbolized by the pink triangle, that the Nazis were anti-homosexual.”

Scott Lively traveled to Uganda and met with Martin Ssempa, the architect of the anti-LGBT bill just signed into law. Scott Lively wrote a book filled with the worst kinds of lies about gay men during the Holocaust. Bryan Fischer of the American Family Institute, echoes Lively’s claims, often telling his listeners Adolf Hitler “surrounded” himself with gay men because Hitler “could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders.” Fischer also often compares the LGBT community, and LGBT activists, to Nazis. President Museveni calls gay men “mercenaries.”

Our right wing Christians are influencing fundamentalist Christians and radical Muslims, and it’s leading to horribly violent and draconian laws against the LGBT community. Like my friend Scott, we may feel helpless, stuck, unable to help. We’re wrong. Planting Peace, the group responsible for the wonderful EqualityHouse in Kansas, is creating Uganda Underground, a network of safe houses positioned in throughout Uganda. Melanie Nathan, a wonderful writer and activist, has started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money in order to get people out of African countries where they are in grave danger. We may not be able to help everyone, but we can help LGBT in Uganda, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Ghana (the list is growing every minute) reach a safe place.

Please visit Planting Peace and Melanie Nathan’s Indiegogo campaign via the links above to learn how to help.

Erin Nanasi

Erin Nanasi is the creator of The Bachmann Diaries: Satirical Excerpts from Michele Bachmann's Fictional Diary. She hates writing about herself in the third person. Erin enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with family. And wombats. Come visit Erin on on Facebook. She also can be found on Twitter at @WriterENanasi.


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