Just when we thought the situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals couldn’t get any worse—it did. As if the current levels of discrimination, violence, and intolerance based on sexual orientation and gender identity were insufficient, the powers-that-be are raising the bar of persecution and hatred a nudge higher.
In Malawi, the parliament passed a bill proposed to criminalize homosexuality between women (it already is criminalized for homosexual men). The lawmakers in this impoverished nation devised the legislation aiming to ensure greater equality between men and women. This logic would leave even Franz Kafka stunned. The bill now awaits the President’s signature and some governments and groups have called on him to reject the bill.
Travelling further North from Malawi, through Africa’s spectacular Great Lakes Region, we arrive in the war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo, the site of massive rights violations, where politicians are turning their attention instead to legislation that will criminalize homosexuality. This fall, lawmakers are evaluating a new bill that identifies homosexuality as a sexual practice against Nature. The current version of the bill does not stop at criminalizing the ‘heinous” crime of consensual same-sex relations, but will also imprison anybody who promotes the rights of LGBTI persons, making “all associations that promote or defend sexual relations against nature” forbidden in Congo.
Finally, a trip to the Great Lakes wouldn’t be the same without visiting Uganda. In October, we reported on the self-made magazine, the Rolling Stone, that published a list of prominent gay rights activists and their contact details, with a banner over the photos calling to “Hang Them.” A notable supporter of this “initiative” was David Bahati, the Ugandan parliamentarian who achieved international fame for introducing the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009” in the Parliament. Commenting on the Rolling Stone article, Mr. Bahati said that the campaign “would have been very helpful to law enforcement of these people; it would have been a great source for law enforcement.” He praised the publication, noting that its authors were “concerned by the damage being done by homosexuality in this country.”
Incidentally, David Bahati and several other Ugandan MPs are visiting the United States to attend a financial management conference in Washington, DC. Back home in Kampala, LGBTI rights groups have been outraged by Bahati’s involvement and even asked Secretary Clinton to deny him entry or revoke his visa. Obvious from his comments on the Rolling Stone publication, Mr. Bahati remains unapologetic about his anti-LGBTI platform stance and promises to bring back the Anti-Homosexuality Bill after the February Parliamentarian elections in Uganda.
According to our sources, David Bahati has been disinvited from the conference, although he has still come to the United States for various meetings. The cancelled event is not the first time Mr. Bahati has been snubbed. Earlier this year, he was disinvited from the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, a major event in which each U.S. President since Dwight Eisenhower has participated. The Breakfast is organized by the Family, or the Fellowship, a religious and political organization to which David Bahati allegedly belongs and which was either instrumental in getting the bill withdrawn or, according to other sources, motivated Mr. Bahati to introduce the legislation in the first place.
The abovementioned deplorable developments are meeting more resistance both locally and internationally. The embattled LGBTI and mainstream human rights groups in Malawi, Congo, Uganda, and elsewhere need more international attention to and support of their struggles. The global community has been of help—for example, by ensuring that the Ugandan bill was withdrawn from consideration, albeit for a short while. We need to persevere in an effort to expand the incredibly-shrinking living space for LGBTI individuals in many parts of the world.
See more: Fighting for LGBTI Rights in Uganda