Although South Africa has recognized same-sex marriages since the Civil Union Act in 2006, gay and lesbian relationships are the subject of significant controversy elsewhere in Africa. News reports in the past few days have addressed arrests of gay couples in Malawi, see Barry Bearak, “Same-Sex Couple Stirs Fears of a ‘Gay Agenda’” (NYT Feb. 14) and in Kenya, see Jeffrey Gettleman, “Kenyan Police Disperse Gay Wedding” (NYT Feb. 12). Last month, the New York Times covered legislation proposed in Uganda that would mandate life in prison for a defendant convicted of homosexuality and a death sentence in cases of “aggravated homosexuality.” See Jeffrey Gettleman, “Americans’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push” (including a link to the text of the proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009″), and “Gay in Uganda, and Feeling Hunted.” Under this legislation, “A person who purports to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex commits the offence of homosexuality and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.” These and other developments are followed by the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission as well as groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
UPDATE: The gay couple arrested in Malawi for celebrating their engagement were convicted of “unnatural acts and gross indecency” in May 2010. See Barry Bearak, “Gay Couple in Malawi Get Maximum Sentence of 14 Years in Prison.”