EU officials tell Africa to shape up on gay rights

Published: May 23, 2011

EU development commissioner Andris Piebalgs and his predecessor, Louis Michel, have spoken out against homophobia at a meeting of EU, African and Caribbean politicians.

Michel, currently a Liberal Belgian MEP, who built a big name for himself in Africa during his five years in charge of disbursing EU aid to developing countries, said: "I have saved for last a consideration that is dear to my heart. The right to be different is at the heart of human rights. I would fail in my duties if I made no reference to a sensitive subject in this assembly."

"I wish to say with the greatest determination that we will never accept that governments or politicians may use, or even exploit, any ‘cultural’ argument in an attempt to justify the hunt and demonization of homosexuality."
Piebalgs said the EU is rooted under the EU treaty and the Charter of Fundamental Rights to combating anti-gay hatred.

The two EU personalities made the comments in Budapest 17 May to mark international anti-homophobia day.

African and Caribbean societies display some of the highest levels of intolerance toward gay people.

Uganda last week postponed a vote in parliament on a bill threatening same-sex lovers with the death penalty. Human Rights Watch on Wednesday published a letter to the government of Cameroon saying its detention of Jean-Claude Mbede for three years for arranging a date with his lover is unconstitutional.

The NGO said jail sentences for gay men in some African countries can amount to death sentences because of violent assaults including sexual violence, by other inmates.

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