By Melanie Nathan, 01/05/2012
When we as Western tourists go to Africa, we go to view nature – to visit tribal villages, to see the dance and hear song; we sit eagerly at waterholes waiting for the lioness to pounce the unsuspecting deer, while the landscape and the vast bush yields to the pristine African sky. All the while, we witness the beauty, but fail to note the torturous claim on the souls of all which is natural – with our own orientation intact and our safety masked by the clutch of our wallet brimmed with American dollars, do we care?
Well, we should, within the context of the hypocrisy of our feigned safety on foreign soil.
No do not think of those in the village beyond, but do hold a lover close, through the night. Caress and giggle and exalt the laughing hyena, the night is won, like any other back home, yet here you are a welcome criminal, in this foreign land.
Perhaps that innocuous waterhole and the luxury bungalow is plunked in the middle of one of the 37 seven countries which criminalizes homosexuality. Did you know?
Perhaps it is time to start paying attention to our world in a way that we have yet to do. How many of us look up the laws of criminalization and punitive constraints before deciding which safari to choose in Africa, or which airport to support with our taxed fare?
Do we continue to support the countries that would rather we were dead, simply because Fodor says “and that is the Island in the Indian Ocean, where God dropped a final gem?” We sustain the countries which believe our existence is foible and trite; those suggesting we must deny our natural order and languish in prisons instead. Are we all not of the same humankind?
Recently U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama, called on leaders in Africa to support Gay, lesbian and transgender human rights. The speech by Clinton and the foreign policy memo by the President cast a net over the governments that criminalize homosexuality, while increased pressure is being brought to bear on LGBTI communities across Africa, with the boorish call to simply “not be gay!.”
In the West we consider sexual orientation a human right, a natural born right, not a choice. In Africa governments are pronouncing upon their cultures with the excuse of sovereignty, asserting that homosexuality is against the order of nature and absolutely a choice. While there is science vs. biblical interpretation – some countries have chosen to prohibit acts of homosexuality and harsh consequences prevail over those who live their truth, if with partners of the same gender.
And all the while we sit at their waterholes waiting for the lioness to pounce the deer, clutching our wallets with our dollars and pleased that we are witnessing nature in the wild.
While calling for general boycotts may not serve the poor in such countries, I am not torn when it comes to making suggestions about travel. I cannot stomach nature when I am told not to be natural! If I cannot be who I am, and my sister in that Village across the way cannot be who she is, then why am I in this place of mock beauty?
While on the one hand I am loathe to impact poor citizens in countries where governments and regimes have failed them, I would be remiss not to assert the hypocrisy that our dollars buy.
I am not talking about discrimination, of the kind we still suffer here in the U.S.A. and other parts of the world. I am talking about the criminalization of a natural orientation that happens to serve the ironic call of scape-goating the very poor who we seek to embrace as we abide the call to spend our money and our vacation .
The countries which criminalize homosexuality imprison and sometimes kill so called perpetrators – those in the village -the city- but not us in the luxury bungalow – and they pay for their ‘crime of existence.’
As you take that next safari, and extend yourself through the safety of your wallet, here you do have choices . Together with the tour groups and travel companies which solicit us we have the duty to ask for those countries which are the right side of our natural order….
See the List of where Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex tourists are legal and illegal in Africa;
Here are the ONLY countries in Africa which do not criminalize homosexuality, of course travel only advised subject to State department advisories which change periodically:
South Africa – Fully inclusive constitution supporting sexual orientation and gender identity, LGBT marriage and also a signatory to UN Declaration; (Note a top destination, but high crime rate and Townships are unsafe for lesbians and transgender people.)
Gabon – signed UN Declaration
Rwanda – signed UN Declaration
Cape Verde – signed UN Declaration
Cote d’ Ivoire
Central African Republic
Democratic republic of Cong (Zaire)
Madagascar – exercise caution outside populated areas
Extra Cautious Support:- On the Fringe of Positive / possible change:-
Sao Tome & Principe – may become legal
Seychelles – Illegal, but proposed legislative changes, and signed UN Declaration- unenforced – This is a safe destination, but stop over / plane change required in Kenya.
Mauritius – debating repeal and signed UN Declaration
Namibia – unenforced
Botswana – unenforced
No Gay Dollars:-
Here are the top tourist destinations which criminalize homosexuality, showing punishment – and should not see a gay hand reach for a gay tourist dollar; also note some of these countries do not criminalize lesbian sex, only gay male sex:
Kenya – Prison for 14 years
Uganda – Pending “kill-the-Gays Bill” – prison and possible death penalty
Mauritania – death penalty
Nigeria – Sharia Law
Tanzania – up to life in prison
Gambia – 14 years
Zambia – 14 years
South Sudan – 10 years
Libya – 5 years
Sudan – 5 years
Tunisia – 3 years
Morroco – 3 years
Cameroon – 5 years
Guinea – 3 years
Algeria – 2 years
Egypt- Not specifically outlawed, but other laws may apply
Angola – Not specifically outlawed, but other laws may apply
Sierre Leone – Signed the UN Declaration
Photo Montage: Nathan Family Safari 2011.©
Article: Melanie Nathan© All rights reserved. 2011