The level of persecution against gay men and lesbians in much of Africa is on the increase, and Uganda seems to be a particularly nasty and ignorant place to be at the moment. The usual tired old lies come out, "It's unnatural" "It's a sin" "They corrupt children", and something you only hear in Africa "The white man brought this, it's not African". The last one is strange, as Catholic missionaries to what is now Uganda recorded the practice of the local kings of keeping attractive young men around them who they had sex with - so the "It's un-African" argument really doesn't stack up.
The rest are all lies - well, you can decide for yourselves on the "sin" aspect, depending on what you believe. But a lot of this very recent anti-Gay movement in many African countries is being driven by American Evangelical Christian Churches. They figure they've lost the battle in the USA, but they can try and win it elsewhere - and so they spread hate and lies about us, under the guise of religion. Needless to say, these churches are rich, and they use their financial resources to help get this message pushed into the population.
It really is amazing how much hostility any form of sexual difference can cause, or even the suspicion of it. Who knew we were so powerful? Why aren't we homos all running the world then? Something must have gone wrong with our planning...
But just put yourself in the shoes of any kind of gay man or lesbian in one of these countries, and imagine the daily fear you must live in. Everything we take for granted, our legal protections, the generally tolerant attitude of NZ society (No, it's not perfect, but it's better than most places). Even in South Africa, "the Rainbow Nation" which is officially gay-friendly in its constitution, social attitudes haven't changed. Gangs of men at times gang-rape lesbians to try and turn them straight.
In the old Eastern Block of Europe life is pretty hard if you're queer as well. They recently tried to hold a Gay Pride Parade in Serbia, but it ended in a riot, with neo-Nazis and others doing all they could to attack and stop it, supported by the Serbian Orthodox Church. Earlier this year we saw the same thing in Bulgaria. At least in Moscow there has been a small victory with the European Court of Human Rights throwing its support behind the Gay Pride group there and fining the city government.
It is pretty hard to imagine New Zealand ever regressing to such a state, but there are still haters out there, there are still people who think all queers are evil, dirty perverts. But we have been able to stand up to them and actually show the truth - we are not the monsters they try and make us out to be.
We are just humans, with all the same flaws and strengths as anyone else. And we deserve the same complete and automatic respect as human beings as anyone else does. We fought long and hard to get where we are now, and it's been worth it, but let's not forget what it's like in the rest of the world. We have our Human Rights enshrined in law because they matter - let's do what we can to help others get the same respect.