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Go slow on gay issues, global body cautioned

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By Tabu Butagira

Posted  Sunday, March 16   2014 at  20:28
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Kampala.

The Commonwealth should exercise caution while engaging its African members on the polarising homosexuality debate because it is a “sensitive” matter owing to cultural differences, a senior official has said.

Tanzania’s Foreign Affairs minister Bernard Membe, who chairs the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) responsible for monitoring the group’s adherence to political values on Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues, warned that “imposed Western cultural norms on the African continent or elsewhere is more likely to lack legitimacy and acceptance.”

“…the Commonwealth needs to go very slowly and carefully when it deals with the cultural norms and ideologies in the continent,” he said at a press conference in London on Friday.

This was in response to a journalist seeking the Commonwealth’s official position on the West’s sanctioning of Uganda over the anti-gays law and whether it shared President Museveni’s view point that homosexuality is a form of “social imperialism”.

No definite position
However, Commonwealth secretary-general Kamalesh Sharma, who was the first to answer the question, said the body had no agreed position on matters of sexual preferences and LGBTI.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that the Commonwealth opposes discrimination on any grounds and stands up for the principles of equality, non-discrimination, non-victimisation [and] non-criminalisation.”

The Commonwealth Secretariat’s communications director, Mr Richard Uku, originally convened the press conference to announce CMAG’s decision to suspend Fiji from the Council of Ministers of the Commonwealth instead of its full membership as prescribed under a previous penalty.
This is after the South Pacific Ocean Island country agreed to undertake electoral reforms ahead of the scheduled September ballot.