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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In Gay Cameroonian Grant, Room For European Redemption and Reflection

By Andrew Belonsky -

Europe and Africa have a tumultuous relationship, to say the least. Now, with colonialism in the past, the European Union appears to be making amends, and their efforts include a grant to an LGBT group in Cameroon.
While the move's certainly a step in the right direction -- and something of a redemption for Europe -- it should also provide the impetus for the Union to start a collective process of self-reflection
Cameroonian citizens are currently railing against the European Union, which this week finalized a 300,000 Euro grant to Association for the Defense of Homosexuals in an effort to fight discrimination and homophobia in the African nation.
Though Cameroon's LGBT population certainly welcomes the news, government officials aren't so gay about the lavender largesse. Cameroon's external affairs minister, Henri Eyebe Ayissi, blasted the Union's efforts, "The people of Cameroon are neither ready nor willing to go towards the development of these (sexual) practices on their territory."
On the one hand, this grant may be seen as something of a redemption for the European Union, many of whose members were instrumental in the colonial era scramble for Africa -- founding members France and then-West Germany both stakes a claim to Cameroon -- which, in addition to wreaking economic and cultural havoc, helped import homophobia, and indeed the concept of homosexuality itself, onto the continent.
The EU's making up for past sins, sure, but what about their present-day mistakes, like funding anti-gay Ghanaian activist Bernice Sam's organization, Women in Law and Development, in their fight against equality?
Meanwhile, back in Europe, some Union member countries continue to enforce, or at least tacitly condone, anti-gay attitudes, and marriage equality remains mired in complication.
In Poland, for example, officials for years banned gay pride, and the EU's currently debating whether or not to grant membership to Turkey, where homophobic discrimination's still a legal reality, a clear violation of the Treaty of Amsterdam, a document that mandates member countries enact anti-discrimination laws.
Certainly the European Union deserves applause for helping Cameroon's LGBT communities, but that celebration must be balanced with firm, clear pressure for the EU to start practicing what they preach.


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