A new report reveals conservative American Christian groups behind efforts to criminalise homosexuality in Africa.
Several weeks ago Barack Obama embraced gay marriage – the first sitting US president to support gay rights.
His call for equal rights for the gay community has also become a rallying cry for the religious right to galvanise support against him.
“The laws against homosexuality came with colonial governments, European colonialism brought those laws in there…[and] the American conservatives are going into Africa and expanding them.”
– Rev Kapya Kaoma, a researcher at Political Research Associates
The US National Organization for Marriage released a statement saying it would work “ceaselessly to preserve traditional marriage”.
Conservative religious groups have played a major role in US politics for decades. They have also been seeking influence in other countries.
A report released this week by the progressive group, Political Research Associates, says that several Christian evangelicals have been lobbying for homophobic laws and policies in Africa.
Naming the evangelical leaders the report says they were “fanning the flames of the culture wars over homosexuality and abortion by backing prominent African campaigners and political leaders”.
But African organisations set up by the religious right in the US say they are just using funds from friends who have similar beliefs.
One of the groups, the American Center for Law and Justice, rejected the accusation in the report saying their work in Africa simply involves defending the Christian faith and providing humanitarian aid.
Burundi, Malawi and Nigeria all have anti-gay laws. Homosexuality is a crime in 37 African nations.
“What we are talking about is really intense efforts to bring about discrimination and hold on to discriminatory practices in many of our countries which are already there…what happens in the US does have an effect and is being carried out and played out in laboratories elsewhere.”
– Pamela Spees, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights
Uganda, which has seen a rise in the persecution of homosexuals, is currently considering a law that would enforce the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”.
Speaking to Al Jazeera earlier, Kene Esom, the director of policy and law at the African Men for Sexual Health and Rights, says American Christian influence certainly plays a role in the anti-gay movement across Africa.
“…We’ve noticed that intolerance and homophobia is a good pretext for political leaders to rally support within the citizenry especially when they are not delivering on services so we begin to see a rise of intolerance…”
In this episode of Inside Story US 2012 we ask: To what extent does the US’ religious right impact gender politics in the country and abroad?
Joining presenter Anand Naidoo for the discussion are guests: Reverend Kapya Kaoma, a religion and sexuality researcher at Political Research Associates, the group that released the report; and Pamela Spees, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
INFLUENCE OF US CHRISTIANS IN AFRICA:
- The Political Research Associates report says US Christian groups fund anti-gay campaigns in Africa.
- It names groups supporting anti-gay measures, and names pastors Rick Warren and Scott Lively as being behind anti-gay laws in Africa.
- Mormon, Baptist and Catholic groups are cited as sponsors of anti-gay bills, described as mirroring old colonial ties.
- The report says US Christian groups seek to influence politics in Africa, as well as limiting women’s rights.
- Conservative group American Law and Justice says the report is “without merit” and “seeks to promote political agenda”.