• By: Michael Coren

Violence Towards LGBTQ Communities in Other Countries

It’s the contemporary version of twin solitudes.

In Canada and the West the general assumption is that LGBTQ equality is on the advance and that it’s all getting better, often much better. Earlier this summer the prime minister attended Halifax Pride for example, the first sitting leader to do so.

In the Caribbean, Russia, Africa and much of the Middle East however, it’s actually getting worse, often much worse.

Later this year I am speaking at a conference in Jamaica, where young gay people – in particular – risk assault and murder.

Recent events in Uganda have once again emphasized all this. A gay pride event was raided and 20 people were arrested. One man was seriously hurt when, justifiably terrified; he tried to escape by jumping out a window.

Although they were all later released, those detained were intimidated, interrogated and assaulted. It was in-effect an official warning, a reminder from the bitingly homophobic government to “know your place” and remember that homosexuality in Uganda is detested and illegal.

More than this, Uganda has drawn other countries into its hateful orbit so that Kenya and Nigeria, for example, have recently emphasized anti-gay attitudes and legislation and even the once far-more-liberal South Africa is following a similar path.

It’s a familiar pattern: African governments claim that homosexuality is a western import, play the anti-colonial card, mingle fundamentalist Christianity with societal prejudice and are then aided by North American and European evangelical money and support.

This is important.

Conservative Christians from the U.S. and to a lesser extent Canada have sent missionaries, advisers and money to Africa and elsewhere to aid what they see as an international crusade against “immorality.”

As they have lost their battles here and in Europe they have transferred their energies to other continents.

Evangelical leaders claim publicly that they reject the extreme violence and persecution that take place abroad . . . but it’s a pretty thin disguise.

In Uganda women are raped to “cure” them of their lesbianism, AIDS centres are closed down because they’re accused of “leading people into homosexuality” and openly gay men and women live in fear of attack and arrest.

Until it was exposed in 2013, the Canadian evangelical group Crossroads Christian Communications (that received from $544,813 in funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) for its work in Uganda) stated on its website that homosexuality was a “sin” and a “perversion” and called for gays to “repent.” It listed homosexuality with pedophilia and bestiality as “sexual sins” and argued that, “God cares too much for you (and all of His children) to leave such tampering and spiritual abuse unpunished.”

When the website’s content was made public the page discussing homosexuality suddenly disappeared. Two years later, however, the television show 100 Huntley Street — produced by the same Crossroads Christian Communications — fired me as a guest host because: “With the high public profile you have in media and social networking in relation to gay marriage . . . it is felt that we have to part our ways as an organization.”

One wonders how much has changed.

Leading Canadian evangelicals have also spoken in Africa and the Caribbean about what they see as the “dangerous consequences” of same-sex marriage and how the freedom of Christians is limited with the advance of gay rights.

In the West Indies and in Jamaica — in particular — it is just as bad and once again, it’s western right-wing Christians who are partly responsible for all this.

American televangelists became a major force on Jamaican television when broadcasting was expanded in the 1970s and their hysterical opposition to gay relationships was soon replicated by local Christian television performers and church leaders.

It worked and infected greater society and then mingled with some of the more raw elements of rap music and the hangover of British colonial anti-gay legislation. Refugees from this oppression are sometimes but not always accepted in Canada and that’s to be congratulated.

But the solution is not to remove the people but to remove the homophobia, and that requires far stronger pressure and even sanctions from western governments. Frankly there is not much that can be done to change Russian policy and attitudes but there is a great deal that can be achieved through Commonwealth links, tourism and economic relationships to influence parts of Africa, and especially Jamaica, and the smaller West Indian nations.

As I say, twin solitudes. And anybody who thinks the struggle for gay rights is going so very well might need to look further afield.