When Uganda’s Minister of State for Ethics and Integrity, Simon Lokodo, told AFP journalists that  treatment of homosexuals in his country is “tolerant” because the government is “not slaughtering them”, and reports showed suspected gay men being forced to walk naked through the streets of the Nigerian capital, Lagos, it was a stark reminder of just how bad the situation of the LGBT community has now become across much of Africa.  In Cameroon, it’s reported a well-known gay activist has been arrested, and in Malawi, Muslim leaders are calling for the death penalty for gays.

This increasingly active state-sponsored persecution of our community has – as we’ve said before – been partly fuelled by US evangelists exploiting splits in the Anglican Communion (ordination of women, gay rights etc.) and the power of fundamentalism; having lost traction at home under Obama, it’s an opportunity they’ve seized aggressively, often using pseudo-science and stoking the notion that homosexuality is somehow “un-African”, just another example of Western moral decadence imported under colonial rule. It’s given an increasing number of African leaders a useful scapegoat to distract populations from debates about corruption and so forth as well as creating a spurious image of “moral leadership” and a sense of continental unity and shared values linked to ethnic identity which gets beyond tribalism and the tensions between Islam and Christianity.

This week Vladimir Putin gave a top honour for – among other things – “humanitarian work” to a top TV news presenter who says the hearts of gay people who die “should be buried or burned as unfit for extending anyone’s life.”

The combination of what’s going on in Africa and Putin/Russia’s institutionalised homophobia is a particularly dangerous and toxic cocktail,  because it creates a climate which implies there is a twisted “legitimacy” to the anti-gay lobby, and suggests that there is somehow a large-scale morally-acceptable alternative to what has been happening in more enlightened countries in recent years.  

You can already see the effects spreading; a growing sense that the Christian community is being marginalised, and proposals to curb discussion of homosexuality in schools. In the US, several states are debating laws which will allow doctors to deny healthcare to the LGBT community on grounds of conscience.

If you add to that the complacency of the LGBT “community” the world starts to feel increasingly unsafe. It may be partly down to visibility and changes in reporting over the years, but somehow it feels there is a much bigger aggressive and physical threat to the LGBT community than I can ever remember.  It’s time we spoke up.

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