Africa: “Seeds of hope” for gay rights in Africa, says special US envoy

Southern Africa is moving towards greater acceptance of sexual and gender minorities though there is still a long way to go, the US first special envoy for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people said. Randy Berry, an openly gay senior diplomat, was speaking at the end of a 10-day visit to Malawi, Namibia, Botswana and South Africa.

“I believe in all of these countries, there are seeds of hope,” Berry said, speaking from South Africa.  “With government representatives, I found them to be sensitive to the issues, wanting to engage very clearly... After these consultations, I am quite hopeful.”

Berry said he was encouraged by governments’ willingness to discuss the issue and to give LGBT groups space to operate. “The fact that we can actually have a rational, coherent, quiet conversation is really important,” he said. “The problem we face in a global sense is one of ignorance and non exposure.”

Many Africans, particularly religious leaders, argue that decriminalising homosexuality would be akin to promoting it and that it goes against their traditions and culture. Being gay “is not a learned behaviour. It is not somehow produced by external forces. This is how people are born,” Berry said. Read more via EWN