top2.gif - 6.71 K

It's a Gay World:
Pros and Cons

By Jesse Monteagudo

snujomanabmibia.jpg - 5.82 K President Sam Nujoma: Namibian leader wants gays murdered Recently the president of Namibia, Sam Nujoma, made the headlines around the world when he declared war on his country's lesbians and gay men. Speaking at the University of Namibia (March 19), President Nujoma declared that "The Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality [or] lesbianism here. People are ordered to arrest you, and deport you and imprison you too."

On April 1st, in a speech delivered at Okahao in the Omusati region, Nujoma renewed his attack: "Traditional leaders, governors, see to it that there are no criminals, gays and lesbians in your villages and regions. . . . We . . . have not fought for an independent Namibia that gives rights to botsotsos [criminals], gays and lesbians to do their bad things here." He also urged Namibians not to sleep with foreigners, who he said brought AIDS and other illnesses into their country.

Namibia is a Southern African nation which, as South-West Africa, was ruled by South Africa during most of the last century. However, unlike South Africa, which repudiated its apartheid past and now guarantees equal rights to its gay population, Namibia seems mired in prejudice.

Nujoma's antigay rhetoric dates back to 1996, when he declared that "homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society." Last year Home Affairs Minister Jerry Ekandjo urged newly-graduated police officers to "eliminate" gays and lesbians "from the face of Namibia." Not to be outdone, Nujoma's own party, the South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO), solemnly declared homosexuality to be a byproduct of Western colonialism.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the world, the Netherlands continue to blaze a trail for lesbians and gay men. On April 1st three gay and one lesbian couple gathered at Amsterdam's City Hall to become the first same-sex couples to receive official sanction in the Netherlands or, indeed, anywhere else.

Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen presided in what was the culmination of a 15-year campaign that won equal rights for same-sex couples. "In the Netherlands, we have gained the insight that an institution as important as marriage should be open to everyone," said Cohen. dutchbrides.jpg - 10.51 K Dutch Wedding: A lesbian couple legally marries in the Netherlands
Photo: By Rex Wockner

Though the religious parties and the Roman Catholic Church remain opposed to lesbian and gay equality, more than 75% of the Dutch population supports the equal rights bill.

Between Namibia and the Netherlands are most of the world's nations, including the United States of America. Each country deals with its lesbian and gay population in its own way, depending on its religious tradition, social customs and political structure.

Though no American president would dare attack us with the virulence of Namibia's Nujoma, neither would he espouse the rights of same-sex couples like the Dutch government did. All things considered, and taking all 50 states into account, the status of LGBT rights in the United States lags behind Western Europe, Canada, Australia and Israel but is ahead of Eastern Europe, the Arab World, Latin America, Asia and Africa.

Americans are a self-centered and insulated nation. We are only interested in other countries when we send them troops or Matt Lauer. On the other hand, what happens in the United States is of great concern to the rest of humanity.

Though foreigners resent American arrogance and are appalled by such aspects of American jurisprudence as our sodomy laws and our death penalty, they are fascinated by our culture. The American way of gay life is copied by queers from Tokyo to Kiev.

Gay bars from Oslo to Buenos Aires have American names and play American music. Queers from all over the world yearn to visit American resorts and interact with American men and women, even if by doing so they often break American laws.

LesBiGay rights around the world remain in a state of flux, as any reader of Rex Wockner's "International News Report" (my favorite source for international news) knows.

If there's anything that American queers can learn from our gay, gay world, it's that our overall situation is better than some and worse than others.

Related Articles from the GayToday Archive:
Namibian President Calls for Violence Against Gays

On the Spot at the World's First Legal Same-Sex Marriages

African Leaders Attack Gays, Ignoring Wars, Disease

Related Sites:
International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission

GayToday does not endorse related sites.

Certainly we cannot compare with the progressive democracies of northern Europe, which abolished sodomy laws decades ago, considered civil-partner legislation long before Vermont did so and had the wit to send their religious fanatics across the ocean.

But we don't have to fear for our lives like our brothers and sisters in Namibia or Somalia, not to mention those who live under Afghanistan's Taliban regime. Even countries like Australia and Brazil, which we think of as havens of gay sexual freedom, have a lot of work to do before their LGBT populations achieve true equality.

Lesbians and gay men from all over the world have learned much from the gay American experience. By the same token, we in the United States can and must learn much from our brothers and sisters abroad.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer who lives in South Florida with his domestic partner. He can be reached at

bannerbot.gif - 8.68 K
© 1997-2001 BEI