Kenya | Religion | Uganda

LGBT Refugees Of Sub-Saharan Africa

HomosexualIsEvilToday at Salon, journalist Naomi Abraham introduces us to "Fred," a 48-year-old gay man from Uganda. Fred lives in Kenya now. According to Abraham, Fred "became a refugee in December 2009 after he was brutally assaulted by a mob in Kampala for being gay."

On the night of his near fatal assault, [Fred] says, a large group of people from his neighborhood stood outside his bedroom quietly waiting to get the final proof they needed to confirm their suspicions [about his sexuality]. When they had heard enough, they broke his window and attacked him and his partner.

And so Fred fled to Nairobi. 

Naomi Abraham uses Fred's story to open up a brief but exquisitely written investigation of anti-LGBT sentiment in sub-Saharan Africa, explaining how bigotry has caused a vast, silent migration of women and men just like Fred. According to Abraham, they "move to urban centers in neighboring countries not necessarily because these places are any less hostile to homosexuals, but for the anonymity that comes with being a newcomer in a densely populated area."

These migrations, as well as the hateful political rhetoric that necessitates them, are "new for Africa," writes Abraham:

In the past, homosexuality was rarely brought up privately, let alone in the public sphere. The new acrimonious tone against homosexuality espoused by politicians and religious leaders has percolated across all strata of African society including the media. It has also given rise to increasing homophobic and transphobic violence, which for a growing number of gay Africans has meant that life in their own countries has become untenable ...

... Some pundits believe that the shift to a more sinister form of homophobia in many African countries over the last decade has its root in conservative religious indoctrination. Some reports suggest that U.S. evangelical groups have had a hand in creating the venomous anti-gay attitudes and violence that have swept over the continent and pushed gay Africans out of their countries.

"It wasn’t until the late 1990s that we saw Africans with the help of American conservative religious groups using this issue (homosexuality) as an organizing tool," said Rev. Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who has studied the U.S. evangelical influence on African societies.

Fred has sought asylum in the US. He is waiting to learn whether his application has been accepted.

On the night of his near fatal assault, he says, a large group of people from his neighborhood stood outside his bedroom quietly waiting to get the final proof they needed to confirm their suspicions. When they had heard enough, they broke his window and attacked him and his partner.

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  1. Hate... Hate...Hate... It drives the ignorant. The Religious Extremest are loosing ground in the USA, so they are reaching out to brainwash the African people who are too ignorant to know the truth ... Gays were BORN Gay, CREATED BY GOD, FOR GOD'S REASONS!

    Curb the world's overpopulation, find loving parents for children abandoned by straights, we need to trust in God's plan. Rather than work together, Gay and straight to find solutions for the world's problems, these people find love in discrimination, condemnation, and crucifixion. They do to Gays what was done to Christ.

    God will prevail ... WHAT ONE SOWS, SO SHALL THEY REAP

    Posted by: GaybyGod | Oct 29, 2011 4:32:21 PM

  2. If America is really the "land of the free" any persecuted gay person living outside the U.S. and in fear of their lives simply because they were born gay, should be granted asylum in the U.S. upon request.

    If we can't or refuse to do that then we, as Americans, are not what we proclaim to be.

    Posted by: OS2Guy | Oct 29, 2011 4:57:04 PM

  3. Funny how the top two posters just can't bring themselves to condemn Africans. Have to blame it on America, always.

    Gee, this isn't racist: "the African people who are too ignorant to know the truth".

    Posted by: Max | Oct 29, 2011 8:13:22 PM

  4. Well, Max, would you grant that a higher proportion of the sub-Saharan African population doesn't know 99% of the research that is out there on sexuality, orientation, gender identity, and stuff like that?

    I know most people over here probably don't know much about it, either, but when you've got loonies like Bob Mugabe running things, I'd be more inclined to think that 90% of the population would be (and think) similarly...why do you think there's a lot of indictments about "The Family" running over there to do their "missionary work"? Because they know the people over there are, socially and scientifically, 50 years behind the rest of the world...

    If you're calling that racist, well, I'm afraid that's a sign of a bit of a weak will...are we supposed to treat them with kid gloves just because of their color? Hell I've always thought: equality runs both directions. You get the good AND the bad, the praise AND the blame...

    Posted by: Cody | Oct 29, 2011 9:27:07 PM

  5. Ass hat.

    Posted by: Pete | Oct 29, 2011 10:24:57 PM

  6. "are we supposed to treat them with kid gloves just because of their color?"

    No, Cody. That's the whole point of my comment.

    Blame the Africans who are homophobic for their own homophobia. Blame the Americans who are homophobic for their own homophobia. Don't blame Americans for African homophobia on account of Africans being, according to the first comment, "too ignorant." No excuses for homophobia. Period.

    Posted by: Max | Oct 29, 2011 10:40:45 PM

  7. I think "Gaybygod"'s heart is in the right place, but the phrase [so they are reaching out to brainwash the African people who are too ignorant to know the truth] is definitely painting with a broad brush.

    First off Africa is a continent made up of many different countries, languages, and nationalities. We are specifically talking about Uganda in this story.

    Second, those "Africans" are just as "ignorant" as people in the good ole U.S. who are bigoted against gays.

    Posted by: Brian in Texas | Oct 29, 2011 10:45:23 PM

  8. We should stop sending money to homophobic African governments. Any African country where the authorities have money to persecute gay people does not require or deserve a single cent in foreign aid. I think we can all agree on that.

    Posted by: David | Oct 29, 2011 11:39:10 PM

  9. First of all, for those of you who think Africa is the only place US Homophobia can be exported, because of the presumed cultural level of the Africans (no doubt because of their race!), take a look at Eastern Europe. Cameron was just in Moldova. Lively has been in Romania and Lithuania, at least. These are not countries with a low cultural level. Yet they eat this homophobic garbage from the US up.

    And OS2GUY: the US has been accepting refugees on the basis of sexual orientation and persecution since the 90s. I've participated in some of these cases. Of course you have to be able to get a lawyer... but it does happen. Not all succeed, but many do.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Oct 30, 2011 10:39:48 AM

  10. It's not blaming America. It's acknowledging colonialism. The notion of the inherently homosexual *person* is a European construction that emerged at the height of Europe's colonial power. That's just history.

    This, of course, is not to say that a violent homophobe is somehow "excused" from their actions because their whole society was only recently freed from colonial power. Nobody is "excused" from oppression, e.g. women who suffered under Western patriarchy aren't somehow retroactively "excused" from any role in promoting and maintaining colonialism. However, it is to say that we should check ourselves before we point a finger at Africa and scream "homophobes!" It has little to do with "blame," so called.

    And how about the image attached to this post? A sign plastered to a guy's head that condemns homosexuals in broken English. Pretty potent stuff, if you ask me.

    Posted by: AdamA | Oct 31, 2011 9:03:42 AM

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