Our Advanced Global Thinking students recently discussed the status of LGBT people around the world. In some places, like North and South America, Western Europe and – recently – Taiwan, they may encounter acceptance or have the right to marry. In others, like Iran, Nigeria, or Saudi Arabia, they may face fines, jail time, or even death. Should any of these laws be changed? Student Max Wong shares his views in the essay below:
In January 2014, Nigeria signed an anti-gay law which gives harsh punishment to those supporting LGBT organisations or those attempting to enter a same-sex marriage: 10 and 14 years of jail time, respectively. These laws were passed to boost popular support for the current government, since many people are prejudiced against gays for cultural and religious reasons. While under normal circumstances, African laws should be mainly governed by the government, external intervention may be needed to prevent violence, violation of human rights, and provide adequate treatment for those infected with HIV/AIDS.
Many vigilantes have recently cropped up in parts of Africa, threatening death to suspected homosexuals. As a result, many of the victims end up homeless and jobless, ending up in debt from previous loans they can no longer pay off. Many victims who were ‘convicted’ may not actually support LGBT rights, but are instead randomly selected in a witch hunt, having characteristics such as ‘hairdresser’ or ‘studied abroad’ interpreted as being homosexual. This social conflict will only lead to greater fissures in the social fabric of the area and may even result in casualties. Although the Nigerian government cannot control these groups, they still refuse to resolve this situation by reversing their laws, which may therefore need Western help to benefit Nigeria as a whole.
The choice of who to marry should be, and is, an universal human right. Many of the countries in Africa are violating this fundamental concept, which may cause the UN to intervene in these affairs. These human rights are very important and must be upheld; the world would be plunged in conflict and development would be significantly slowed. It is the duty of the UN to stop actions which may damage these rights. Therefore these anti-LGBT laws can be, should be changed.
Last but not least, many African countries are currently ravaged by HIV due to the low levels of sexual-health education. As a result, 3.4 million people in Nigeria alone are infected, including around 17 percent of the gay population. Because of fear of discrimination and jail time, many people who are affected may die as an indirect result of this anti-LGBT policy. Many organisations are now also afraid to help; they fear that they would be seen as pro-LGBT, potentially causing them to be imprisoned for parts of the gay community. As a result, treatment rates have dropped by over 50 percent, not only from the gay population, but from the heterosexual side as well. Coupled with the ‘normal’ fear of discrimination for having HIV, this problem will urgently need help to be resolved.
Many would argue that interfering in African laws in infringing on a country’s private issues, and that it takes from the original culture and religion of these countries. However, the laws and culture would be rendered obsolete if the country no longer has a proper social structure. Under the fragile rule of corrupt politicians and desperate men, a small part of this ‘culture’ may have to sacrificed in order to preserve the current developing state of affairs in terms of social rights.
Many have also raised concerns that African nations would not fully accept the LGBT population. They may be right, so we may need a slow transition by small compromises, reducing the severity of punishment, until the indignation towards colonialism fades slightly to make way for ‘Western’ ideals, even though non-Western countries also accept it. With international influence, Africa may evolve into a better place, continent-wide.