Diriye Osman: ‘We have a moral duty to speak out’

We’re up in arms about Russia, but anti-gay policies are rife in Africa, says the acclaimed writer of ‘Fairytales for Lost Children’

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James Baldwin once stated that ‘ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have’. I kept coming back to this quote in light of the repugnant anti-gay policies currently being implemented, not just in Russia, but also in Nigeria and Uganda.

Playing the tough guy has its perks. President Putin knows this. By passing a law designed to suppress any form of ‘gay propaganda’, he is playing to the tune of not just pro-Kremlin acolytes but a vast section of the Russian population, who remain vehemently homophobic. Meanwhile, African countries like Nigeria and Uganda are crawling with covertly US fundamentalist-backed Christian missionaries clamouring to promote anti-gay hatred as a vital component of religious salvation.

The Nigerian House of Representatives recently passed a raft of punitive measures which outlaw gay activism, gay marriage and same-sex public displays of affection – actions that carry prison sentences of ten to 14 years. Things are even worse in northern Nigeria, where Sharia law means that gay sex can carry the death penalty.

As a gay man of Somali descent who has experienced homophobic oppression within his own community, I think of the young gay children growing up in a culture that opposes their very existence – how those children are forced to become hideously conflicted between their own nature and the way they’re nurtured.

This is why I write.

To paraphrase the late, great Chinua Achebe, as writers we are citizens of the world. As such, we have a moral duty to speak out against inequality – no matter which dehumanizing form it takes.

Fairytales For Lost Children’, Diriye Osman’s short story collection, is published by Team Angelica Press on Sun Sep 1.

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