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Human rights | Society | Gay - Lesbian

Desmond Tutu: "Homophobia equals apartheid"

Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
«We treat them as pariahs.»

© Graeme Williams / Tutu Trust / afrol News
afrol News, 7 July
- Desmond Tutu, the former Archbishop of Cape Town and a Nobel Peace Price winner, has lent his name to the fight against homophobia in Africa and around the world. The prominent South African says homophobia is a "crime against humanity" and "every bit unjust" as apartheid.

The former head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa made these statements at the launching of the book "Sex, Love & Homophobia", published last week by Amnesty International UK. Mr Tutu has written the foreword to the human rights group's book.

- We struggled against apartheid in South Africa, supported by people the world over, because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about; our very skins, wrote the prominent Church leader. "It is the same with sexual orientation. It is a given," he added.

Mr Tutu says he could not have fought against the discrimination of apartheid and not also fight against the discrimination which homosexuals endure. "And I am proud that in South Africa, when we won the chance to build our own new constitution, the human rights of all have been explicitly enshrined in our laws," he said, adding that he hoped this soon would also be the case in other countries.

South Africa is so far the only country in the world where the constitution guarantees equal rights non-regarding sexual orientation. This is in stark contrast to most of South Africa's neighbour countries, where homosexulality often is punished by the penal code. Only recenty, a Botswana High Court ruling reaffirmed this legal practice.

- Yet, all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are persecuted, writes Archbishop Tutu. "We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God - and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for what they are," he adds.

He also regrets the dominant view among his church colleagues. "Churches say that the expression of love in a heterosexual monogamous relationship includes the physical, the touching, embracing, kissing, the genital act - the totality of our love makes each of us grow to become increasingly godlike and compassionate. If this is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reason have we to say that it is not the case with the homosexual?" Mr Tutu asks.

Also within the Anglican Church, homosexuality is highly controversial and an ongoing conflict has threatened to split the global Anglican Communion. The current head of the Anglican Church in Southern Africa, Njongonkulu Ndungane, has been an outspoken supporter of including homosexuals in the Church community, putting himself in a strong-worded conflict with other African Church leaders.

In its new book, Amnesty reports on the life stories of gay and lesbian people around the world. These include Poliyana Mangwiro who was a leading member of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe despite President Robert Mugabe's protestations that homosexuality is "against African traditions".

The book also includes the story of Simon Nkoli, a South African ANC activist who after spending four years in prison under apartheid went on to be the face of the struggle for gay rights in the new South Africa. Further, stories of hate, fear and persecution are reported from Nigeria, Egypt and other countries, in addition to reports from the states where homosexuality punishable by death; including Sudan, Mauritania and some Northern Nigerian states.

For Archishop Tutu, these "destructive forces" of "hatred and prejudice" are an evil. "A parent who brings up a child to be a racist damages that child, damages the community in which they live, damages our hopes for a better world. A parent who teaches a child that there is only one sexual orientation and that anything else is evil denies our humanity and their own too," Mr Tutu concludes.

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