African plea: The silence of good people hurts most

Edwin Cameron, justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa, writes on the Global Fund website:

The Sexual Minority of Africa Should Also Be Heard

Edwin Cameron (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)
Edwin Cameron (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

A destructive wave of hatred against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons seems to be gaining force across Africa.

In this groundswell of hate, Nigeria this year enacted punitive laws that criminalise not only same-sex marriages but belonging to gay rights organisations.

And Uganda now has a like-minded law imposing harsh sentences for same-sex acts, including in some cases life imprisonment.

Voices of reason and goodwill must speak out against this hatred and irrationality. …

As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, our continent has more than enough wars, famine, bad governance, tyranny and injustice to worry about. We shouldn’t worry about how adult people express their love for one another.

What is unAfrican is this: the criminalisation, persecution, prosecution, imprisonment, rape, torture and killing of adults whose only crime is to love one another. We should actively speak out against these harmful actions. And we should remember a poignant truth: it is not so much the deeds of our oppressors that serve to injure us, as the silence of good people.

Africans of goodwill must raise their voices. The right to justice of LGBTI people is the keenest civil-rights issue at present. We who love our continent must not collude with oppressors by remaining silent in this wave of grotesque abuse. Instead, we must join to affirm African values of humanity – and rejoice in our diversity as humans.

Edwin Cameron was appointed to the High Court by President Nelson Mandela in 1994. Previously, at the University of the Witwatersrand’s Centre for Applied Legal Studies, he  co-drafted the Charter of Rights on AIDS and HIV, co-founded the AIDS Consortium and founded the AIDS Law Project. He was the first senior South African official to state publicly that he is living with HIV.

For his full commentary, visit the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria website:  “The Sexual Minority of Africa Should Also Be Heard.”

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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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