By Ryan Collett
Almost two months after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered a landmark speech declaring, “gay rights are human rights,” in front of the United Nations General Assembly, more members of the UN are following suit. During a leadership summit of the African Union, Ban Ki-Moon, UN Secretary General from South Korea, urged African leaders to move towards ending discrimination against homosexuals.
The African Union, an organization of 54 African states, convenes semi-annually, allowing heads of state and government to discuss and coordinate political and socio-economic issues affecting the continent. The African Union works alongside the United Nations to address common concerns. Ki-Moon took the conference as an opportunity to encourage African delegates to create legislation that would work towards greater tolerance, specifically for Africa’s gay and lesbian community.
“Confronting these discriminations is a challenge, but we must not give up on the ideas of the universal declaration of human rights,” said Ki-Moon to representatives of African nations where homosexuals receive zero government protection. Currently, laws protecting gays and lesbians against discrimination and also allowing them to marry only exist in South Africa. 38 of the African nations have laws that prohibit all homosexual activity, while the remaining 16 either allow homosexual activity or have no official government mandate. The United States and the United Kingdom have made pushes for the decriminalization of homosexuality in the continent where religion and socially conservative traditions are intrinsically linked into government. While Islam dominates the northern region of Africa, Christianity takes prominence in the south. These mainstream world religions are often combined with the strict orthodoxies of indigenous African religions that have existed for centuries, creating an ultra-conservative cultural climate.
When British Prime Minister David Cameron called for Commonwealth countries to respect gay rights, the Zimbabwean leader called him, “Satanic.”