The former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, is speaking out against the recently passed anti-gay laws in Africa. In “An Open Letter to African Leaders,” Chissano asked politicians to open their eyes and their hearts, and protect their country’s citizens.
“I urge our leaders to draw from the lessons of the past, but also to heed current realities. And to look ahead to what the future is calling forth—because this new development agenda will affect the lives of millions of our people at a very critical time for Africa,” Chissano wrote, as reported by BuzzFeed. “I encourage leaders to take a strong stand for fundamental human rights, and advance the trajectory for basic freedoms.”
Chissano asked that the government sort out their priorities and to start by creating gender and sexual equality and to empower the women of their countries.
“This means pushing for three priorities that lie at the heart of sustainable development: the empowerment of women and gender equality; the rights and empowerment of adolescents and youth; and the sexual and reproductive health and rights of all people.”
Chissano was the leader of the southern African nation for nearly twenty years, from 1986-2005. He is now the co-chair of a prestigious department of the United Nations-sponspred International Conference on Population and Development.
His letter points to the key factors of developing a stable country; equality, protection, and empowerment. Chissano states that gender and sexuality rights are human rights, a concept which has not proven to be obvious to many country leaders.
Chissano ended his letter with a beautiful quote from the recently passed and deeply loved leader, Nelson Mandela:
“‘To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains…but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others,’” Chissano wrote. “Let us live up to his immortal words.”
The letter was written in response to Nigeria’s January 7 passing of a law banning same-sex relationships and the advocacy of gay rights, where violators could be punished with ten to fourteen years in prison.
In Uganda, homosexuality is already illegal; however, their parliament is attempting to make a stricter law with harsher punishments. The nation’s parliament passed legislation (though it has yet to be signed into law by the president) criminalizing the “promotion” of gay sexuality, and also makes it illegal to abstain from reporting homosexual activity to authorities.