Homophobia reportedly widespread in UK African communities

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According to Mambo, the African healthier lifestyle magazine published by Terrence Higgins Trust, hostile attitudes towards gay men and lesbians within UK African communities is on the rise.

The current edition of the magazine reveals the experiences of gay men and lesbians in UK African communities, where people can experience lifelong victimisation, abuse and discrimination based on misguided beliefs about homosexuality.

Discriminating against gay, lesbian or trans people is a crime in the UK, but despite this, non-heterosexual Africans often suffer serious abuse, verbal and physical assault within their own community. Some are even disowned by their family. As a result of such hostile attitudes, very few gay Africans have the courage to be open about their sexuality.

In a press release from THT, Joseph Ochieng, editor of Mambo, said: “Being forced to hide your sexuality can have serious health and social consequences, not just for the individual, but also for the wider African community.

“People who are subjected to abuse and ridicule can feel isolated and find it hard to cope emotionally, losing self-confidence or the ability to forge meaningful relationships. These people are vulnerable to sexual exploitation as well as sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.”

In the current edition of the magazine, award-winning journalist Sorious Samora describes his shock at the levels of prejudice he found towards gay people during his visit to east and central Africa to film his documentary, Africa’s Last Taboo, for Channel 4’s Dispatches programme. He says that homophobia is actually being encouraged by religious leaders, the very people who should be promoting tolerance and understanding.

Joseph Ochieng said: “Thankfully in the UK we don’t have the same draconian legislation against homosexuality that some countries on the African continent do, but with homophobia on the rise here, UK Africans need to realise that being gay is not immoral and that homosexuality is not something you either learn or acquire.Tackling homophobia is everybody’s responsibility. It’s crucial that no one is made to suffer discrimination and abuse on the grounds of sexuality.”