More and more countries around the world are opening their arms to welcome and embrace LGBT pride. Although not everyone in these countries are in complete agreement on LGBT rights, the presence of the LGBT community in mainstream media demonstrates increasing open-mindedness.

However, the opposite seems to be the case in Africa. 36 out of Africa’s 55 states outlaw homosexuality. Homosexuals in Nigeria are locked up for 14 years while their Ugandan counterparts face life sentences. Moreover, the Ugandan government expects its citizens to report suspected gay friends and family.

Incarceration is not the only injustice homosexual Africans face. In South Africa, where same-sex marriage is legal, homosexuals, especially lesbians, still face violence and “corrective” rape. By ostracizing homosexual individuals, communities deny rights to these individuals and inhibit their access to economic opportunities and basic health needs.

Homosexual individuals face difficulties finding jobs, whether they are searching for a willing employer or trying to start their own business. They are mocked, shunned and even assaulted. Due to these injustices, there are high poverty rates in the LGBT community where people suffer from hunger and insecurity.

Also, by denying a large part of health care access to homosexuals, the rate of HIV/AIDS continues to climb among the LGBT community, especially among men who have sex with other men. In South Africa, the rate of HIV/AIDS among gay men is as high as 38 percent. To avoid discrimination, these men avoid seeking medical care and avoid discussing their health issues with health care professionals. This delay in seeking treatment is detrimental and without proper care and education, infected individuals may spread the disease. The incidence of HIV/AIDS has a strong foothold in South Africa, with the overall prevalence being 17.8 percent.

The stringent African laws make it difficult for foreign intervention and reform. Foreign disapproval of Africa’s anti-LGBT legislation is a sensitive subject. When British Prime Minister David Cameron said that British aid should be conditional based on how Africa handled its human rights, there was an outcry that Britain was being colonially oppressive by introducing “western values.”

However, as Chimamanda Achebe, a Nigerian novelist, has stated, love and sexual intercourse are not divided as either “African” or “Western.”  Love does not fall under any political jurisdiction.

There is also a moral question behind using humanitarian aid as a negotiating wager in order to press for LGBT rights in Africa. The humanitarian aid that countries withdraw in protest could be potential funding for African schools and hospitals. Also, the governments in Africa are unfazed by Western countries’ suspension of certain donations, since Africa can turn to China as an economic partner. This approach of coercing African governments has made very little headway.

Even if Africa were to yield their anti-LGBT legislation, it would be based on money. Western countries’ use of bargaining donations and aid to change deeply set morals in Africa is a superficial tactic.

Instead, foreign governments should help local African activist groups gain the attention of their governments. Aid and support from foreign relief agencies should be directed to these local humanitarian groups, to help them lobby their governments and bring social justice. It’s a fight for the people by the people, with international governments to back them up.

There is an LGBT Project in South Africa that aims to understand why unsafe sex occurs among LGBT individuals, so as to better help these individuals. The project also hopes to increase funding for other partner activist projects, and use advocacy campaigns to establish the needs of gay men as a priority in the National AIDS Council.

The Public Health Program’s Sexual Health and Rights Project (SHARP) is also working to advocate for LGBT health rights in Eastern and Southern Africa by looking into the needs of the LGBT community and collecting data and reports.

There are many advocacy groups and projects in Africa and around the world. Western governments should actively engage with these groups in order to understand how supporting these communities can drive social change.

– Carmen Tu

Sources: Bridging the Gaps, Huffington Post, Human Rights First, Open Society Foundaitons, Sida
Photo: Bridging the Gaps,

Since 2007, when several South American nations led the push for a gay rights charter in the United Nations, a wave of change has been sweeping through the region concerning the rights of the LGBT community. A handful of Latin American leaders have been leading the charge against same-sex discrimination, staking out new territories of human rights as they go.

Costa Rica

President Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica observed the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17 by raising the gay pride flag over the Presidential Palace. The ceremony marked the day in 1990 when the United Nations World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its official list of mental illnesses.

On May 16 President Solis declared via tweet that “we are going to fight vigorously against every form of discrimination. We will pursue without rest an inclusive and respectful society.” The post was accompanied by a picture of the rainbow banner flying alongside Costa Rica’s own national flag above the Casa Presidencial.

President Solis made the significant gesture in solidarity with the LGBT community not even a month after beginning his first term as President of the Central American state. At this point Costa Rica has not legalized same-sex marriage, but President Solis is seeking to eliminate barriers to medical benefits for same-sex couples.


In April of 2014 Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner became the godmother of Umma Azul, the newborn daughter of a lesbian couple. Through this formality the new mothers wanted to thank President Fernandez de Kirchner for her progressive policies concerning same-sex unions — in 2010 the Kirchner administration passed a marriage equality law which legalized same-sex marriage and allowed gay and lesbian couples to legally adopt children.

Another Argentine in the world spotlight is Pope Francis. The new papacy’s “who am I to judge” demeanor, accompanied by messages of compassion and loving acceptance, have placed him in high esteem with many in the LGBT community, even landing him a spot on the cover of the gay interest magazine The Advocate.


Brazil legalized same-sex marriage in 2011 under President Dilma Rousseff. Brazil is the largest country in Latin America, has the world’s largest Catholic population and, as recently as December 2013, held the world’s largest communal gay wedding. A total of 130 gay and lesbian couples entered into legal unions at the event.

The city of Sao Paulo also boasts the largest gay pride parade in the world. Organizers of the event claimed that the May 2014 parade was enjoyed by 2.5 million people.


24-year-old Daniel Zamudio died on March 27, 2013, three weeks after being beaten by a group of anti-gay assailants in Santiago. Chilean President Sebastian Pinera successfully pushed lawmakers to pass an Anti-Discrimination Law following Zamudio’s death, which clearly defines and denounces all forms of discrimination.

Since 2012, several openly gay and transsexual politicians have been elected to office in Chile. Jaime Parada Hoyl was the first, elected as a councilman in Providencia after becoming well known for his gay rights activism following the Zamudio incident.

Other nations seeking to reduce discrimination in Latin America include Uruguay, which legalized same-sex marriage in 2013, and Mexico, where same-sex marriage has been legal in the capital city since 2010.

Amid seemingly endless news streams of natural disasters, political unrest and corruption scandals throughout Latin America, the fight for equal rights spreading through the region is a breath of fresh air. Less systemic discrimination in Latin America could mean less homophobic violence. Less violence means more productivity within communities. Strong communities, after all, are built on the respect shared among their members.

– Kayla Strickland

Sources: Freedom to Marry, Huffington Post, Twitter
Photo: Huffington Post

LGBT Community in Gambia
In the midst of a televised speech for the Gambia’s 49th National Day, President Yahya Jammeh directly threatened the LGBT community of his country, declaring, “We will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively.”

Jammeh’s feelings on the LGBT community have not been a secret. In September 2013, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, he made a point of calling homosexuality one of the “biggest threats to human existence” and in early 2012, condemned “ungodly gay marriages.”

While Jammeh has previously stated that the people of Gambia will not be discriminated against based on color or religion, he is adamant that they behave in an appropriate fashion. He clearly does not accept the LGBT community as adhering to appropriate behavior for members of his country, going so far to say “We will respect human rights where a human being behaves like a human being”.

Jammeh strips the LGBT community of its rights by persecuting the people for living an authentic life. United States Secretary of State John Kerry released a statement in response to Jammeh’s speech, imploring, “the Government of the Gambia to protect the human rights of all Gambians, and we encourage the international community to send a clear signal that statements of this nature have no place in the public dialogue and are unacceptable.” Kerry went on to express his support to the LGBT community in Gambia.

Additionally, Britain and other Western nations are threatening to cut aid to governments that pass anti-gay laws, which would include Gambia.

However, Jammeh is unshaken by this and even claims, “We will not accept any friendship, aid, or any other gesture that is conditional on accepting homosexuals or LGBT as they are now baptized by the powers that promote them.” Jammeh is adamant that Gambia will become a completely independent nation free from international aid. His hateful stance toward the LGBT community may ensure that he loses international aid sooner than expected.

Despite Jammeh’s desire for a free and independent Gambia, he does not support all his citizens and directly threatens those who identify as LGBT or any diplomats who identify in the same fashion. “Let me also make it very clear that Gambia will not spare any homosexual and therefore no Diplomatic Immunity will be respected for any Diplomat who is found guilty or accused of being a homosexual.”

At this time it is unclear what can be done from the outside to shift perception and laws in Gambia.  It is hoped that promoting human rights for all will eventually remove the stigma from the LGBT community in Gambia. Nonetheless, the international community must take action to prevent the persecution and possible death of Gambian citizens threatened in President Jammeh’s speech.

– Cameron Barney

Sources: The Point, Slate, U.S. Department of State, The Daily Observer, The Independent
Photo: Demotix