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US Religious Right Propelling Homophobia in African Countries

Common Dreams staff

Ugandans demonstrate against homosexuality in the streets of Jinja and urge their leaders to pass a strict anti-homosexuality bill that would make certain offences punishable by death. (The Guardian/Trevor Snapp/Corbis)

A wave of US based religious rightwing groups working in several African countries are expanding their drive to promote both homophobia and anti-abortion stereotypes and governmental policies, according to a new study by Boston-based Political Research Associates (PRA).

The report, Colonizing African Values: How the US Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, claims that far right groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), founded by the televangelist Pat Robertson, the Catholic group Human Life International and the Mormon group Family Watch International, work with local people and governments to rally against LGBTI rights and craft anti-LGBTI legislation.

The report traces the "cultural colonization" of Africa. Over the the past five years, "[the groups] have launched or expanded Africa-based offices dedicated to promoting their Christian right worldview," the report states.

"A loose network of rightwing charismatic Christians called the transformation movement joins them in fanning the flames of the culture wars over homosexuality and abortion by backing prominent African campaigners and political leaders."

The ACLJ have opened offices in Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda in which they train lawyers to work on constitutions that reflect "Christian values" and include phrases such as "life begins at conception," the Guardian reports.

For instance, a law instituting the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality," in Uganda was created and introduced by a far right christian group in 2009. The bill was thought to have been defeated after PRA exposed the instigators, but has since been reintroduced in Uganda's Parliament. Similar anti-gay laws passed in Burundi in 2009, Malawi in 2010 and Nigeria in 2011.

Many gay-rights campaigners in Africa have welcomed the report. "I'm grateful for the documentation in the report that confirms that it is homophobia (not homosexuality) that is exported from the west," stated Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities in Uganda.

"I hope this report serves as a wakeup call for faith communities in Uganda and the west alike to realize that the American culture wars imposed on us by the Christian right threaten not only African culture, but the very lives of LGBTI Africans like me."

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