World leaders should tackle child abuse, not the gay community
It has always puzzled me why some men – particularly politicians – feel so passionate and punitive about gay men and lesbian women, and so indifferent and passive towards paedophiles and child abusers. I am not suggesting that these two sexual preferences should be lumped together. Gay lovers want to be left in peace to love (and maybe marry) each other. There is no evidence that they do any harm to anyone else or each other. Child abusers do enormous harm, and exist in much larger numbers than we realise. Russian President Putin, in a press conference on January 17th, called to try to deflect a possible stay-away from his Winter Olympics, made things worse by his warning to gays to “leave kids alone”. These words worried me and I waited in vain for one of the foreign journalists to ask him to clarify the statement- and correct it. If only Putin had used this opportunity to make the difference between gay people and child abusers clear he might have benefited from the best press of his life.
I am currently thanking God for a new Pope who is determined to cut out the dreadful canker of child abuse in the Catholic church but I am wondering how the same God does not direct some divine intervention in Nigeria, Uganda, and other countries whose governments are set on turning their countries into hell on earth for their lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people. I wish that Pope Francis had also used his opportunity at Davos on January 21st to challenge the “most influential people on earth” who were gathered there to focus on this problem, as well as economic
growth. What good is a mountain of money, and a gathering of the most powerful, if this planet is the least safe place in the universe to be a woman, a child, or gay?
Politicians are always driven by numbers, so could it be that presidents Goodluck Jonathan (Nigeria) and Yoweri Museveni (Uganda) believe that persecuting same-sex voters is a safe bet, politically, since there are probably very few of them on any voting roll? What on earth makes a female president (I am ashamed to say) like Joyce Banda, in Malawi, allow her government to be part of this dreadful African trend? It can only be fear of what her own supporters might think of her, if she dared to go against her male equals. What a blot on her quite promising start. What a stain on Malawi itself.
When any group is driven underground its numbers are very difficult to estimate. Their supporters, the family and friends who love them, are also frightened to stand up and be counted. As far as I know, no reliable surveys on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex people has been carried out in Africa and I don’t blame those who are for keeping quiet. But the silence on this subject is part of the problem that Africa has with dealing with it. Persecution of minorities, which the gay population of the world probably is, flourishes in silence. A recent survey of 15,000 people in the UK revealed that 8% of women have had sexual encounters with other women, up from 1.8% in 1991, though I believe that what this also indicates is a growing willingness to admit to it as well as a possible increase. Dictators love silence – they take it for consent.
The booing at Nelson Mandela’s funeral, which shamed and humiliated President Zuma, was the most effective way infuriated voters could have chosen to express their opposition. It was the opposite of silence. The current outcry and revolt in the Ukraine, partly over Russia’s attempt to stop them joining the EU, have made this country a no-go for Putin. If I were him I would be more concerned
about demos by the neighbours at the Winter Olympics, rather than stayaways from the rest of the world.
Money also talks to politicians, so is it China, famously anti-gay, who is telling these leaders what to do and say while promising to replace the aid that Western countries might remove in an attempt to protect Nigerian and Ugandan gays? Dr Sam Okuonzi, who chairs the Ugandan parliamentary committee on foreign affairs, certainly thinks so. He told the Mail and Guardian: ‘If we have to get aid, we can and will turn to countries that respect our values, such as China.’
But these are not values, Dr Okuonzi, these are prejudices, the product of hatred and fear. If you want to demonstrate your values, do something practical to protect your children and women from the real abusers in your society. Set up and subsidise structures to pursue and prosecute paedophiles, child abusers, sex traffickers and those who provide and practice child sex tourism. Remove them from positions of power and influence over young people in their care. Identify them visibly so that parents and children can shun them and live more safely. If necessary, put them in penal colonies like mass murderers. They do kill the souls and the futures of the children they abuse. They deserve to be locked up with each other and you wouldn’t have to worry about same-sex relationships. The last person a paedophile would fancy is another one.