Africans reacted with a mix of horror and delight at news South Africa had passed a Bill to legalise gay marriage, making it the first to do so on a continent where homosexuality is still largely taboo.
Gay rights groups applauded the decision as a step forward for Africa. But some in deeply religious Africa lambasted the decision as ”un-African” and immoral.
”This is a foreign action imposed on Africa,” Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed told Reuters in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, where powerful Islamists control the south of the country.
”This is not something that is indigenous to Africa, it is something that has come from abroad.”
The South African Parliament overwhelmingly approved the Civil Unions Bill on Tuesday, which gives same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones.
It still needs approval by the second house of Parliament but is expected to come into effect by the end of November.
Taxi driver Nicklaus Mwanaseri in the Tanzanian capital of Dar es Salam said the decision to allow gays to wed was so immoral that it signified the world was coming to an end.
”I see a big flood coming soon because of going against God’s teaching,” he said.
But gay rights groups dismissed charges that gay marriage was un-African and hoped the decision would pave the way for fairer treatment for homosexuals on the poorest continent.
”I feel very, very proud for South Africans. It is a great model for us, for Africa,” said Laurent Laroche, spokesperson for Mauritian gay rights group, Collectif Arc-en-Ciel, months after hundreds of gays and lesbians shocked shoppers with the Indian Ocean Island’s first gay-rights march.
In Uganda, lesbian Faridah Kenyini said South Africa had set a good example for the rest of the continent.
”In Uganda, I have to hide myself. I can’t bring my girlfriend here or risk being persecuted,” she said.
Kenyini tried to flee to Britain but her asylum application was rejected and she was deported to face the wrath of her Muslim father, who had threatened to kill her.
Vista Kalipa, a black homosexual in Cape Town, denied homosexuality was un-African, but said he was braced for opposition from other parts of the continent.
”Homosexuality is as African as can be. How can people claim it is un-African when there are African people who are born gay, raised by African parents on African soil?”
But for one homosexual man in Kenya, the vote would change little for gays, lesbians and bisexuals who live in fear due to prejudice.
”What this will do is open up a flood of gay bashing. No one will say, ‘let’s think about this, let’s talk about it’. No one will say, ‘these people exist, let’s give them a voice’.” — Reuters