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Obama calls on Africa to give gays equal rights

SENEGAL — US President Barack Obama has called on African governments to give gay people equal rights by decriminalising homosexual acts.

Obama made the comments in Senegal after meeting President Macky Sall on the first leg of his African tour.

Sall said Senegal was a “very tolerant” country but it was “not ready to decriminalise homosexuality”.

Homosexual acts are still a crime in 38 African countries, where most people hold conservative religious views.

In 2011, the US and UK hinted that they could withdraw aid from countries which did not respect gay rights.

Obama said at a news conference that the issue did not come up in his discussions with Sall.

Nevertheless, he believed that while different customs and religions should be respected, the law should treat everybody equally, he said.

Obama welcomed the US Supreme Court’s decision yesterday to strike down a law that denied the recognition of same-sex marriages.

The ruling was a “victory for American democracy and a proud day for equal rights”, he said

Sall said Senegal was still not ready to change its laws, but that “does not mean we are homophobic”.

This is Obama’s third visit to Africa since he became president in 2008.

He is also due to travel to South Africa and Tanzania.

Africa had made “amazing” strides in achieving democracy, Obama said.

Senegal, a mainly Muslim country which has never been hit by a coup, was one of America’s “strongest partners” on the continent, he added.

“It’s moving in the right direction with reforms to deepen democratic institutions and as more Africans across this continent stand up and demand governments that are accountable and serve the people, I believe Senegal can be a great example,” Obama said. (BBC)

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