Death Penalty, Gay Rights Tell You Lots About Women’s Rights

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If you look closely at the data, there are 14 African countries where the death penalty has been formally abolished. Of these, four also have either a tolerant official attitude toward gay people, or their laws recognise gay rights; South Africa, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, and Rwanda. In other words, the chances that an African country with a liberal attitude toward gays also has the death penalty is 28.5 per cent. However, the chances that a country that doesn’t have a tolerant attitude towards gays also has the death penalty is 50 per cent.

My sense, then, is that are more likely to be hanged for treason (another word for being anti-government) in an African country that has laws against gay relationships, than one that doesn’t.

Equally, women’s rights are still in the dog house in many African countries. That said, an African country, Rwanda, has the world’s highest representation of women in Parliament.

The top four countries with the highest representation of women in Parliament on our continent are:

1.Rwanda with 49 per cent.
2. South Africa with 35 per cent.
3. Uganda with 31 per cent.
4. Burundi also with 31 per cent
5. Tanzania at 30 per cent.

Of these five, three (or 60 per cent) – South Africa, Burundi, and Rwanda – have liberal laws or historically more benign attitudes toward same sex relationships, recent hardline shifts notwithstanding.

I know I am skating on slippery ground here, but I would hazard that one good way to figure out if an African country has a high level of representation for women in official public life, is to check its attitude toward gays. If it is liberal, then most probably it has a lot of women in its parliament and senior positions in government.
The other, admittedly better, indicator is whether the country is in East Africa. Of the five countries in Africa with the highest number of women in their parliaments, a record four are members of the East African Community. The East African laggard, in this regard is Kenya, but in 2012 when a legion of women are nominated and selected to the Parliament and the new Senate under the new constitution that was passed in August, it will leap nearer to the top.


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