The western world, led by the United States, has made its position clear that it will withhold aid to any country that marginalizes people of different sexual orientations. As a result, the Obama administration in 2014 launched what would be termed as the “Rights for Aid” campaign to ensure that the rights of LGBT communities are extended the freedom through legal means to go about, can come out of the closet and be protected by law to live normal lives.
And as it appears, the Canadian Prime Minister follows a line of tactical and influential proponents of the LGBT campaign overseas. And true to form, Trudeau dutifully began his campaign with Liberia—his first stop in Africa since he became PM.
Being an ardent advocate of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community, it is clear from all indications that Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to Liberia was primarily intended to advance the cause of the right to have same-sex relationships here.
At a joint press conference held along with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, PM Trudeau said the LGBT community, like any group of people, need to be protected. He noted that homosexuals have the right to their own choices, and that they too need to be protected by the law.
Impeccable sources told the Daily Observer that the issue garnered much discussion when the PM met with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf during their closed door meeting before jointly addressing the press at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia.
The sources indicated that PM Trudeau asked the President how these unconventional groups of people are doing in the country. He also inquired about what legal instrument the government has been able to institute to protect these people.
President Sirleaf, the sources indicated, told her visitor that gays are living freely in the country and they are not being bothered so far. In terms of legal protection, the sources said that the President clearly indicated that nothing definite has been achieved because there is a fear over the safety of homosexuals; that an attempt by government to spell-out LGBT rights by law could raise public ire against said communities.
In response to a Canadian journalist’s inquiry about her direct response to the issue when it was raised during their closed door meeting, President Sirleaf said there is no law that restricts individuals to their own choices.
“Liberia has no law that restricts the rights of individuals to their own choices; only if there is a threat to national security. We don’t have a law that restricts so the freedom of choice is extended to all Liberians.”
With that response the President might have forgotten or ignored the fact that Liberia has a law on voluntary sodomy. Liberia’s New Penal Code prohibits voluntary sodomy as a first-degree misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to one-year imprisonment. There is also an anti-same-sex marriage bill that has lingered at the Legislature since 2012.
The President told the Daily Observer during an interview few years ago that she would not sign laws for or against LGBT during her administration because, “we are fine just the way we are.”
However, the President’s response last week also appeared not to be too satisfactory to the Canadian PM; and being a ‘darling’ of the West, they may just want her to do something before she leaves office as her departure would be an opportunity truly missed for the cause. British Prime Minister David
Cameron and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are the earliest vocal advocates of this campaign.
The question from the Canadian journalist appeared to be a tactical move by the Canadian communication team to cause the President to publicly step out of her neutral position on LGBT in the presence of the PM.
Trudeau, a passionate advocate for LGBT rights, became PM on October 19 when he ousted Canada’s long-time Conservative PM Stephen Harper in a surprise victory after his Liberal Party won 54 percent of the seats in parliament. He indicated same-sex marriage is one of the ‘core principles’ of his Liberal party administration. He also vowed to appoint more LGBT people to government.
PM Trudeau is a recipient of the Laurent-McCutcheon Award, which honors advocates for gay rights. His father, former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, was also an ardent LGBT advocate. The elder Trudeau was considered a hero by the Canadian gay community when he de-criminalized homosexuality in 1969.
Canada On July 20, 2005, became the first country outside Europe and the fourth country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide after the enactment of the Civil Marriage Act. Same-sex adoption has also been legal in all provinces and territories under varying rules.
The Struggle with Gay Rights in Africa
As indicated earlier, the West, led by the US four years ago embarked on an ambitious campaign to expand civil rights for gay people overseas by marshaling its diplomats, directing its foreign aid and deploying President Obama to speak before hostile audiences. In Africa he has spoken on the issue in Kenya, Senegal and other places.
Since 2012, US sources have indicated that their government has spent more than $41 million specifically to promote gay rights globally, along with a portion of the $700 million earmarked for marginalized groups to support gay communities and causes. More than half of the $700 million, and $6.6 million of the $41 million, was spent on sub-Saharan Africa — just one indication of the continent’s importance to furthering the new policy.
But in spite of all the mounting pressure from the West, what is certain is that Africa might continue to remain a very hostile continent to the gay community. There is not only the fact that Africa considers homosexual acts unnatural and a nuisance to African culture, but the continent sees it as an example of the West again trying to impose their will on a continent whose member countries, especially Liberia, are overwhelmingly dependent on handouts from the West.
Many African countries have enacted laws banning the practice of homosexuality. Many African contend that homosexuality, same-sex marriage and their attributes are western cultural lifestyles inimical to African culture, and any attempt by the western world to impose this kind of lifestyle on Africans on the African continent will be vigorously resisted, even at the cost of economic sanctions or withdrawing funding assistance.
Currently, about 37 of the 54 countries in Africa have laws that prohibit homosexuality, laws that are described as quite harsh, with jail sentences of multiple years.
There are several African countries that have vigorously resisted the pressure from western nations to recognize the LGBT community. Some of the standouts are Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi.
On January 13, 2014, Nigeria signed into law the Same Sex (Prohibition) Act, which the Nigerian National Assembly had passed in May 2013.
The Nigerian law provides that a marriage between persons of the same sex is prohibited and shall not be recognized, and only a marriage contract between a man and a woman is recognized. Penalties range from 10 to 14 years imprisonment—several were also arrested days after the signing of the law.
In February 2011, Malawi, which already had laws criminalizing homosexuality among men, also enacted one criminalizing women for lesbianism. If convicted, a defendant could receive up to five years imprisonment.
During his visit to Kenya, President Obama defended gay and lesbian rights as part of “the principle of treating people equally under the law.” But Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta rebuked him, calling gay rights a “non-issue.”
Similar faceoff took place in Dakar where Mr. Obama said granting gay rights is the proudest thing to do while trying to pressure Senegalese President Macky Sall into having Senegal extend the same benefits to gays in Senegal.
Obama said, “My basic view is that regardless of race, regardless of religion, regardless of gender, regardless of sexual orientation, when it comes to the law, people should be treated equally. And that’s a principle that I think applies universally.”
But President Macky Sall rebuked him, saying, “Senegal is a very tolerant country, but is still not ready to decriminalize homosexuality.” Sall pointed out that the issue of capital punishment, which Senegal has outlawed, is still being practiced in the US, though no country seems to be pressuring the US on this issue.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is a very vocal critic of the act. He has been employing venomous language to describe gays since 1995. After shutting down the gay book fair in Harare, he lambasted the gay community by saying, “homosexuality degrades human dignity.” He equates gays to pigs and dogs.