An awful step backwards for gay rights

Saddened to see a slew of anti-gay stories in the news of late. Homophobic bills and legislation are popping up across the globe, setting the stage for a climate of intolerance that all-too-often leads to discrimination, marginalisation and violence.

Image by LAT Photographic

Macedonia is set to join several other Eastern European countries that have passed constitutional amendments redefining marriage as the exclusive union between a man and a woman. The amendment directly discriminates against people who live, or wish to live in, a same-sex union, and their right to family life and all the reproductive and social rights associated with marriage.

This runs counter to current European and international law, and is such an awful step back for gay rights. But what makes laws like this scary, and dangerous, is that they can lead to more severe and inhumane legislation, foster a climate of discrimination, and can ultimately contribute to bloodshed.

Very soon, you might not even be allowed to talk about homosexuality in public in Kyrgyzstan – unless you’re condemning it. A draft law banning homosexual ‘propaganda’ could impose jail terms on people who support “untraditional sexual relations.

In Nigeria, people who commit to same-sex marriage or civil unions are punishable by 14 years in jail; and those who participate in gay clubs or organisations, or who publicly show same-sex affection are punishable with 10 years in jail.

And in Uganda, things were looking like they were moving in the right direction, after an odious law punishing gay people with life imprisonment was struck down. However, another draconian bill has emerged in its place proposing prison sentences not only for gay people, but also for the promotion of homosexuality.

Just when you think it cannot get any worse, these disturbing images show militant group, Isis, carrying out public executions in Iraq of two men alleged to be gay – who were blindfolded and pushed to their deaths from a tower towards a watching crowd below. 

It is believed that 20 percent of the world’s population is gay – that means as many as one in every five faces isolation and discrimination, purely because of whom they love. It seems outrageous to think that compassion, love and tolerance could ever come under such massive attack.

I once asked former Finance Minster of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the very personal question: if any of your children were born gay would you love them any less? She responded that it would make no difference to her. I wish more people would think along these lines, because, as Swiss writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt once said: “without tolerance, our world turns into hell.”

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We should embrace diversity in all its forms – it is both enriching and an advantage. Ignorance and persecution can only lead to disaster. It’s not surprising to see that nations who sanction discrimination suffer culturally, socially and economically.

I urge you to do all you can to stand up for equality and tolerance in every aspect of life.


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