As a conservationist, I kept seeing all the wrongs NGOs do to nature. Lately, I started to understand the horrible things big aid NGOs are doing to African societies (will talk about that soon), but yesterday, for the first time, I got pissed off with LGBTQ NGOs…
Many African countries are extremely and increasingly homophobic. Same sex interactions are illegal and can bring life imprisonment, and in a few countries, even death sentences. This institutional discrimination facilitates and promotes horrible street violence towards these people, resulting in “corrective” rapes, beating and even occasional lynches. To protect African LGBTQ people, Western NGOs are helping individuals to move to different, more accepting places like Europe and Canada. This is of course very helpful for the individuals, as they get a chance to live in a developed county which is normally much less homophobic (although much more racist), but is devastating to the individuals and communities who remain in Africa.
African governments are trying to present the “Gay Problem” as something of the West. Many times I heard people (even highly educated friends) say that America promotes homosexuality and tries to force it on Africa. I often heard exactly the same argument while living in Peru. Many Africans really believe LGBTQs are not born this way, but are being converted by Western "promotion". The fact that many are leaving Africa, and the rest are forced to hide, supports this theory that homosexuality is not naturally occurring in Africa, and must be stopped from being introduced.
Yesterday, with the Angels Refugee Support Group, we started looking at the funding opportunities for LGBTQ organizations in Africa. The great majority of funds were offered towards resettlement, while very few were available for in situ advocacy and support for local organizations. The application for resettlement is usually in English, and requires quite high verbal, organizational and sometimes even economic and professional skills. Not everyone can go. Most of the gay community leaders have already left, and many others are waiting for their turn. By taking all the natural leaders, the capable, vocal, strong people away from here, NGOs leave the vulnerable, weak and uneducated members of the community alone, without protection. By taking away high numbers of LGBTQ people from Africa, NGOs do not solve the problem and actively hinder the possibility of solving this and new problems that will inevitably arise. They weaken and break the communities, and support the governments’ discourses which facilitate these discriminative, horrible policies.
The relative openness of Western societies to sexual minorities did not happen by itself; it is not the result of their government’s sudden enlightenment, but of a long struggle led by strong local gay communities.
This is yet another way that NGOs, based on colonialist, paternalist ideas, are hindering Africa’s chances for change!