As a straight person, and as a Christian I believe that homosexuality is wrong. However, that does not give me the right to discriminate against gays in the workforce or anywhere else. My past experiences with gay men have been both positive and negative. The positive experiences have been due to the fact that the men in question were always professional, the negative was due to the fact that the men in question put their sexuality over and above their professional beings. The most insulting of these men was one with long hair – enough to say that he left a sour taste in my mouth when I had to deal with him. That was definitely not the case with the other men that I have dealt with during my professional career.
However, when I read a story like this one, I have to object to what took place, and not only object, I find it necessary to speak up on behalf of the gay men who fear for their lives.
THIES, Senegal (AP) — Even death cannot stop the violence against gays in this corner of the world any more.
Madieye Diallo’s body had only been in the ground for a few hours when the mob descended on the weedy cemetery with shovels. They yanked out the corpse, spit on its torso, dragged it away and dumped it in front of the home of his elderly parents.
The scene of May 2, 2009 was filmed on a cell phone and the video sold at the market. It passed from phone to phone, sowing panic among gay men who say they now feel like hunted animals.
“I locked myself inside my room and didn’t come out for days,” says a 31-year-old gay friend of Diallo’s who is ill with HIV. “I’m afraid of what will happen to me after I die. Will my parents be able to bury me?”
A wave of intense homophobia is washing across Africa, where homosexuality is already illegal in at least 37 countries.
In the last year alone, gay men have been arrested in Kenya, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. In Uganda, lawmakers are considering a bill that would sentence homosexuals to life in prison and include capital punishment for ‘repeat offenders.’ And in South Africa, the only country that recognizes gay rights, gangs have carried out so-called “corrective” rapes on lesbians.
The crackdown also coincided with spiraling food prices. Niang says political and religious leaders saw an easy way to reach constituents through the inflammatory topic of homosexuality.
“They found a way to explain the difficulties people are facing as a deviation from religious life,” says Niang. “So if people are poor — it’s because there are prostitutes in the street. If they don’t have enough to eat, it’s because there are homosexuals.”
Imams began using Friday sermons to preach against homosexuality.
“During the time of the Prophet, anytime two men were found together, they were taken to the top of a mountain and thrown off,” says Massamba Diop, the imam of a mosque in Pikine and the head of Jamra, an Islamic lobby linked to a political party in Senegal’s parliament.
“If they didn’t die when they hit the ground, then rocks would be thrown on them until they were killed,” says Diop, whose mosque is so packed during Friday prayer that people bring their own carpets and line up outside on the asphalt.
Sermons like Diop’s were carried on the mosque’s loudspeakers as well as in Senegal’s more than 30 newspapers and magazines.
Around this time, in May 2008, a middle-aged man called Serigne Mbaye fell ill and died in a suburb of Dakar.
His children tried to bury him in his village but were turned back from the cemetery because of widespread rumors that he was gay. His sons drove his body around trying to find a cemetery that would accept him. They were finally forced to bury him on the side of a road, using their own hands to dig a hole, according to media reports.
The grave was too shallow and the wind blew away the dirt. When the decomposing body was later discovered, Mbaye’s children were arrested and charged with improperly burying their father.
In the town of Kaolack three months later, residents exhumed the grave of another man believed to be gay. In November 2008, residents in Pikine removed a corpse from a mosque of another suspected homosexual and left it on the side of the road.
The grave-robbing has shocked even hardened gay activists, such as Nigerian Davis Mac-Iyalla.
“People have done horrible things (in Nigeria). I have seen people spit on coffins and people spit on graves,” he said. “But it stopped there.”
Among the people who appeared in the photograph published from the gay wedding was a young man in his 30s from Thies. He was an activist and a leader of a gay organization called And Ligay, meaning ‘Working together,’ which he ran out of his parents’ house.
He was HIV-positive and on medication.
When the tabloid published the photograph, Diallo went into hiding, according to a close friend who asked not to be named because he too is gay. Unable to go to the doctor, Diallo stopped taking his anti-retrovirals. By the spring of 2009, he was so ill that his family checked him into St. Jean de Dieu, a Catholic hospital in downtown Thies, says the friend.
He was in a coma when he died at 5:50 a.m. on May 2, 2009, according to the hospital’s records. Although the hospital has a unit dedicated to treating HIV patients, the young man’s family never disclosed his illness, according to the doctor in charge.
Several gay friends tried to see Diallo in the hospital but were told to stay away by his family, says the friend.
When the AP tried to speak to Diallo’s elderly father at his shop on the main thoroughfare in Thies, his other children demanded the reporter leave. One sister covered her face and sobbed. Another said, “There are no homosexuals here.”
Hours after he died, his family took Diallo’s body to a nearby mosque, where custom holds the corpse should be bathed and wrapped in a white cloth. Before the family could bathe him, news reached the mosque that Diallo was gay and they were chased out, says the dead man’s friend. His relatives hastily wrapped him in a sheet and headed to the cemetery, where they carried him past the home of Babacar Sene.
“A man that’s known as being a homosexual can’t be buried in a cemetery. His body needs to be thrown away like trash,” says Sene. “His parents knew that he was gay and they did nothing about it. So when he died we wanted to make sure he was punished.”
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