Archbishop Desmond Tutu is calling for homosexuality to be decriminalized everywhere in an effort to fight HIV.
The South African activist says we must show ‘love and acceptance’ of gay people as the death tolls rise.
Tutu said anti-gay laws would be seen as wrong as the apartheid laws are now, and said both were a crime against God.
Writing in The Lancet, the 80-year-old said: ‘For I know in my heart, I know as all faith traditions teach, that there are no inferior people in his eyes.
‘No one deserves less of God’s love, less of his mercy, or less of his justice.’
The patron of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, based in Cape Town, said the country has a long way to go in providing HIV care.
He said: ‘LGBT people already have God’s full love and acceptance—they are his children too. But they need our acceptance, our love.
‘And to the extent that legal discrimination, those old laws and statutes that make them inferior still exist, it is up to all to work to change those laws.’
While South Africa may legally be the most progressive country in the continent on gay rights, this is under threat.
On the anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birthday, activists called for the African National Congress to stand up against the hatred and violence in the country.
In the last two months alone, there have been five confirmed and five unconfirmed murders of LGBT people.
Junior Mayema, a LGBT activist from group People Against Suffering Oppression and Poverty, told Gay Star News it was because people are treating gays as a convenient scapegoat for their anger.
He said: ‘It is just very sad; people are so illiterate, uneducated, and on drugs. They don’t know anything about their constitution or they just don’t have time to even read it. That is why they are targeting us because they don’t believe in human rights for all.’
Ndumie Funda, founder of Luleki Sizwe, a community based group that delivers help to lesbian victims of homophobic attacks and rape, said she would put pressure on the ‘so called government.’
She said: ‘LGBTI people! We need to unite and put differences aside, honestly, especially the organisations. We can’t life the life of ‘who comes next’.’
Genevieve Edwards, Director of Health Improvement at British HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said Tutu’s words are both moving and heartening.
‘If you spend your life being told you are a second class citizen, you have less motivation to take care of yourself and you’re more likely to take risks with your health,’ she said.
Tutu ended his comments by saying ‘God loves you as you are.’
He said: ‘He wants you to live and to thrive. So please take care of yourself, educate yourself about HIV, protect your partners, honor and cherish them.
‘And never let anyone make you feel inferior for being who you are. When you live the life you were meant to live, in freedom and dignity, you put a smile on God’s face.’