Archbishop Desmond Tutu opposed barbaric anti-LGBT+ laws with ‘same passion as apartheid’

Lifelong campaigner for human rights Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu compared anti-LGBT+ laws and violence to apartheid, insisting that he opposes them with the “same passion”.

Archbishop Tutu, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, spent his life campaigning for human rights. The activist and hero to millions tragically died on Sunday (26 December), aged 90.

South Africa’s president Cyril Ramaphosa described Tutu’s passing as “another chapter of bereavement in our nation’s farewell to a generation of outstanding South Africans who have bequeathed us a liberated South Africa”.

“Desmond Tutu was a patriot without equal; a leader of principle and pragmatism who gave meaning to the biblical insight that faith without works is dead,” he added. “We pray that Archbishop Tutu’s soul will rest in peace but that his spirit will stand sentry over the future of our nation.”

Desmond Tutu was a major opponent of South Africa’s apartheid system and worked for universal suffrage, equal rights for women in the Anglican Church and LGBT+ rights.

In a video for the United Nations Free and Equal campaign in November, the UN’s “global campaign against homophobia and transphobia”, Tutu said: “I have to tell you, I cannot keep quiet when people are penalised for something about which they can do nothing.

“First, gender. When women are excluded, just simply and solely because they are women.

“But more perniciously, more ghastly, is the fact that people are penalised, killed, all sorts of ghastly things happen to them, simply, solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“I oppose such injustice with the same passion that I opposed apartheid.”

The video was shared by LGBT+ Rights Ghana, one of the few groups advocating for the human rights of queer Ghanaians, whose members literally put their lives on the line.

The group celebrated “Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu [calling] for an end to punishing people because of who they are or whom they love”, a message particularly pertinent to the LGBT+ community in Ghana.

Public hearings began this month on the country’s Promotion of Proper Human Sexual Rights and Ghanaian Family Values Bill 2021.

While gay sex is already illegal in Ghana, the bill would go even further, targeting LGBT+ identity itself. It would specifically criminalise anyone is “lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, queer, pansexual, an ally, non-binary, or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female”.

All of those listed, even allies, could face three to five years in prison if found guilty of the crime, which would become a second-degree felony.

The bill would not only criminalise being LGBT+, but also every aspect of queer life, from affirming medical care to public displays of affection like holding hands.