Tutu’s Advocacy for LGBTQ Rights Did Not Sway Most of Africa

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12/30/2021

Desmond Tutu is being remembered for his passionate advocacy on behalf of LGBTQ people as well as his fight for racial justice. But the South African archbishop’s campaign against homophobia had limited impact in the rest of Africa, where same-sex marriage remains illegal and most countries criminalize gay sex. Even within his own denomination, the Anglican Communion, there has been no continentwide embrace of LGBTQ rights. Leaders of Ghana’s Anglican Church, for example, have joined other religious leaders there in endorsing a bill that would impose prison sentences on people who identify as LGBTQ or support that community. Before Tutu died Sunday at age 90, most African religious leaders rejected his LGBTQ positions, and those who agreed with him often were cautious, said Kenya-based researcher Yvonne Wamari of Outright Action International, a global LGBTQ-rights organization. “Most of them are unwilling to offer their contrary views due to fear of reprisal and backlash for not conforming with ‘African values,'” Wamari said via email. “As long as the religious leaders are unwilling to interpret the Bible from the lens of love for all, as Tutu did, homophobia and transphobia will remain a part of our lives.” Homosexual activity remains outlawed in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries; in a few, it is punishable by death. Many LGBTQ Africans are subject to stigma and abuse, facing unemployment, homelessness and estrangement from their families.

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