Will Obama call out African nations on anti-gay laws?

President Barack Obama (Photo by Elizabeth Cromwell via WIkimedia Commons)
President Barack Obama (Photo by Elizabeth Cromwell via WIkimedia Commons)

USA Today writer DeWayne Wickham, among others, asks whether President Barack Obama will use his upcoming trip  to Africa in late June and early July to confront African nations whose laws criminalize homosexual activity and (although Wickham doesn’t mention it) also foster the spread of AIDS.  Excerpts from Wickham’s article:

Two of the three African countries Obama will visit — Tanzania and Senegal — treat homosexuality as a crime, not a human right. While the White House has issued a statement saying the president “unequivocally advocates against violence and discrimination” against gays and lesbians around the world, it’s unclear whether Obama will speak out against Africa’s anti-gay laws during his visit to the continent.

But that’s just what Micheal Ighodaro wants the U.S. president to do. A former gay rights activist in Nigeria, Ighodaro sought asylum in the United States last year after being repeatedly beaten and threatened in that country. He says if Obama speaks out in support of gay rights in Africa that he will one day be able to return home without fear of being imprisoned — simply for being gay.

“I think Obama’s voice will go a long way if he says that African governments need to realize that we have rights, too. I think this is the right time for him to bring up this topic with (Nigerian President) Goodluck Jonathan,” says Ighodaro.

But to do that, Obama must decide whether his global support of gay rights outweighs his grand pronouncement that “Africa’s future is up to Africans.”

If, in this case, he decides that his quest for global human rights really is more important than his support of African self-determination, what levers can Obama pull to move the continent’s nations away from their intolerance of gays and lesbians? While many are heavily dependent on U.S. foreign aid, the Obama administration is probably reluctant to threaten a cutoff of this dole now that China has supplanted the U.S. as Africa’s biggest trading partner.

Instead, the president will have to rely upon public attempts at moral persuasion — and private jawboning sessions — with African leaders to bridge the divide between his position on a pullback from hegemony and his global push for gay rights.

For more information, read the full article in USA Today: “Obama faces bind on Africa and gay rights.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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