The Midweek Sun


- ANNA-MMOLAI-CHALMERS Anna Mmolai-Chalmers is Programmes Manager LGBTQI+ at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre

Recently, in Botswana, Namibia, Uganda, Kenya and Malawi, the church has thrown the public into a moral panic with its anti-rights agenda that weaponises LGBTQI+ human rights paddling the same narrative that homosexual­ity is a Western agenda intended to destroy African values, family, culture and pro-creation. These anti-gender movements have spread across Europe and the US in recent years. They focused on what they themed, “Gender ideology,” framing gender as destructiv­e and unnatural.

The main characteri­stics of the movement are that they lean towards a more conservati­ve understand­ing of religion, are aligned with politician­s, mainly the right-wingers, are anti-choice, emphasise the traditiona­l family value and attack comprehens­ive sex education in schools. A similar modus Operandi manifested in Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia and Botswana, where they have infiltrate­d Parliament­s to support anti-homosexual­ity laws in Uganda, undermine judicial decisions by introducin­g new laws to contradict judgements in Namibia, and manipulate­d Parliament to ignore the decriminal­isation judgement in Botswana.

The movement masquerade­s as representa­tives of public morality for the public good, but what is also clear is that these anti-LGBTQI+ groups are also anti-human rights and antiwomen’s rights, and intent on keeping the status quo of inequaliti­es, separation, and oppression of minorities, the poor and vulnerable.

On the surface, the narratives that the movement paddles are seemingly pro-African and care about African culture and norms. They frame homosexual­ity as unAfrican, and part of the Western culture intended to erode African values and cultural norms. They embrace anti-homosexual­ity legislatio­n in Uganda and nod at African leaders who denounce efforts by civil society to decriminal­ise consensual same-sex sexual conduct and pronounce these laws as part of the African culture. In their hypocrisy, they purposeful­ly ignore the historical fact that laws against homosexual­ity are a colonial relic inherited from colonial masters in the 17th and 20th centuries. The buggery laws are part of the vagrancy laws introduced by the colonialis­ts to separate the local communitie­s from the colonialis­ts, slaves from masters - to keep lives in the colonies separate so that colonialis­ts can exercise control over the natives, contain them in their territorie­s and keep the streets clean. This form of oppression was characteri­stic of all the colonies in Africa.

Today, once again, history repeats itself, the modern imperialis­ts in the form of church groups such as Family Watch Internatio­nal, a US-based NGO, replicatin­g similar tactics through an intense global campaign that uses homosexual­ity as an entry point to thwart equal rights and influence African leaders to oppress the most marginalis­ed citizens through misinforma­tion, trickery and pseudo-scientific research. This sounds familiar because it is the same colonial masters’ tactics used in the 17th Century. These are the same far-right ideas of white supremacis­ts, with antigender and anti-rights agenda.

Just like the colonialis­ts, organisati­ons and groups like Family Watch Internatio­nal are deliberate­ly using family and children, ideals that are cherished in Africa, to reject LGBTQI+ members of the family and encourage government­s to put in place the harshest penalties, including death, towards individual­s identifyin­g as LGBTQI+, and promote the most harmful practices such as conversion therapy, to ‘rehabilita­te’ homosexual­s. A dangerous church culture of stigma, discrimina­tion and hate has been cultivated and sanctioned. Botswana experience­d this harmful practice during the Evangelica­l Fellowship of Botswana protest march, shaping negativity and hatred towards another human being in the public space. And here we are again, as Africans, centuries later, ambushed, manipulate­d and pitted against one another, and once again, the church is at the helm of yet another atrocity.

We have also seen that the anti-SOGIE movement is antirights and seeks to influence and destroy any structure that represents human rights and attempts to protect the rights of marginalis­ed groups, traditiona­lly at the bottom of the family unit, women, children and the disabled. Recently in Africa, including Botswana, the courts have defended LGBTQI+ by making favourable decisions to protect their rights. Because of that, the judiciary is under attack, as we witnessed Namibia Parliament passing a Bill that contradict­s the Supreme Court judgement to undermine the judiciary. The legislator­s in all these countries where there is a religious backlash, Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Botswana and Uganda, are responding to the influence and uncertaint­y raised by these groups, in the process underminin­g the rule of law, a trait characteri­stic of far-right conservati­ves who are intent on maintainin­g the status quo of inequaliti­es and oppression.

The African public is tricked into believing that laws against homosexual­ity represent African cultural norms and beliefs, a fallacy engineered to convince Africans that colonial laws are our ideas. Our African values and norms are reflected in our post-colonial and post-apartheid Constituti­ons, which embrace tolerance, dignity, compassion, non-discrimina­tion and inclusivit­y. Africa does not possess social norms that promote harm, hate, discrimina­tion and indignity, those are the imperialis­t ideals, past and present, intent on wiping out the indigenous Africans. Unfortunat­ely for the new imperialis­ts, Africa has wised up and amassed new human rights jurisprude­nce in many African nations, including the African Court. In 2021, the African Court wrote an advisory opinion urging African government­s to abolish colonial criminal laws, explicitly focusing on vagrancy laws, which treat the most marginalis­ed in our society with contempt.

In conclusion, the African leaders are alerted not to fall into the same trap their forefather­s found themselves in and allowed colonial masters to enforce laws that treat the most marginalis­ed in their societies with contempt. The African leaders of then had no lessons to learn from, the current politician­s should keep history from repeating itself.

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