Schulz: Cut aid to African countries with anti-gay laws

Gay Pride marchers. South Africa, October 2013. [Niko Knigge/Flickr]

Imprisoning gays and lesbians for their sexuality is a “disgrace” that should disqualify offending countries from EU aid, the president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, told a joint summit with MPs from the Pan-African Parliament yesterday (31 March), sparking a row. 

On 25 March, Ethiopia became the third African country, after Uganda and Nigeria, to institute long-term imprisonments for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people, with other African states, including Kenya, said to be preparing to follow suit.

This represented “an unacceptable violation of the basic rights of individuals” said Schulz, who has been widely tipped to be the next president of the European Commission, after elections in May. 

“It is a disgrace that in far too many places, one can be imprisoned for their sexual orientation, and it is even more abhorrent that in some countries people are put to death because of their choice of who to love,” he told an audience of MEPs and African MPs.

This highlighted “the need to redirect aid to civil society and other organizations that fight against exclusion and discrimination based on sexual preference,” he continued. “Appropriate measures should be taken against countries who continue to criminalise homosexuality or pass even more repressive laws. LGBT rights are human rights!”

The issue has become a lightning rod for tensions between the two continents ahead of the 4th EU-African Summit which opens in Brussels on 2 April, after West African leaders failed to sign off on a flagship free trade deal that would have turbo-boosted EU imports to the continent at the weekend.

The EU has frozen budget payments to Uganda - the bloc gives Uganda €460 million annually - and is holding a series of meetings with Kampala which "will be of great importance in determining how relations develop between the EU and Uganda in the months ahead," officials say. But this is seen as heavy-handed by some Africans.

Several African MPs in Schultz’s audience at the European parliament expressed outrage at the EU’s professed concern for their human rights, when it had stayed relatively silent about the plight of Western Saharans, living under Moroccan occupation for 40 years. Issues such as migrants' rights, African industrialisation and regional unemployment were also thrown into the mix.

One Ugandan MP queried how the EU would respond if the African Union tried to condition relations on extending practices of polygamy which were “good for Africa” to Europe. “We need to make sure each continent can have its values without necessarily affecting the other,” he said.

“Homosexuality, while its part of your culture is in most of our countries - if not all - abominable,” said another parliamentarian.

Perhaps the most supportive comment came from an MP who said that he understood the call to peg aid to a fight against sexual discrimination, but “to take this and go into an election campaign talking about homosexuality could compromise my election.”

Evangelical fundamentalists

A common theme in contributions from some of the more angry MPs was a perceived incompatibility of homosexuality with Christianity, a religion introduced to Africa by Europeans.

Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands have already moved to freeze aid to Uganda, after a campaign by US-based evangelical groups persuaded the country to introduce life imprisonments for homosexuality ‘offences’.  

In Europe too, fundamentalists have been increasingly active in the development arena with a European Citizens Initiative to be heard in Parliament on 10 April proposing a halt to EU aid funding for activities that involve the destruction of human embryo’s

In an indication that the issues are far from black and white, the strongest criticism of Uganda’s new homophobic law has come from the Anglican South African priest and anti-apartheid icon, Desmond Tutu, who said that they recalled Nazi Germany or apartheid-era South Africa.

Faten Aggard-Clerx, the Africa program manager at the European Centre for Development Policy Management, said that many African MPs privately view homophobic movements in Africa as originating from outside the continent, and anyway questioned the EU’s moral authority to act on them.

EU hypocrisy?

“In Ethiopia the [anti-gay] law was voted on by parliament in 2004 and implemented in 2005. Ethiopia has now simply said that those convicted cannot be pardoned. But in the last 10 years, we haven’t heard the EU criticise Ethiopia on the issue - it even increased its aid - so my question is why now?” she said.

In the same week that the European parliament called for sanctions against the Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, the EU’s foreign policy wing, the European External Action Service sent an envoy to invite him to visit Europe in person, while Europe’s press praised him for his efforts in South Sudan, Aggard-Clerx noted.

“Uganda is seen as an ally of Europe and, for a number of geo-strategic reasons, South Sudan is now an important region that the EU will be focusing on. I don’t think the EU will compromise its relationship with Uganda,”   she told EurActiv.

Nigeria’s decision to upend the proposed EU-Ecowas trade deal at the weekend might have been tied to pique at European frustration over its own anti-gay law, she suggested. “But is the EU really willing to stand by its values despite its interests in some parts of Africa? ” she asked.  

Summit conclusions

Draft EU-Africa summit conclusions seen by EurActiv contain a commitment to pay particular attention to “the rights of the most vulnerable groups, including people who belong to minorities,” marked ‘EU proposal’ and placed in brackets to indicate a lack of consensus.

But officials say that the issue is not formally on the agenda, even if discussions about Uganda's anti-gay law will take place on the margins of the summit. "Fruitful" meetings with Uganda were held at the weekend, EU sources say, albeit "a number of issues remain under discussion".

“Considerable progress was made and we expect that this positive spirit will be also the one inspiring our discussions on all matters during the summit,” Michael Mann, the spokesman for the EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told EurActiv.  

“The EU will reiterate its firm condemnation of the anti-homosexuality law, and of all forms of discriminatory legislation," he added.


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exquisiteur's picture

"LGBT rights are human rights".
So if a new claim (therefore right) from LGBT is the right to drive on the other side of the road, it will become a human right ?
or declare that red traffic light is now equivalent to a green on ground of equality between traffic light colors?

LGBT wants all States to SANCTIFY "samegender practices" as egal to any other sexual practice. (and they are numerous including rape )

LGBT is therefore demanding that "samegender intercourse" is under the control and management of the said STATE.

LGBT is therefore giving the legitimacy to a state to rule the sexuality of their citizens/subjects by requesting civilian sanctification byregistration on marriage registry or similar.

So would M. SCHULZ consider the stupidity of his position and claim on banning funding of the states that are , by LGBT claim and authorisation, allowed to legislate on the sexuality of their citizens.

LGBT has made, by its own claims, a human right to any state to legislate on the sexuality of their citizens subjects.

It is the human right of the State of Uguanda and other to legislate the way they like about the type of sexual relationships of its citizens.

You cannot ask for legal sanctification of LGBT type of sexual relations by a STATE and at the same time exert financial violence of mafia type on States that were given the legitimacy to legislate in a direction that does not please you.

As LGBT rights are human rights, this means that all types of sexual relationships are equal and therefore none can be bannished in virtue of their essence and not their consequences.

Heterosexual rights are not human rights because they are under penalty threats if their consequences are unlawful (incest, voluntary HIV contamination, etc...)

Human rights suffer no exception and no restriction from laws, therefore only LGBT rights cannot be restricted. This is called a privilege in the name of Equality.
Congratulations to LGBT for their brainwashing techniques to the extent of contaminate the highest spheres of EU power, unless they are members of LGBT which of course, would be understable, ie rule for a minority to have privileges, on ground of MY WHIM is above the common law.

brucefk's picture

exquisiteur makes some very silly and foolish remarks. But if that's the way the heterosexuals want it; that is violating my private sex life and quoting Holy scripture at me, then lets make this fair and equal. 17 American states made it illegal for people of different races to marry. Let's bring those laws back. Islam forbids marriage outside the faith. Let's make that universal and forbid any marriages outside of anyone's faith. The Catholic Church bans all sex that is not for the procreation of children, so we must ban all oral sex and make sure we have the intelligence surveillance there are no heterosexuals using birth control or doing any oral sex or having any sex that will not produce children. Also the Bible forbids sex when a woman is having her period, so we need to ban that and get the police and military to go into bedrooms to make sure that no illegal sex takes place. When all these laws are in place and in force, then I just might consider your having the right to enter my bedroom and violate my private and tell me what kind of sex I can and cannot have. Until that time, stay out of my bedroom and I'll stay out of yours.

brucefk's picture

Oh, and I forgot that adulterers should be stoned to death every time it happens. Jesus and Mohammed both spoke against adultery but never said a word against women having sex with women or men having sex with men. If you want to follow the Bible and Quran, then let's follow it where it touches you and leave me alone.

Gerry's picture

Considering that most of that development aid in fact ends up in the pockets and bank accounts of those countries' elites, and considering that it's those elites who set the political agenda at home, I think it's entirely appropriate to tie receiving development aid to improving conditions in that country, without having to offer much explanation at all.

Kudus's picture

I am Ethiopian. I do understand the concerns from all sides. Homosexuality or lesbianism has become a part and parcel of the civilized world I mean Europe and North America specially. This is understandable, for us who are in the west, we have accepted it as it is.. But we have to be sensitive to other cultures, values, norms. In Ethiopia such behavior is not acceptable or does not even exist. It is different because have never been exposed to it and they do not even know it. We must respect their way of life. You can not pack your culture or whatever value you have with aid and tell people to do what you wanted them to do? that is unfair for the other side. Aid must be tied up with exporting cultures other people do not need or want. This is ignorance. My suggestion, leave the people who do not want those things live the way they wanted. They also have right to live the way they wanted. I actually think the west should discourage lesbianism and homo because the white birth rate is declining because of more people become lesbians and gays, no children to produce, that means population decline. I promote nuclear family values than this peripherial human behaviors of desire and lust. Family with children, father, mother,... we should promote that instead in my opinion. We should force other countries to do things which they are not happy to do or are not used to do them. If aid is given based on those grounds, then it is not aid, but manipulation of people, culture, societies to do what what you wanted them to do. Whatever you give do not give it by attaching a string. you better not give aid if that is the case in my opinion. If lesbiansm, homo is good for society, then we must talk about it openly and discuss its merits and demerits instead of forcing others to adopt it by force or by aid.