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Tanzania Foreign Minister advises Commonwealth to move slow on gay rights in Africa

Tanzania Foreign Minister advises Commonwealth to move slow on gay rights in Africa

Tanzanian Foreign Minister Bernard Mbembe has advised that the Commonwealth should only try to make progress on LGBTI rights in member countries slowly as trying to impose them from outside may fail.

Mbembe made the comments Friday during a meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group which Membe chairs.

Mbembe had been responding to a question from a journalist who had asked him what the Commonwealth’s position was on the European Union and World Bank threatening Uganda with sanctions over its draconian anti-gay laws.

‘The question that you have asked that Uganda has dealt with last week is a matter that touches more on cultural values and the Commonwealth needs to go very slowly and very carefully when it deals with the cultural norms and ideologies in the continent,’ Mbembe said.

‘I think the Commonwealth will be hearing me say that any imposed Western cultural norm on the African continent or elsewhere is more likely to lack legitimacy and acceptance. Unless this matter is taken carefully and people become so sensitive when imposing such cultural differences and norms, we may not end up well in the continent when it comes to the debate on LGBTI.

‘Therefore, my call, again as the Chair, is we have to move slowly, carefully when we deal with the cultural norms and values in this globe.’

UN Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma also addressed the question.

‘On the matter of sexual preferences and LGBTI there is no agreed Commonwealth position, but 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 victimization, non criminalization,’ Sharma said.

‘However, it is for each member state to look to these principles and develop this internally as it befits them the most.

‘The other point I have made is that there is a legal question, if you like, of harmonizing your laws with your constitution and with your other international obligations. The Commonwealth is very clear on the values that are involved in this. It is also very clear that this is a matter of the member states themselves harmonizing their own national policies in order to be in consonance with Commonwealth values.’