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16 Dec 2011- Latest developments on gay and lesbian rights across Britain , Africa and the United States can appropriately be encapsulated in the popular proverb that “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”.

Despite centuries of diplomatic flurries and niceties, trade and cultural exchanges across these continents, it seemed that they have not and would never be uncompromed on the issue of gay and lesbian rights.

Following the media reports last October that Britain had threatened to cut aid to African countries which refused to recognize the gay and lesbian right, there was a sudden outburst of anger and revulsion among Ghanaians and other Africans.

UK International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell was quoted as saying that Britain had already cut aid to Malawi by 19 million pounds after two gay men were sentenced to 14 years in hard labor.

Mitchell, one of the closest allies of British Prime Minister David Cameron, also threatened to impose further aid “fines” against Uganda and Ghana for their hard line anti-gay and lesbian position.

During a visit to Ghana earlier this year, Stephen O’Brien, Mitchell’s deputy, reportedly told Ghanaian President John Evans Atta Mills that Britain would cut its aid unless the West African country stopped persecuting gays.

However, UK lately denied threatening to cut aid to Ghana for its poor records on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights.

Communications officer of the British High Commission in Ghana , Gifty Bingley, told the media here that UK had rather planned to increase its total aid to the West African country to 100 million pounds by 2015 from 85 million pounds in 2010, 36 million of which was provided as general budget support.

A further 23 million pounds was provided in budget support specifically to the health and education sectors.

She declared that London provided aid directly to partner governments when “we are satisfied that they share our commitments to reduce poverty, respect human rights and other international obligations, improve public financial management, promote good governance and transparency, and fight corruption”.

But, she added, as part of its commitment to uphold human rights and international obligations, the “ UK was committed to combating violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in all circumstances.”

In spite of the fact that Ghana received assistance from the UK , its president has vowed to take measures to check the menace of homosexuality and lesbianism.

Hardly had the dust on the issue settled when the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the surprise of the many dignitaries around, declared in Geneva that the U.S. would fight discrimination against gays and lesbians abroad by using foreign aid and diplomacy to encourage reform.

Clinton touched on raw nerves of African ambassadors over her comments that gay “rights are human rights.”

She perhaps drew her strength from a memo from the Obama administration directing U.S. government agencies to consider gay rights a conditionality when making aid and asylum decisions.

Some African countries, such as Ghana , Uganda , Zimbabwe and Nigeria , have laws that ban or resent homosexual acts while Nigeria is the latest African country trying to tighten homosexuality laws and same-sex marriages.

Lately, Uganda and Zimbabwe have even hunted down and executed gays and lesbians.

The rejection of gay and lesbian rights is not limited to only African countries. Saudi Arabia also has laws that ban homosexuality outright while Afghanistan also prohibits the practice.

Certainly, not everyone in the U.S. backs the Obama administration’s stance on gay and lesbian rights.

For example, Texas Governor Rick Perry said in a statement that “promoting special rights for gays in foreign countries is not in America ’s interest and not worth a dime of taxpayers’ money.”

There have been varied and mixed comments in Ghana from several quarters, chiefly from President John Evans Atta Mills, ministers, parliamentarians, chiefs and the clergy.

As matter as a fact, nearly every African country regards homosexuality and lesbianism with utmost contempt and revulsion because such practices are never welcome in the society as they are considered unnatural, ungodly, indecent, and an abomination.

When Ghanaian President Mills came out strongly to lash out at the Cameroon declaration and stated that Ghana would never yield to such obnoxious and un-African practice, he received considerable acclamation from a wide range of Ghanaians.

He said, without mincing words, that the West African country would not in any way legalize homosexuality for aid or accept any aid that had homosexuality strings attached to it.

“ Ghana will continue to operate within its constitution regardless of any threats from any country,” he stated, saying that Britain could not tell Ghana what to do on its cultural and moral values.

A former veteran Ghanaian diplomat and minister of foreign affairs, Obed Asamoah, urged the government to remain consistent in its resolve not to promote homosexuality in Ghana .

Ghana, as a sovereign nation, should not be compelled to take any action or enact a law to compromise on her values and national norms and it could manage without development assistance from nations pressurizing sovereign countries to legalize homosexuality, he said.

The Ameer and Missionary in charge of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission in Ghana , Maulvi Wahab Adam, said attempts by the West to impose their culture on Africans should remind Africans of the need to solely depend on God and not man.

He urged African leaders not to bow to any aid that had a tie to the rights of homosexuals as a condition.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, a deputy minister of Information, told local media in the wake of the controversy that Ghana would exercise the laws enshrined in its constitution and criminal code and would only amend a law at the country’s own will.

Hackman Owusu, a member of parliament, expressed his views during a parliamentary debate that “though we have our own positions as a nation, we cannot stop leaders of other countries from expressing their views and positions on homosexuals and lesbians.”

Cletus Avoka, majority leader, protested vehemently that homosexuality “is against our traditions, culture and dignity. It is an affront to our heritage.”

A self-confessed homosexual man, who refused to give his real name, told a local radio that “I go with people who say homosexuality must not be legalized, but I also think it should not be demonized. I have a girlfriend who is aware of my situation and she is comfortable with it.”

Asked if his parents were aware of his situation as a homosexual, he averred, saying “Yes, my mum is aware but I told her the truth. She later understood me.”

In spite of the widespread condemnation of gays and lesbians, both men and women, including married ones, have admitted to carrying on the act. The practice is real and there is no need hiding it from anyone.

In fact there is a growing number of court cases involving very young boys and girls who have allegedly been sodomized by adult men.

Willy-nilly, homosexuals and lesbians will increase in their numbers in Ghana and other African countries if the right cultural values and Christian principles are not infused in children in the very early stages of their life.

Their anger with the UK and U.S. is justified but they must realize that the traditional values and cultures they treasure so much are under siege.

Nigeria demands respect from western coutries over same sex marriage

The Nigerian government has told the United States and other Western countries opposed to the Senate’s passage of a bill banning same sex marriage to respect Nigeria’s independence, democracy and sovereignty.Minister of Information Labaran Maku made the government position known in Abuja on Wednesday after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by President Goodluck Jonathan.Nigeria had the right to legislate for its people, the minister said.Maku told reporters that  although the passage by the Senate had not made the bill  a law, Nigeria reserved the right to make laws based on the peoples’ values and culture.“Let me make the point clear, our country is an independent country and we reserve the right to make our laws without apology to other countries,” he added.“Between Europe , America and Africa there is a huge culture gap, some of the things that are considered fundamental rights abroad also can be very offensive to African culture, tradition and to the way we live our lives here,” he said.Maku said Nigeria reserved the right as an independent nation to live under laws that were democratically passed by the National Assembly and assented to by the President.The Nigerian senate recently passed the bill outlawing same sex marriage and prescribed 14 years of imprisonment for offenders.

Ghana remains resolute against legalising gay rights

The Minister of Information John Tia Akologu said here on Wednesday that Ghana remained resolute in its stance not to legalize homosexuality in the country.Speaking on national Radio Ghana , Akologu said, no amount of pressure would force the government to renege on its resolve not to legalize the practice of homosexuality, which was against the culture, traditions and norms of the country.The comments followed a public declaration by the U.S. government that it would fight discrimination against gays and lesbians abroad by using foreign aid and diplomacy to encourage reform.U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told an audience of diplomats in Geneva that “gay rights are human rights.”A memo from the Obama administration directed U.S. government agencies to consider gay rights when making aid and asylum decisions. British Prime Minister David Cameron threatened last month that Britain would withhold aid from countries that did not recognize gay rights.Ghanaian President John Evans Atta Mills said his country would not in any way legalize homosexuality for aid.He said Ghana would also not accept any aid that had homosexuality strings attached to it.Ghana , he added, would continue to operate within its constitution regardless of any threats from any country, maintaining that Britain could not tell Ghana what to do on its cultural and moral values.Meanwhile, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs Obed Asamoah also urged government to remain consistent in its resolve not to promote homosexuality in Ghana .He said Ghana , as a sovereign nation, should not be compelled to take any action or enact a law to compromise on her values and national norms.Asamoah cautioned government never to yield to demands by any nation for aid, saying that Ghana could manage without development assistance from nations pressurizing sovereign countries to legalize homosexuality.

Gay rights issue stalls progress towards crafting Zimbabwe's  new constitution

Fresh squabbles over minority rights are stalling progress towards completion of Zimbabwe ’s new constitution, with the issue of homosexuality taking center-stage.

The situation has been further compounded by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP)’s decision to cancel its funding of the second All Stakeholders’ Conference that had been scheduled for January 2012 saying that it feared violence could erupt during the meeting.

The three co-chairpersons of the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (Copac) differ on the issue as they stick to the different mandates given them by their political parties and earlier fears that the country’s supreme law would end up being a negotiated settlement are firming.

Critical to the issue of minority rights is how homosexuality should be treated, with Zanu-PF’s Paul Mangwana wary of the possibility of the orientation becoming recognized as a right, yet his party and its leader President Robert Mugabe are firmly opposed to it.

Douglas Mwonzora, representing Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’ s MDC faction in the inclusive government and Edward Mukhosi who represents the smaller MDC faction led by Industry and Commerce Minister Welshman Ncube appear ready to embrace homosexuality as a minority right.

Tsvangirai has said even though as a Christian he did not condone homosexuality, he was not qualified to judge gays and lesbians and would let the people of Zimbabwe decide in the new constitution whether or not they should allow homosexuality as a right.

However, the Bill of Rights submitted by his party for inclusion in the new constitution states:

“In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination, given our history of discrimination and intolerance, must be broad to include the protection of personal preferences, that is gays and lesbians should be protected by the constitution.”

A media conference convened by the three co-chairpersons Thursday showed the extent of the differences, with Mangwana pleading caution on the way forward with regards to minority rights.

“The matter of what constitutes minority rights is still under consideration but we have to be careful because commercial sex workers might also come forward and say we are a minority group we want our rights to be included as well,” he was quoted by news agency New Ziana as having said.

“We might end up accommodating immorality in our constitution unintentionally.”

Mukhosi suggested that Copac could adopt international best practices on the issue of minority rights, adding that if the people wanted homosexuality to be enshrined in the new constitution, then their wishes should prevail.

“I feel that if the people of Zimbabwe want that issue to be in the new constitution, then so be it or we could just say that minority freedoms do not include gay rights,” he said.

Mwonzora said among the difficulties the committee had in treating gay rights as minority rights was the absence of numerical data proving that gays were among the minority grouping.

“We do not have numerical data to use which will enable us to classify gays as minorities,” he said.

Zimbabweans are generally averse to homosexuality, to the extent that most gays and lesbians have remained underground for fear of reprisals.

The constitution-making process, which has progressed in fits and starts since 2009 largely because of financial constraints and is now more than a year behind schedule, is bound to proceed in the same manner following the withdrawal of funding by UNDP.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti will, therefore, have to find the 2 million U.S. dollars the UNDP had pledged for the event from elsewhere at a time he is struggling to raise money to pay civil servants’ bonuses.

According to the power-sharing Global Political Agreement signed by principals from the three parties following inconclusive elections in 2008, fresh elections will only be held after the conclusion of a new constitution.

However, the current pace of events can push the elections backwards to as late as 2013 when the country, under normal circumstances, should have gone for elections anyway following the end of the five-year life for the current Parliament.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai agree that the interim arrangement of the inclusive government has outlasted its usefulness and that elections are the only option moving forward. However, they disagree on the exact timing.

Mugabe would rather go for elections sooner rather than later, but Tsvangirai says the current political environment is not conducive for a free and fair election and that some media and electoral reforms have to be instituted first.