Tutu, a South African Nobel Peace laureate and retired Anglican bishop, has also denounced religions that discriminate against gays.
But the most important of Tutu’s profound statements came when he equated the fight for gay rights to the fight for equal rights for blacks.
The anti-apartheid icon is offering progressives everywhere another opportunity to name and shame Africa’s homophobic leaders, among them, the Zimbabwean duo of geriatric president Robert Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. He’s given us another opportunity to reflect on the sad fact that legislated anti-gay violence and discrimination are on the rise across the continent.
“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this,” Tutu said on Friday, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Tutu was speaking in Cape Town, South Africa, during the unveiling of the UN Human Rights Office’s “Free and Equal” project, a public education campaign that raises awareness about anti-gay violence and discrimination.
According to AFP, Tutu added: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”
These are courageous statements by an African leader. That’s because Africa is a moral war-zone. Gays are under siege. Only South Africa officially recognizes marriage equality.
According Amnesty International, homosexual relationships are still a crime in 38 of Africa’s 54 countries. The organization’s recent report, titled Making Love a Crime: Criminalization of same-sex conduct in sub-Saharan Africa, warns that “homophobia is reaching dangerous levels.”
In the last couple of years, many African countries, among them Burundi and South Sudan, have passed harsh new laws targeting homosexuals. Liberia and Nigeria are pushing bills that would toughen existing penalties.
In 2009, Uganda introduced the so-called Anti-Homosexuality Bill or “kill the gays bill”, a piece of legislation that would make homosexuality punishable by death. The legislation also threatens to prosecute those who fail to report “violations” within 24 hours.
As I blogged earlier, Zimbabwe offers the most quintessential example of state-sponsored homophobia. Robert Mugabe, is an unapologetic gay-basher. He’s compared gays to “dogs and pigs” .
The Southern African country holds a crucial presidential election on July 31. Don’t expect the election to bring any relief to the country’s gay minority.
In 2010, the man many is the West sees as Zimbabwe’s future, Morgan Tsvangirai, joined the dictator in publicly opposing debate on homosexuality. According to The Zambia Post, Tsvangirai backed Mugabe’s anti-gay public position and refusal to include gay rights in Zimbabwe’s new constitution, approved earlier this year.
In fact, Tsvangirai, the leader of the largest faction of the opposition MDC party, is as filthy a raging homophobe as Mugabe. He’s as eager to fuel the fires of the anti-gay terror sweeping the continent.
Recently, Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), accused Tsvangirai of “hate speech” after he condemned them and reportedly said: “We said marriage is between a man and a woman and those who want to marry another from the same sex, then they have a problem.”
Gays in Zimbabwe will have a serious problem if Tsvangirai wins the presidency on July 31.