Written by courtesy of the star Newspaper Tuesday, 22 May 2012 12:43
Thursday May 17 is marked around the world as the International Day Against Homophobia. The main point of the day as I see it is to fight homophobia or the fear of gay people. This fear comes mainly from ignorance and misinformation. Those who acknowledge family members or friends who are gay are much less likely to be homophobic than those who refuse to acknowledge this fact.
Anyone who is honest about their interactions with gay people will tell you that gays are not monsters or God-haters or paedophiles. In fact if you look around, you will find that lesbians and gays attend school and go to work like everyone else. They have hobbies. They like to have fun. They want to love and be loved. They value their families. They are, in short, just like non-gays except they are attracted to members of their own sex. There’s been a lot about the gays and lesbians in the news both here in South Africa, back there in Kenya, over in the USA and generally around the world in recent weeks.
The argument has been at different levels. In Kenya the question is whether to decriminalise gays and lesbians, in South Africa it has been about taking their hard won and hard fought for constitutional rights away and in effect criminalising them while in the US it has been about whether people of the same-sex should be allowed to marry and have rights like everyone else.
If there was a trend spotting device for such news, I guess sexuality would have been the “trending” story of the last couple of weeks. In Kenya the Kenya National Commission for Human Rights repeated a call to decriminalise homosexuality.
A similar call was first made (and very quickly withdrawn after a negative reaction from President Daniel arap Moi) in or about 1999 by Fida-Kenya. The KNCHR made their call, which is well within their mandate as the nation’s rights watchdog, in a report on safeguarding sexual and reproductive health rights. The report, launched on Thursday, is as a result of a public inquiry that had been set up by the commission to examine the extent and nature of violations of the two rights.
As expected, they attracted flak from the usual suspects namely Christian and Muslim clergy. In this the leaders of the two main faiths in Kenya showed that like our parliamentarians, they can agree on certain things when it suits them. There was also grumbling from the usual amorphous grouping of self-appointed traditional (or more to the point, tribal) watchmen including one group calling itself the Kikuyu Council of Elders. These elders to be echoing their (constitutionally recognised) counterparts in South Africa the South Africa's National House of Traditional Leaders which recently called on parliament to delete a clause in the constitution that guarantees equal rights to homosexuals in South Africa.
The leaders, who advise the government on traditional laws and customs among ethnic groups such as the Zulu and Xhosa, want South Africa, the only African country, and one of a handful around the whole world to allow gay marriage and adoption to scrap the part of its constitution adopted after the fall of apartheid in 1994, which reads: "The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including, sexual orientation."
These old men who like to sit under the shade of trees and ruminate about the world as other people get on with life would as one irate newspaper reader in SA wrote to the editor of a national newspaper “usher in a new age of gay oppression. They would rather have the state crack down on the gays and their partners, maybe their immediate families, friends and people who support and protect them. They will spend millions, if not billions on this new “Anti-Gay witch hunt”, ensuring that the masses of South Africa are saved from Homosexuality.”
As all this was going on, the President of the United States, Barack Obama who was hailed by most Africans back in 2008 as “one of our own” was dropping his own (long expected) bombshell on the issue saying basically he supports marriage for all people and that includes gays and lesbians. Again as was to be expected in the country that gave the rest of the world the modern Christian religious right, social conservatives and religious leaders were the first in line to condemn the President’s remarks.
Meanwhile, according to the BBC, the Obama campaign attacked Republican Mitt Romney, who restated his opposition to same-sex marriage, as out of touch on the issue. By the look of things, the issue of gays and lesbian rights is not going to disappear over night and people will be arguing about it in some way, shape or form for quite a while yet. For me it’s basically about common sense. Governments that are quite happy to tax sexual minorities should be just as happy to grant them the rights and freedoms that apply to all other tax-paying citizens.
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