Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Homophobia Harming Economies

At the beginning of the year, Uganda's Deputy Secretary to the Treasury, Keith Muhakanizi, came out with the brave statement that the Bahati Bill is harming Uganda's economy.

Now, an ECOSOC (Economic, Social and Cultural issues) report, presented at a meeting of African NGOs in Gambia last week attests that:

Recently the World Bank has been looking at the cost of homophobia when citizens who are educated and willing to contribute to the well-being of their communities are denied opportunity to work...

A number of countries imprison their health workers and activists, accusing them of promoting homosexuality when they are merely educating the general public and these marginalized communities about access to health care. A clear distinction needs to be made in the right to access information and healthcare as not only a moral and humane issue, but also an economic one.

It was noted even in countries in West Africa who not do have criminal statutes against homosexuality i.e. Chad or Gabon, but LGBT citizens are still having a difficult time completing school or finding a job because of cultural or religious beliefs about their sexual orientation. These countries need to develop new laws and mechanisms to reduce stigma and discrimination so that LGBT people can emerge from poverty and homelessness as well.

Governments and faith communities need to extend protections and poverty reduction programmes, health services and equal business opportunities to all citizens without distinction of sexual orientation. African family life should be protected against exterior cultural and religious movements that legitimize rejection of African family members purely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The report also makes a set of recommendations, including ratifying the Optional Protocol of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and engaging cultural and religious leaders in a serious review of positive and negative beliefs and values.

Little mention seems to have been made of the damaging consequences to tourism on countries perceived to be overtly homophobic. This is a growing area of income for many developing countries, including Uganda, and undoubtedly has an effect on employment.

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