The global fight from LGBT rights has largely moved away from the Western hemisphere and is now developing countries are increasingly the battleground of equality. One such area is the African continent, where only one nation-state, South Africa, has legalised same-sex marriage. Additionally, in parts of Africa homosexual acts can be punished by execution or mob violence can spontaneously erupt against LGBT individuals. When African countries make headlines in this area we often see reports of religious fundamentalists talking about how it is unnatural to be LGBT or inciting violence against sexual minorities. However in the last week we have something encouraging from Botswana.
The Kenyan Supreme Court has nullified the result of last month’s presidential election result. In that election incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election much to the frustrations of Raila Odinga’s opposition. After a day of calm parts of the country, especially in opposition strongholds, erupted into violence amid calls of vote tampering. I must confess that I was skeptical of Odinga’s case because at the last election he also contested the result and the Supreme Court dismissed Odinga’s case for lacking evidence. Evidently the Supreme Court has seen compelling evidence this time around and the time has come for change.
Tunisia is the birthplace of the Arab Spring and has so far been the only affected country not to crush those demanding change, reverted back to authoritarian government, or become a failed state. The values of human rights, equality before the law and democratic elections were the promise of the Arab Spring and whilst human rights and democratic elections have been enshrined in the country’s new constitution, equal treatment for different groups of people has been harder to come by. However this appears to be changing for the better.
Kenya is one of the most politically and economically developed countries in Africa and on Tuesday conducted its second presidential election since a political unrest in 2007-8 over disputed election results. Since this instability powers have been devolved away from Nairobi and the country has embarked on some measures of electoral reform in order to tackle corruption and defend the integrity of the country’s elections. The elections were predicted to be a flashpoint for violence but so far there only been a few examples of tensions boiling over into physical confrontations, and nothing on the scale of the 2007-8 political crisis.
Tunisia is often portrayed as the poster-child of the Arab Spring as the revolution was peaceful and a relatively open democracy has been formed by the Tunisian people. As with many countries in North Africa, a key problem that has dogged their societies has been how women have been treated by regressively-minded citizens and conservative figures of authority. However a democracy can only truly function if all members in that society are free to express themselves without fear of repercussions. This requires a raft of civil liberties that are inalienable and defended by the judiciary and so long as women are subject to coercion and prejudice, Tunisia will not represent the views of all its citizens. Thankfully action has been taken.
Nigeria is a significant power in West Africa and what happens in the country is noted by people in other parts of the region, especially when it comes to Nigerian culture. But an area where Nigeria is similar to other parts of Africa is in its society’s anti-LGBT attitudes. Christian and Islamic conservatism in Nigeria has largely been peddled because of fundamentalists traveling to the country to reinforce existing anti-LGBT views with theological justifications. In Nigeria it is socially acceptable to persecute LGBT people and this is illustrated by the news coming out of Lagos state this week when 42 men were arrested for having homosexual sex.
Yesterday I wrote a piece about the tentative ceasefire that had been signed in the Central African Republic, but I cautioned that it was highly possible that it may not hold. Specifically I had written: “I fear that a lack of action [by the international community] will allow hostilities to restart in the near future”. Although I wasn’t especially expectant that the peace accord would hold for long, I must confess that we won’t know if my prediction would be correct or not because there was no time for the international community to get involved. After around 24 hours armed groups opened fire on one another and the peace agreement broke down.