Re-Publish: Very little has Changed as Christians Persecute Gays, Lesbians and Trans People

Re-Publish: Written in 2016 – NOT IN GOD’S NAME- This Continues with Little change – except an increase in the migration and decriminalization by a mere 2 countries, Botswana and Angola.


A brief Reflection on Violence Promoted by Christian Churches in Africa, By Melanie Nathan, African Human Rights Coalition©, October 24, 2016.

 The LGBTI community in Africa is experiencing a significant increase in suffering brutal and lethal scapegoating, violence and discrimination with justification in large part coming from a religious rationale:


Almost ubiquitously across Africa, it is dangerous to be an LGBTI person either legally or socially.  Same-sex relations between consenting adults, in essence homosexuality and trans or non-binary gender identity and sexual characteristics, (SOGIESC) is criminalized in over 30 African Countries, mostly through draconian penal codes, remnants of the colonial era.  In some instances, additional onerous and heavily punitive anti-homosexuality legislation has been introduced into parliaments, some successfully enacted, as a direct consequence of the efforts of religious leaders (clergy) and politicians, in those countries, often in concert with, or influenced by American Evangelicals.

Involved clergy include pastors and missionaries from abroad, such as the American Evangelicals, who have influenced anti-homosexuality legislation, promoting a climate of anti-LGBTQI violence. An example is Scott Lively, an American self-acclaimed Christian Pastor, who was sued in an American Court by an Ugandan human rights organization, under the Alien Torts Act, for “crimes against humanity.”

Criminalizing homosexuality in essence means that people who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) are considered criminals, based on the fact that they are born with same-sex attractions rather than opposite sex attractions.   

One would be remiss not to mention that myths and inaccuracies are touted in the name of homosexuality, and it is in this context that LGBT people are used by politicians, as scapegoats, averting having to deal with actual problems facing their constituents.  A few examples of such myths:

Unlike thieves, murderers, and rapists, homosexuals should not be termed criminals – their loving relationships and consensual sex acts do not hurt the other party. As long as there is consent, between two adults, there is no victim to a crime. 

At the helm of the trajectory toward more criminalization are influential African politicians and country leaders, who have made homophobic comments, gaining widespread press, in the hope of increasing their political capital, often serving to fuel the fires of persecution.    The recent fervor to harshen the anti-LGBTI laws is a direct response to what is perceived as the encroaching western ideals of LGBTI equality.  But this is another myth – not addressed above.   In fact, until the colonialists imposed their penal codes on African countries and until the Christian and Muslim religions became prominent, homosexuality was a non-issue in most African tribal cultures. Many African LGBT activists take offense at the notion that an aspect of their humanity is considered “Un-African.”  To that way of thinking homosexuality is not unique to any one culture or civilization and the thinking is that the only imposition by the West has been the anti-homosexuality teachings of the Church, as abused by politicians.

Does the church want to participate in this persecution of fellow human beings, by propping up the politicians on the issue?  To examine this question, one must look at the harm suffered by LGBTI people and how criminalization has provided license to persecute, by governments, police and individuals.

Surely the duty of the church is to influence the humanity in all people, including governments; to promote loving kindness and a compassionate way to deal with diversity in sexuality. It is our thinking that church should not influence or contribute to that which hurts people, but rather that which helps all humankind. To this end, surely it is incumbent on Clergy to impose upon governments the upholding of human rights.

By way of example, notwithstanding existing criminalization through penal codes, Nigeria and Uganda took advantage of the newly heightened anti-homosexuality climates – a direct influence of self-acclaimed American Evangelicals and missionaries, who came to Africa to promote their agendas.  The Presidents of those countries played gays as political pawns and scapegoats for the numerous social and economic problems facing their countries, and so signed new anti-homosexuality legislation.

At these times, when new legislation was enacted, we saw a dramatic spike in attacks against LGBTI people. 

Political rhetoric:

“We ask, was he born out of homosexuality? We need continuity in our race, and that comes from the woman, and no to homosexuality. John and John, no; Maria and Maria, no. They are worse than dogs and pigs. I keep pigs and the male pig knows the female one.”  Robert Mugabe – President of Zimbabwe

His latest inflammatory remarks came last week at a rally in the town of Farafeni. According to Vice News, which received a translation of Jammeh’s speech, delivered in the region’s Wolof language, Jammeh sounded a dire warning to homosexuals living in his country.

“If you do it [in Gambia] I will slit your throat,” Jammeh said. “If you are a man and want to marry another man in this country and we catch you, no one will ever set eyes on you again, and no white person can do anything about it.”

President Yoweri Museveni, who made anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda much tougher Monday, told CNN in an exclusive interview that sexual behavior is a matter of choice and gay people are “disgusting. After signing the bill that made some homosexual acts punishable by life in prison, Museveni told CNN’s Zain Verjee that, in his view, being homosexual is “unnatural” and not a human right. “They’re disgusting. What sort of people are they?” he said. “I never knew what they were doing. I’ve been told recently that what they do is terrible.”

By Comparison, Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate,  Desmond Tutu:

“It is also a matter of love. Every human being is precious. We are all — all of us — part of God’s family. We all must be allowed to love each other with honor. Yet all over the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are persecuted. We treat them as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God. This must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for what they are.

Churches say that the expression of love in a heterosexual monogamous relationship includes the physical — the touching, embracing, kissing, the genital act; the totality of our love makes each of us grow to become increasingly godlike and compassionate. If this is so for the heterosexual, what earthly reasons have we to say that it is not the case with the homosexual?  The Jesus I worship is not likely to collaborate with those who vilify and persecute an already oppressed minority.”

Many believe that Jesus stood with the outcaste not with the political powers of his day.  

The Church has a responsibility to clarify Christian doctrine that is used to persecute, violate and harm LGBTI people worldwide but especially on the African continent.  

Not in God’s name: Surely the Church cannot remain silent and complicit with the abomination of violence against LGBTI people. Violence that can be as extreme as a public lynching , stoning, or necklacing (burning a person with a tire wrapped around their neck like a necklace), corrective rape and murder or as subtle as vicarious trauma, psychological stress and depression, loss of self-esteem, the indignity of having to live a double life or having to worry about discrimination or loss of housing, employment and family support.


Uganda – President Yoweri Museveni, in preparation for a vote that would deliver him his 30th year as Uganda’s President, patronized his NRM party with his assent to the astoundingly popular Anti-Homosexuality Act, once dubbed the “Kill The Gays Law,” which stipulates 14 years to life in prison for same-sex acts, as well as prison terms for so called “promotion” of homosexuality.   Museveni signed the Act into Law in February of 2014.  However, the Ugandan Courts nullified the law, without adjudicating on its constitutionality, based on the fact that Parliament did not have the requisite quorum when passing the legislation. 

In Uganda, the most widely read East African newspaper celebrated the new law with a series of articles outing Uganda’s “Top 200 Homos.” Police arrested and paraded suspected gays in front of press and television cameras. Many LGBT people have had to flee from homes, schools and jobs, for fear of assault and death threats.  And many have reported being black mailed by police and even friends.

The passing of anti-homosexuality act and the rhetoric that followed it, from clergy and politicians alike, permitted a milieu of extreme and violent homophobia.

Uganda has suffered an alarming rise in attacks on gay and lesbian people since it passed an anti-homosexuality law late last year, research has found. The report, compiled by Sexual Minorities Uganda, detailed an attempted lynching, mob violence, homes burned down, blackmail, lost jobs, arrests, evictions and suicides. The number of recorded incidents had increased tenfold, the group said. At least 25 people were reported to have fled Uganda, seeking asylum in neighboring Kenya and Rwanda.” 

A Ugandan human rights organization issued a report in 2014 and another in 2016, the latter reporting in the voice of the persecuted, the abuses resulting from the anti-homosexuality atmosphere: “And That’s How I Survived Being Killed”: Testimonies of Human Rights Abuses from Uganda’s Sexual and Gender Minorities.

The report documents the many forms of persecution that LGBT identifying individuals in Uganda face. 

This same type of abuse is reported from every country where homosexuality is criminalized. However, the difference is that the robust activism in Uganda by strong LGBT activist voices, has enabled this type of formal report, whereas  in most other counties, human rights voices have been oppressed and silenced, hence the lack of reporting is not indicative of the fact that serious persecution is not an ongoing problem.

The report is based on first-hand testimonies. It documents 264 verified cases of persecution from May 2014 until December 2015, including physical threats, violent assaults, torture by community and police, unwarranted arrest, blackmail, non-physical threats, press exposure, state prosecution, firings from employment, loss of physical property, harassment, eviction, mob justice, and family banishment. 

Of the 264 cases documented in this report 48 involved acts of violence, including 35 cases involving physical threats or violent attacks, and 13 instances of torture by the state.  The largest proportion of documented cases involved 84 intimidation cases, 73 loss of property (including loss of employment, physical property, and eviction), and 59 involved social exclusion (including discrimination when accessing healthcare, community discrimination, and family banishment) — all of which the Ugandan government has failed to investigate.  

For the full report please visit 

This report reflects only on Uganda and has been described as a drop in the ocean as most cases, especially in rural areas, go unreported.   Through the work of The African Human Rights Coalition (African HRC)  (disclosure: the ED  is  an author of this article) we have received scores of stories out of Uganda and hundreds of stories from the other African countries, all directly from victims, which have remained unreported, and hence neither investigated nor resolved. There are minimal resources, and many human rights advocates, lawyers and organizations are also subject to threats and intimidation.

In African HRC’s assessment, some countries receive less public and international attention than Uganda and that is because they do not have a robust activist community, or American Embassy and financial support that the activists have successfully engaged in the issue. 

 Nigeria – The new Nigerian anti-homosexuality legislation, signed into law by President Goodluck Jonathan in 2014, mandates a 14-year prison sentence for anyone entering a same-sex union and a 10-year term for “a person or group of persons who supports the registration, operation and sustenance of gay clubs, societies, organizations, processions or meetings.” In addition, public displays of affection by gay men and lesbians are also criminalized.  In Nigeria we saw a spate of arrests, public whippings and the stoning of gays soon after the law was passed.  These types of laws erroneously inhibit Civil Societies from providing much needed services to LGBTI people, as such services are often interpreted as promoting homosexuality. 

The Gambia – In 2014, the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh signed a bill that calls for life imprisonment for some homosexual acts.  He recently said, “We will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes,” which, it is worth noting, is through widespread systematic efforts aimed at extermination. This resulted in a spate of persecution as described above, and may fled for Senegal. Some have made it to the USA, Europe and Canada at this time.    Gambia, Namibia and other countries conducted frequent arrests. 

Cameroon – Cameroon enforced 1960’s era penal codes with arrests and torture to force confessions. One of the highest arrest records for LGBTI people in Africa is in Cameroon.  We have received reports from scores of people who have been subject to as many as two years in detention without any legal representation and without having their cases heard, all pending under Anti- homosexuality laws.


Persecution includes the following:

  • Assaults & murder
  • Forced marriage
  • ‘Corrective’ rape
  • Reparative therapies
  • Exorcisms
  • Police brutality, torture & blackmail – false arrests
  • Lengthy jail terms without proper legal representation
  • Unlawful detentions
  • Unwarranted exposure in media
  • Firing from jobs
  • Evictions by landlords
  • Expulsion from schools and universities
  • Sexual exploitation
  • Mob ‘justice’

The Perceived Solution for LGBT People – Migration:
African HRC has worked and recorded hundreds of stories of LGBTQI people in forced displacement -forced into what is now becoming a profound and significant migration.  In order to escape persecution, many LGBTI people are trying to reach western countries, where LGBTQI people are treated with dignity and acceptance.  This results in people crossing borders to neighboring countries, to reach UNHCR, register as refugees and wait out the several years to possible resettlement.  

Ugandan gays migrate to Kenya, the Kenyan gays to Uganda, and much more migration includes to and from Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, The Gambia, Senegal, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, DRC, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi and South Africa, to name a few of the countries we deal with.  Unlike other refugees, who escape war, LGBTI refugees do not have a safe place to go.  The host countries also tend to harbor criminalizing laws and therefore protection spaces can mostly be sought in hostile host countries, thereby exacerbating the problem. The LGBTI people enduring these perilous migrations are often going from one country of persecution – to another – however the slight hope of resettlement abroad makes it worth their while. The persecution and suffering continues. Many have to resort to sex work in the foreign country as they have no means of supporting themselves and the refugee camps are too dangerous. This is causing further spread of HIV/ AIDS.

David Kato, Uganda. LGBTQI hero.

Related Story of Refugee:

A durable solution? The only solution would be to decriminalize homosexuality and integrate LGBTI people into communities to continue to function as fully-fledged citizens of their own countries. This can be accomplished iDavid Kato: January 2011 Murder of David Kato, a Ugandan teacher and famed LGBTI activist highly publicized internationally and featured in several documentary films. .

  1.  “Call Me Kuchu”.
  2.  Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall (25 January 2012). “They Will Say We Are Not Here”. New York Times.
  3. Moloshco, Carolyn (March 2014). “‘God Loves Uganda’ Reveals American Evangelicals Spreading Gay Intolerance. Academy Award winning director tackles abuse of religious power”

Eric Lembembe, Cameroon, murdered in his apartment July 13 or 14, 2013; his body was found July 15, 2013. Lembembe was the executive director the anti-AIDS pro-LGBT-rights group Camfaids and a journalist. Extensive coverage of Lembembe’s murder is here:  

Beating death of LGBT activist Eric Lembembe in Cameroon (

Eudy Simelane  The partially clothed body of Eudy Simelane, former star of South Africa’s acclaimed Banyana Banyana national female football squad, was found in a creek in a park in Kwa Thema, on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Simelane had been gang-raped and brutally beaten before being stabbed 25 times in the face, chest and legs. As well as being one of South Africa’s best-known female footballers, Simelane was a voracious equality rights campaigner and one of the first women to live openly as a lesbian in Kwa Thema. 

David Olyne – aged 23, – March, 2014 – young gay man brutally tortured and killed in a horror hate murder in the Western Cape. The Son daily Afrikaans newspaper reported that 23-year-old David Olyne from Ceres was killed over the weekend while a group of teens blithely watched on. Senior Reporter Maahir Pretorius told Mambaonline that his investigation had led him to seven individuals between the ages of 14 and 16 and one of 18 years who apparently witnessed Olyne’s nightmarish death. 

Muhadh Ishmael, 17, Dec. 21, 2015, Malindi, Kenya: – His assailants “drove him to a remote location, stripped him and drugged him. Then they cut off his penis.” Muhadh was born intersex and had the audacity to identify as male when his family insisted he pretend to be female. After the death of Muhadh’s parents, his uncle arranged for four men to abduct, drug and mutilate the intersex youth.

Thembelihle ‘Lihle’ Sokhela, 28, Sept. 14, 2014, Daveyton, South Africa:  – Thabo Molefe, 45, accused in the hate-crime murder of his neighbor, Thembelihle ‘Lihle’ Sokhela, 28, a lesbian who was suffocated, battered and possibly raped on Sept. 14, 2014, in Daveyton, near Johannesburg, South Africa. Molefe reportedly was on parole after being released from prison for another rape and murder. After Sokhela’s body was discovered wrapped in a blanket behind Molefe’s bed, he turned himself in to police. Sources: Mamba Online, O-blog-dee, Iranti-org, . Thabo Molefe, 47, has been sentenced to a concurrent 22 years for murder and 12 years for raping Lihle Sokhela, 28, a lesbian from Daveyton, Gauteng, South Africa. 

Duduzile Zozo, on July 2013, 26-year-old’s half naked body was found in Thokoza, Ekurhuleni, outside of Johannesburg by her mother. Said to be a lesbian -she had been brutally raped with a toilet brush and murdered. 

Patricia Mashigo – in April, 2013 the body of the openly lesbian Patricia Mashigo (36), a self-employed sales woman and mother of two children, was discovered out in the open in the Daveyton township.  She appeared to have been stoned to death. Rocks and stones were found near her body. 

 Mandisa Mbambo – was discovered under her bed by her parents on Sunday, 26th August, a 28 year old Lesbian in Kwazulu, Natal, South Africa.  The victim, reportedly a soccer fan, had been seen arguing with a man the night before the attack. Her body was discovered with her hands tied.  Her bruised face was swollen and she had stab wounds all across her body.  Only 28, activists in South Africa believe the victim had been targeted for being a lesbian. 

Hendrietta Thapelo Morifi, known as Andritha  – 29 year old was found brutally raped and murdered, July 2012.  The victim was discovered by her mother on Saturday at her home in Polo Park, Mokopane. 

Gift Disebo Makau – The half naked body of a lesbian, August, 2014, was discovered in the Tshing Township, in Ventersdorp, in the North West province of South Africa. The exacerbated and untenable cruelty of the crime is apparent, as her body was found with a running hose pipe shoved down her throat and into her stomach. 

Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Massooa  Brutal double rape and murder of lesbian couple Sizakele Sigasa and Salome Massooa in-  July 2007 has led to the formation of the 07-07-07 campaign, a coalition of human rights and equality groups calling for justice for women targeted in these attacks. Sigasa and Massooa were tortured, gang raped and shot near their homes in Meadowland, Soweto in July 2007, shortly after being verbally abused outside a bar.   


Nigeria: A bloodthirsty mob has dragged more than a dozen gay men from their homes and severely beat them in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, in the first incidents of widespread anti-gay violence in the country since President Goodluck Jonathan passed legislation outlawing same-sex relationships.  The attacks took place Wednesday in the Gishiri neighborhood of Abuja, where a mob nearly beat one man to death and dragged four severely injured victims to a nearby police station, where police further beat and insulted them, reports the New York Times. 

Blackmail and Beating Traps: This is a common practice on the increase in Nigeria , Kenya and Uganda. If not for criminalization this would not occur: Young people are organizing groups to trap suspected homosexuals, then strip them, beat them, extort money from them, and sometimes turn them over to police. The victim of the trap was a young Nigerian gay man who appeared to be between the ages of 20 and 22. Abraham had been lured into the house by an invitation from another young man, Bola, after they had several conversations with each other on the interactive WhatsApp media chat application. 

South Africa: Banele Qhina alleges a police officer insulted and assaulted him because he’s gay. The 19-year old Gugulethu man says he and his brother were walking home when two police officers stopped them.   

Ghana Video 2016: African Homosexual man beaten for being gay by partner’s family  In this viral video, Albert Appiah, is viciously beaten by a mob which believed he is gay. Whether the mob had any reason to believe this or not, we don’t know. Following the release of the video, local police launched an investigation into the beating. They were able to confirm that the accusations levelled against Appiah’s sexuality were false. “[The gay allegations against Kinto are a] complete cooked-up story against the victim, Albert Appiah also called Kinto,” said Divisional Commander of the Nima Police Command ACP Nuhu Jango.

READ THE UGANDAN STORIES HERE as they provide the example of persecution where homosexuality is criminalized: 

The above examples are a mere sampling of known cases – and many cases go unreported in the media and we here of many which are not reported to police, because the partners of the deceased usually flee for their lives. And many who are assaulted are too afraid to report the cases.  One can see how the criminalization provides license to blackmail, persecute and to falsely accuse.

CONCLUSION- While the Churches might not overtly condone violence toward the LGBTI community, what is silence? There needs to be a strong Christian voice not only condemning all forms of anti-LGBTI violence but fostering an open, loving and inclusive Christian community.   This includes clarifying church doctrine and teaching that all too often uses biblical texts, out of context and with a partial understanding to condemn and exclude the LGBTI community.  The moral authority of anti-LGBTI violence has a clear foundation in the church’s moral authority.   Complicity and silence must end and education and dialogue must begin.  And as a global community, while respecting sovereignty, we must work towards the decolonization of the laws that rob LGBTQI people of their fundamental rights to their sexual orientation and gender identity. The time is now! Speak up and speak out!


Melanie Nathan © October 24, 2016
African Human Rights Coalition 

One thought on “Re-Publish: Very little has Changed as Christians Persecute Gays, Lesbians and Trans People

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.