American President Barack Obama’s public support for same-sex marriage has sparked criticism in sub-Saharan Africa, where gay men and women continue to face discrimination, violence and jail time in many countries because of their sexual orientation.

Authorised gay marriages

President Barack Obama’s endorsement for gay marriage has prompted debate in the United States and condemnation in many sub-Saharan African countries.

Disappointment

The president’s immense popularity on the continent is taking a hit, even in his father’s native Kenya, says Nairobi resident Vincent Ondera.

“President Obama, I just can’t imagine that he supports gay marriage. Why do I say so? In fact, I’m very much bitter with him, the president of the USA supporting gay marriage? Lesbian? No, it can’t happen”

Homosexual acts are illegal in many sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya. Openly gay individuals on the continent face imprisonment, discrimination and physical violence.

Role of religion

Many Africans, like Kenyan pastor Nelson Otieno, cite religion as the source of disdain for gay marriage.

“I would say to our beloved president of America to rethink about the statement that he made and know very well that it is against our religion; we as Christians, we cannot support gays at all costs,” said Otieno.

In Senegal, which is 95 percent Muslim, angry mobs have dug up the corpses of suspected homosexuals from Muslim cemeteries before dragging them through the streets and depositing them at their families’ doorsteps.

A housekeeper in Dakar, Sokhna Fall, says marriage between two people of the same gender would sully this country and endanger its prosperity. Islam says marriage can only be between a man and a woman, she says. Senegal is a Muslim country that has always known peace and unity and she says they cannot allow homosexuality to destabilize it.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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