IBM’s Deep Blue was a chess-playing computer that achieved remarkable success in 1997 when it defeated the world champion Gary Kasparov in 19 moves. Kasparov had never lost a match to a human in under 20 moves. He managed to beat Deep Blue in the next games but was again defeated the following year after Deep Blue received an upgrade—and the unofficial nickname “Deeper Blue”. This was a landmark moment in artificial intelligence, but at no point was the genius chess machine deemed worthy of “rights”. Although theoretically able to visualize 200 million chess positions per second, Deep Blue had limited general abilities and could not work on other tasks beyond what it was programmed to do—such as playing chess, in this case.
In a new burst of African homophobia, Mr. Paul Evans Aidoo, a government minister in Ghana, has drawn much national support and international condemnation after calling on the country’s intelligence services to round up Ghana’s gay population. The move by the minister follows months of campaigning by the Christian Council of Ghana calling on Ghanaians not to vote for any politician who believes in the rights of homosexuals in the upcoming elections. The comments from the National Democratic Congress (NDC) politician come in the feverish run-up to the 2012 elections and have drawn wide support from political, religious and social leaders throughout the country, such as representatives of both the Christian as well as the Muslim clergy.
Currently, Ghana’s constitution does not extend human rights or legal protection based on sexual orientation. In fact, its criminal code contains a clause prohibiting “unnatural carnal knowledge”. This ambiguous phrase reflects a pervasive homophobia cultivated across the whole society. Even Ghana’s usually fairly vocal human rights activist community seems complacent. Amnesty International Ghana Director Laurence Amesu is refusing to take a position on the law, just like Richard Quason, the deputy commissioner of the Ghana Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice.
The lifestyles of gay, lesbian, bisexuals and transgender people are currently listed as criminal in 38 African countries. The call from Mr Aidoo thus marks only the latest in a series of expressions of officially condoned homophobia across the continent.
Promising news from Uganda: the parliament has adjourned without debating a controversial bill that would have mandated life prison for homosexual acts and the death penalty for ‘aggravated’ cases. The move to wipe the draft laws from the agenda came amid mounting pressure from governments and citizens around the world. Bills not completed in the old parliament must be resubmitted to be considered. The fight isn’t over yet, but last week’s developments may prove to be a critical milestone for gay rights in Africa.
We have offered regular coverage of this issue:
- You Can Run – Or You Can Hide recounts the assassination of gay rights campaigner David Kato Kisule and how homophobia in Uganda has grown even stronger in the wake of the murder.
- Many western media outlets and human rights groups have failed to provide a proper context for understanding this new wave of homophobia. Gay Rights (and Wrongs) in Africa analyzes the complex cultural and political factors that underpin anti-gay fervor.
This is a cross-post from the Lowy Institute’s blog, The Interpreter.
If you had to choose between human rights and governance, which one would you pick? Most might go for human rights, but when it comes to the internet, that would be the wrong answer.
In February, the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) held its last preparatory meeting before the 2011 annual meeting, due to take place in Nairobi. The IGF was created following the UN World Summit on Information Society (WSIS) held in Tunis in 2005. The summit was an attempt to internationalise internet governance and make it more open.
The summit had four principal goals: ensuring the access, openness, development and security of the internet. The WSIS attempted to shape a new form of internet governance, that would give more power to international organisations and less power to the private sector organisations like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). Since no agreement was reached in Tunis, UN member states agreed to mandate the IGF to continue discussions on internet governance.
On 26 January of this year, David Kato Kisule, a prominent gay rights campaigner from the east African nation of Uganda, was beaten to death with a hammer in his house near the country’s capital of Kampala, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine which had published his name and photograph identifying him as gay and calling for him to be executed.
The story goes back to October of last year, when a weekly Ugandan tabloid newspaper, the Rolling Stone (with no affiliation to the iconic American music magazine), published the names and photos of 100 suspected homosexuals next to a banner that read “hang them”, which led to those listed being singled out, threatened, attacked, and – as in the case of Kato – killed.
Kato’s funeral was held on 28 January in Nakawala. Tears flowed as family members and human rights activists wailed. A statement from President Barack Obama was read, condemning the killing and urging authorities to bring swift justice. However, the presiding Anglican pastor shocked the mourners when he called on gays to repent or else be “punished by God” and made comparisons to Sodom and Gomorrah, before the bereaved managed to grab the microphone from him. During the resulting scuffle, the onlooking villagers, refusing to bury Kato within their parish, sided with the preacher.