Belgium pleads to African leaders to respect rights of gays

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (right) relaxes with his Rwandan counterpart after arriving in Brussels for the EU-Africa summit.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni (right) relaxes with his Rwandan counterpart Paul; Kagame after arriving in Brussels for the EU-Africa summit.

Belgian Prime Minster Elio Di Rupo has urged African leaders attending the 4th EU-Africa summit to respect the rights of minorities, including those victimised for their sexual orientation.

Speaking at a welcome dinner Wednesday for some 80 EU and African leaders attending the summit, including the presidents of Uganda and Nigeria, where draconian anti-gay laws were recently implemented to international outcry, Di Rupo, Belgium’s openly gay premier said: “We cannot tolerate that some are denied their rights and persecuted for their origins, their sexual orientation, their religion and their convictions.”

Many African countries, with the notable exception of South Africa, have laws that ban or repress homosexuality. Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who is attending the summit, signed a bill earlier this year that calls for “repeat homosexuals” to be jailed for life and requires people to report homosexuals.

Nigeria in January banned same-sex marriage and civil unions while homosexual acts already carry the death sentence under Sharia Islamic law which applies along with federal law in the north of the country. Reaction to the legislations has been fierce in the West, with several European countries having cut off aid to Uganda in protest and the US comparing the measures to anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany and apartheid in South Africa.

Gay rights has so far remained off the agenda at the two-day EU-Africa summit that ends later today (Wednesday). The European Union hoped to include in a final draft, a pledge to uphold “the rights of the most vulnerable groups, including persons belonging to minorities,” according to AFP reports. But the latest such document, also obtained by AFP, instead calls for the respect of rights “of the most vulnerable groups, including people with disabilities, the elderly and refugees, as well as to women, youth and children rights.”


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