Award winning calypso singer and human rights activist Harry Belafonte, best known for singing the Banana Boat Song (Day-O), has spoken out against the criminalization of LGBTI people around the world – calling for the US to reconsider the aid it sends to all governments of countries that criminalize homosexuality.
Belafonte made the comments in a column he co-wrote with amfAR Foundation for AIDS Research chair Dr Mathilde Krim in which they backed efforts to redirect aid away from the Ugandan Government to civil society and non-governmental organizations after it put new draconian anti-gay laws in place.
‘The passage of this blatantly discriminatory piece of legislation should fundamentally alter our relationship with Uganda, a country that receives close to $500 million annually from the US in foreign assistance, largely for HIV/AIDS programs,’ Belafonte and Krim wrote in the column, published by CNN yesterday.
‘To make its position abundantly clear, the U.S. should redirect its assistance for HIV/AIDS and other health and development concerns toward nongovernmental and civil society organizations working in Uganda.
‘Indeed, if protecting the human rights of gay people is in fact a priority of U.S. foreign policy, then we should re-examine our relationship with all countries receiving foreign aid and restructure our relations with those that criminalize homosexuality.’
Belafonte and Krim wrote that the US should not bow to African leaders who said equal rights for LGBTI people were a foreign import.
‘Opprobrium from the US and other nations is greeted by Uganda's leaders with a familiar refrain: Stop trying to impose your values on us,’ Belafonte and Krim wrote.
‘But the United States is as entitled as any nation to espouse a set of values, and if those values enshrine the right of all people to be treated with dignity and respect, then we should make every effort to export them.’
Belafonte and Krim also expressed their alarm at the affect Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Law would have on the fight against HIV in the country.
‘Apart from being a flagrant abuse of human rights, the new law will severely impede the efforts of any organization conducting HIV prevention and outreach programs serving gay men in Uganda,’ they wrote.
‘Gay men, other men who have sex with men, and transgender individuals are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS - in Uganda and the world over. Driving a community that is already stigmatized further into the shadows will seriously undermine progress on the global epidemic, progress that depends on reaching the most vulnerable populations.’
Belafonte is a trustee for amfAR and has a long history of human rights activism alongside his musical career.
He was a grand marshal of the New York City Gay Pride march in June of 2013 alongside DOMA case plaintiff Edie Windsor.