This House would cut aid to African states that criminalise homosexuality

In 2009, the Ugandan government made international headlines when a private members bill was put forward which would have incurred the death penalty or life imprisonment for anyone proven to be homosexual. When Uganda passed the bill four years later, with the exception of the death penalty, it served to highlight the prevailing attitudes in many African states towards the issue of homosexuality.

As of 2013, 41 of Africa’s 54 recognised sovereign states outlaw homosexuality[1]. While the degrees of enforcement and severity for these laws do vary from state to state, the criminalisation of homosexuality has caused great controversy in the West. The majority of these states will not allow any form of same sex activity, even the possession of homosexual pornography can lead to a prison sentence. International criticism for the outlawing of same-sex relations has seen a notable increase since Ugandan Member of Parliament David Bahati proposed his private member’s bill. The Obama administration’s opposition to the international criminalisation of homosexuality and Britain’s proposals to reduce aid have increased the severity of the issue for many Africans[1].

 

Title 
Persecution of homosexuals is morally wrong
Point 

From a moral perspective, it is wrong to discriminate against someone for their sexuality. Everyone should have equal rights; Hilary Clinton stated that ‘gay rights are human rights’[1], the derogation of such rights is a serious moral affront. There is evidence that homosexuality is not optional[2]. Discriminating on sexual orientation is therefore the same as discriminating upon factors such as race and ethnicity. Even if changeable it would be the same as discrimination on the basis of identity or religion.

Same sex relations are victimless which calls in to question whether it could ever be defined as something to be criminalised. Whilst some may point to male on male rape, these figures are low compared to male on female rape. In the U.S. where homosexuality is legal, only 9% of rape victims were male and only a small proportion of those being male on male[3]. Criminalising and institutionally embedding hatred against homosexuality has served to alienate many Africans from their families and communities[4]. Discrimination on the basis of homosexuality is not something any donor would want to endorse even implicitly it is therefore morally right to cut the aid.

[1] The Obama Administration’s Bold but Risky Plan to make Africa Gay-Friendly Corey-Boulet,R 07/03/12

[2] Kingman,S. ‘Nature, not nurture? New Studies suggest that homosexuality has a biological basis, determined more by genes and hormones than social factors or psychology, says Sharon Kingman. 04/10/1992

[3] Wikipedia Gender by rape

[4] The Guardian Persecuted for being gay. 13 September 2011

Counterpoint 

There are many in Africa who believe that sexual orientation is a matter of choice and view the act as unnatural. Religious groups in particular oppose male homosexuality due to sodomy being viewed a sin[1]. If a certain act is viewed as a sin, and it is optional, then it is only logical that this activity should be prohibited under law. In a sense, it is moral to have laws restricting homosexuality in place via this logic.[2] The U.S. and other Western states should not condemn African states and reduce aid for legislating in a way they consider moral. 

[1] Islam and Africa ‘Islam and Homosexuality’

[2] Should donors rethink aid to states that persecute gay people? Ware,G. 25/01/12

Title 
Cutting aid could produce a change in policy direction
Point 

If the West did decide to reduce aid to African states it could pressure African states to change their policies on homosexuality. Africa is renowned for the dependency on aid. Analysts claim that this dependency negates the need for African economies to reform, relying instead on foreign governments and NGOs[1].  This reliance on aid could be exploited to alter policy within those African countries that are unable to act economically independently. This policy has been successful in the past. When Britain cut £19m to Malawi in 2011 for arresting two men for marrying; there was a reversal of government policy in the African state and all anti-homosexual laws were suspended[2].

The equality created by this policy change would allow greater access to retroviral drugs and other HIV/AIDS treatment for the gay community. Laws outlawing homosexuality, and the stigma of the false connection between HIV and homosexuality, have decreased the accessibility of the gay community to treatment[3]. Corrections to these laws, from the economic pressure of aid withdrawal, would allow those with HIV/AIDS in the gay community to seek help without fear of rejections or prosecution.

[1] Astier,H.  Can aid do more harm than good? 1 February 2006 BBC

[2] Karimi,F. ‘Amnesty: Malawi suspends anti-gay laws’ CNN 6 November 2012

[3] Anti-Gay discrimination fuels HIV/AIDS in Africa: Report  Reuters 01/03/07

Counterpoint 

It is wrong for donors to attempt to change the policies of a sovereign state. Each state has equal rights, which include the right to be free from interference from any other group[1]. The West is therefore violating state sovereignty when they attempt to change domestic policies which they dislike[2]. African governments have a right to self-determination without the interference from the West; they are no longer colonies.

[1] Political Realism in International Relations Karpowicz, K 02/04/13

[2] Quandzie,E. Anti-gay aid cut: Bring it on, Ghana tells UK 02/11/11

Title 
Western Money, Western Discretion
Point 

When Western States threaten to cut aid, they are referring to their own money. This money should therefore be spent at the discretion of the donating country. In 2012, the USA’s and UK’s budgets for aid were £12.2 billion[1] and £9 billion respectively. The UK’s spending is set to increase to about £11.3 billion by 2014[2]. This is money which could be spent to ease economic hardships at home, as many newspapers have pointed out[3], however it is given to other countries to aid them instead. Donating states also spend a great deal of time attempting to convince their citizens that giving aid is a good use of their money. Should they oppose a policy which they see as discriminatory then it is understandable that they should use their discretion when donating aid.

[1] Britain second in world for aid spending Dixon, H. 04/04/12

[2] Aid: how much does the UK spend, why it’s so important and how it works. Provost,C. & Tran,M. 20/03/13

[3] Britain leads the way in foreign aid-unfortunately Clark,R. 19/06/13

Counterpoint 

The international community has an obligation to help poorer countries, and cannot simply walk away from it over an issue such as this. Exploitation, through imperialism and other means, has been a major feature of Western relations with Africa. From colonial policies to current trade agreements the West has exploited Africa[1]. The West now has an obligation to compensate Africa for the damage which exploitation has done to development.  Aid is considered to be vital to ensuring national and international security to the world, removing donations could result in destabilisation as economic links between the government and people deteriorate[2].

[1] Annan calls for end to ‘unconscionable’ exploitation of Africa’s resources, Stewart, H 10/05/13

[2] United Nations The 0.7% target: An in-depth look

Title 
There is not universal endorsement of full homosexual rights in the West
Point 

The adoption of gay rights is by no means universal in the West, so why should Africa have to change their policies? US Christian evangelical groups have opposed the Obama administration’s policy towards homosexual rights in Africa. The Justice for Gay Africans campaign group claim that these groups have worsened hostility on the continent through action that they have taken in Africa[1]. Domestically there is opposition to gay rights as well. The Defence of Marriage Act (DOMA), which was signed into law by a Democrat President and a Republican congress, enabled states to refuse to recognise same sex marriages[2] and demonstrates the opposition to gay rights in donor countries. One in six homosexuals and bisexuals have been the victims of hate crime in the UK, with only one in ten cases resulting in a conviction demonstrating homophobic attitudes in the UK[3]. The lack of consensus in the West therefore makes it hard to morally justify the imposition of homosexual rights abroad.

[1] Gay Rights: Africa, the new frontier Chothia,F. 07/12/11

[2] Defence of Marriage Act

[3] Ellison,G., Gammon,A. & Guasp,A.  ‘The Gay British Crime Survey 2013’ Stonewall

Counterpoint 

While there are those who oppose gay rights in the West, there are many which support them and government policy does not have to run along the lines of consensus constantly. 2013 saw victories for gay marriage in the UK with the royal assent of the Marriage (same sex couples) Act [1] and in the USA with the removal of key elements of DOMA by the Supreme Court[2]. Those who still oppose homosexual rights are becoming the political periphery in these Western states. The current legislative success demonstrates that unity on same-sex rights is growing, and that it is not hypocritical to export this to the international stage.

[1] Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013’ Parliament of the United Kingdom 17/07/13

[2] US Supreme Court in historic rulings on gay marriage BBC 27/06/13

Title 
The reduction of aid will cause innocent people to suffer
Point 

A reduction of aid to Africa will likely affect the most vulnerable in society rather than the politicians who can adjust the law. The African continent shows signs of growth, but 40% of sub-Saharans live below the poverty line[1]. Cutting aid to states that criminalise homosexuality will increase poverty among individuals who have no influence over their government’s policy. This is an issue which both African states and African LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexuals, Transgender) groups agree upon[2]. Ahmed Lawan, a senator from Nigeria, argued that there needs to be more dialogue and diplomacy if the West is to convince them[3]. Should aggressive policies be used to leverage policy change, such as reducing aid, then African nations will be deterred from making pro-western changes to legislation. LGBT groups want donor countries to ensure that aid is distributed more evenly, and guarantee that aid directed towards human rights reaches homosexuals rather than cutting aid all together[4]. If aid is cut, it will serve to weaken ties between Africa and their donor countries, as well as worsen Human Development Indicators.

[1] Our Africa, ‘Poverty’

[2] Should donors rethink aid to states that persecute gay people? Ware,G. 25/01/12

[3] Ibid

[4] Should donors rethink aid to states that persecute gay people? Ware,G. 25/01/12

Counterpoint 

Reducing funds is an unfortunate, although necessary, mechanism for pressurising the political elite to legalise homosexuality. Africa’s democracies, such as Nigeria, have to be sensitive to the needs of their citizens. Even dictatorships have to maintain a grasp on the people’s will. Once the African population starts to feel the impact of reduced aid, the only viable way to remedy the situation will be to re-legislate on the same-sex issue.

Foreign aid struggles to reach those who need it the most anyway, with corruption in the Ugandan government (and the disappearance of £1.3 million) causing the UK to cut aid to Uganda in 2012[1]. The funding itself is then redirected away from African governments, but will reach those who need it the most through non-governmental organisations which will negate the suffering predicted by critics[2].

[1] BBC ‘UK cuts aid to Ugandan government’ 16/11/2012

[2] Gray,S. ‘Minister confirms UK will redirect aid, not cut it, for human rights violations’ Pink News 22/11/2011

Title 
Cultural Imperialism
Point 

Cultural Imperialism is the ‘the practice of promoting a more powerful culture over a least known or desirable culture’[1]. Culture provides an identity which is naturally coveted. Attempting to impose mainly Western, liberal values on Africa equates to a dilution of African culture. Globalisation has spread US culture throughout the world[2]. This has led many to lament the weakening of unique cultures, claiming that the USA is drowning out all cultures that do not agree morally with themselves[3]. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) stated ‘that respect for the diversity of cultures, tolerance, dialogue and cooperation, in a climate of mutual trust and understanding are among the best guarantees of international peace and security’[4].  Attempting to change Africa’s attitude towards homosexuality is an attempt to increase the influence of Western culture on the continent. These cultural ties to attitudes on homosexuality are so powerful that even strict Muslims and Christians are brought together on this issue[5]. To deprive Africans of their cultures and their morals is at odds with the UNESCO’s idea of maintaining cultural diversity throughout the world.

[1] Princeton ‘Cultural Imperialism’

[2] Ezema,I.J. ‘Globalisation, information revolution and cultural imperialism in Africa: Implications for Nigerian library and information professionals.’ University of Nigeria, Nsukka

[3] Cultural Imperialism Ekeocha, O. 08/09/13

[4] UNESCO ‘Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity’ 02/11/01

[5] Islam and Africa ‘Islam and Homosexuality’

Counterpoint 

Cultural Imperialism has major advantages to it as well. Culture and identity has been used throughout history as a tool for fuelling the flames of conflict, leading to the mass genocides such as that of Rwanda[1]. This aspect of culture incites hatred against those who might otherwise not be targeted, such as homosexuals.[2] The desire to stamp out such attitudes does not represent a diminishment of African culture simply a change. Similar attitudes were held in the west until recently. African culture has similarly changed in the past; the comparatively recent introduction of Christianity to much of the continent (the exception being Ethiopia) was such a change.

[1] RothKopf, D ‘In Praise of Cultural Imperialism’ in Foreign Policy, no. 107 (1997) pp.38-53

[2] Ibid

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defense_of_Marriage_Act

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