By Manisha Chachra:
Zambia: United Nations General Secretary Ban ki Moon recently visited Zambia, addressed the key politicians and met the president Kenneth Kaunda. Besides all this, something that generated piquancy among people was his speech on preservation of gay rights and his urge for a dignified livelihood to homosexuals. As he remarked “people with different cultural backgrounds need dignity and respect”. He insists “bisexuals and homosexuals are people whose rights need to be dignified and respected by mankind.” He also, in his speech, advocated for a stronger constitution which grants reverence to everyone irrespective of their caste, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
The Zambians responded to the poignant speech by posting their comments about it on various social networking sites. Citing “Zambia is a sovereign country”, a Zambian writes that it must be given liberty to make its own decisions on issues such as homosexuality.Â A citizen’s juxtaposition of criminals and homosexuals becomes quite evident when he wrote that dignity for such people is like endowing respect to criminals, liars and prostitutes. The citizen commented on Moon’s speech by saying that heÂ shouldn’tÂ expect Zambia to not to criminalize homosexuality as it is the only sensible measure against such people.
Opposing his notion of criminalizing homosexuality another citizen writes that Moon’s speech is in favor of bestowing basic rights to homosexuals. The most fundamental right is to grant them access to water, food, and shelter, their liberty to move to church and other places without any inferiority complex shadowing them so that they can live their lives liberally. Supporting the speech, he also praised the General Secretary in his endeavors to recognize the rights of the homosexuals.
Taking a glance over the reaction among people one can easily make out that majority of Zambians condemn homosexuality as a peccadillo committed by someone. But one encounters a completely different picture when we read the following comment posted on twitter “homosexuality makes me a savage then I would rather be a savage and die as one than otherwise”. Certainly this exposes the buoyancy among homosexuals. Referring to Moon’s speech, a citizen argues that the cultural background of Zambia forbids homosexuality and the traditions in Zambia disallow such non-civilized class.
Well! It’s not only in Zambia that efforts to venerate the rights of homosexuals go in vain, a close look suggests that entire Africa suffers from ailment of drawing binaries between homosexuals ands heterosexuals. Currently, Africa has 53 nations out of which 38 have proscribed homosexuality and in 13 nations either it is illegal or no laws have been made pertaining to it.
Quoting an example of Uganda wouldn’t be wrong over here. The anti-gay bill which was re-introduced by Ugandan MP David Bahati after 2009, reads that a person practicing homosexuality can get death penalty. The bill happens to be placed at the same time when Adrian Jjuuko, human right activist and a part of Envisioning Global LGBT Human rights project in Canada, was in the town to address the issue of overt human rights violations. He vehemently opposed the bill labeling it as a draconian law and dreadful impinges on human rights. He recommended the law societies and organizations of Canada to talk to the speaker of Uganda about the horrendous law which might receive massive support from both the houses if passed. The dire ramifications of the bill need not to be illuminated over here. Unfortunately, sometimes the preservation of cultural norms becomes more important than lives of certain people. A good example of this would be of nations like Mauritania, Sudan, and northern Nigeria where homosexuality can be punished by death.
One can go into giving aplenty of instances that how the rights of homosexuals are suppressed and encroached upon. Nevertheless the situation isn’t completely hopeless. This becomes quite unambiguous when one looks at the efforts of United Nations which recently passed a resolution in recognizing LGBT rights and also put forward a report on LGBT people and hate crime against them.
The attempts of United Nations become quite evident when one looks at the incident of Cameroon. This was where the Amnesty international of human rights pulled up their socks for protecting the rights of LGBT people. The director of Amnesty international Erwin van der Borght said “It is time to end the arrest, detention, prosecution and discrimination against perceived or known to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” Since March 2011, 13 people in Cameroon have been arrested on the grounds of practicing homosexuality. Under section 347A of Cameroon penal code states “whoever has sexual relations with a person of same sex, shall be punished from six months to five years and with fine ranging from 20,000 Francs CFA to 200,000 Francs CFA.”
In the light of the arrest of so many unflawed people, the efforts of Amnesty international are laudable. There are many other nations whose hard work and a will to work for social acceptance of homosexuals is praiseworthy which include Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde and Gambia.
The fundamental right of people is to walk freely without any halt of shame, a right to be a free spirited bird than to be a bound spirit. The rights of homosexuals are not limited to a particular national boundary. Their rights are ubiquitous and therefore they deserve a universal consensus. It will be a fallacy to consider homosexuals as abnormal beings because in accordance to psychology and its principles ‘there is no particular normal model’ whose footsteps one can trace.