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Homophobic Backlash Sweeping Africa, More Jail Terms Seen

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Special to the NNPA from the GIN –

(GIN) – Harsh anti-gay legislation in Zimbabwe, Malawi, Kenya and Uganda, among others, has sentenced same-sex couples to long prison terms and pushed up the number of LGBT refugees seeking asylum abroad, according to local press accounts.

The increase in intolerance is blamed partly because gay men and lesbians are becoming more assertive about their rights, and partly because of intolerance fanned by evangelical churches in America, observed the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch group.

Last week, a Malawi court imposed a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison with hard labor on a gay couple for holding an engagement ceremony last December. The two were convicted of gross indecency and unnatural acts.

Chief Magistrate Nyakwawa Usiwa Usiwa’s Thursday judgment with a court seal stamp, said he was giving the “scaring sentence” to protect Malawi from homosexuals and uphold morals.

In Zimbabwe, police raided the offices of GALZ, a gay and HIV/AIDS awareness group, arresting two members of the organization for posting a letter from former San Francisco Mayor Willie Lewis Brown. The letter criticized the Zimbabwean president's opposition to homosexuality, their lawyer said on Monday.

Meanwhile, at a meeting of the Africa Progress Panel in Johannesburg, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo gave high marks to the Malawi ruling. His colleague, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, called the decision “regressive.”

Also opposed to the Malawi ruling was pop star Madonna who asked her fans to sign on to her website in support of equal rights and “the freedom to love in Malawi”.

“I call upon the progressive men and women of Malawi; and around the world to challenge this decision in the name of human dignity and equal rights for all,” she wrote. .. "The world is filled with pain and suffering; therefore, we must support our basic human right to love and be loved.”

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