Nurturing global LGBT rights

(Photo: NASA)
(Photo: NASA)

“Do Africans have the right to choose their own destiny and cultural values defined by Africans for Africans, or should we just swallow so-called Western values without question?”

That question is posed by “uncleowenhugo” in response to an Observer editorial offering its view on “nurturing gay rights around the world.”

Another reader going by the tag “petsupspec” points out this: “Imagine if another country interfered with America in the ’50s because of its gay rights record back then. The world would have been at war. These (African) countries don’t even have human rights, gay rights is down the pecking order. The West wants to impose its own value on these countries, even if those values are opposed by 99.9 per cent of the population of these places.”

The Observer piece points out what we all know: that homophobia still exists in most of the world, and gay people are terribly oppressed in various African and Middle East nations — and those countries want us to butt out of their internal affairs.

But LGBT rights — though, the Observer is only talking about gay rights — is part of a broader human rights issue, and in that context, the paper questions the approach taken by the United States and the United Kingdom in pushing for change in aforementioned countries.

Cutting off aid is not the solution, the paper says.

“Of course western governments should publicly condemn the flouting of basic human rights. But withholding aid can be dangerously counter-productive and risks charges of hypocrisy when different approaches are taken with different countries. Saudi Arabia takes one of the harshest approaches to homosexuality in the world, but there is no suggestion that this has had any impact on its relations with the US, for instance.”

Instead, the paper suggests that Western governments “invest in local gay rights advocacy and community-led programmes (in Africa) aimed at fostering dialogue and tolerance. … This must be seen as an agenda led by African activists, championing African, not western, liberal values. Public condemnation – while relatively easy– will, by itself, achieve little.”

It is the old “the lord helps those who help themselves” approach, and there is no doubt that change must come from within, however slow the process. Yes, it can be agonizing for us — especially in Canada — to watch other countries struggling with issues we have long come to terms with. How frustrating it was to watch Americans quarreling over the same-sex marriage issue when we, in Canada, knew all along that the sky doesn’t fall when gay and lesbian people are granted equal civil rights. Obla dee, obla da, life goes on . . .

Still, as the Observer points out, “western governments should publicly condemn the flouting of basic human rights.”

And so should we, the citizens of those countries, who have a greater voice than ever before in a world that is truly become a global village. We may be thousands of kilometres apart geographically, but we are mere seconds apart in thought and spirit.

So, the Observer piece is very much an editorial for LGBT Perspectives, too, because nurturing global LGBT rights is our raison d’être. Hopefully, writers from African and Middle East nations will join our collective, so we can truly be a global team.

— Jillian Page, LGBT Perspectives editor


“Let harmlessness be the keynote of your life.” — Alice Bailey


One thought on “Nurturing global LGBT rights”

  1. This is a tough problem. As some people commented on the original article, the virulent homophobia in some parts of Africa is probably a legacy of Western colonial rule and not necessarily part of traditional African cultural values. This is not so say that homosexuality was ever celebrated in Africa, but it was probably tolerated as long as no-one rocked the boat.

    A bigger problem is the pernicious influence of geopolitics. It’s easy to criticize persecution of LGBT people in Africa (because we don’t have much trade with African countries) or with Russia (because it’s clearly becoming a threat.) It’s not so easy to criticize Saudi Arabia or India because they are either important geopolitical “allies” or trading partners.

    If we want Africans to take us seriously, we need to be consistent and call out human rights violations wherever we see them. We also need to impress upon the world that cultures, religions and sets of traditions have no inherent rights and are not automatically worthy of respect. Only people themselves have rights, and our judgment of cultures, religions and traditions should be based on the extent to which they uphold human rights for all.


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