Statement by Melanie Nathan, Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition:
I am stunned to hear about the arrest of Jussie Smollett, and the indication by Chicago Police that there is enough evidence to indicate that the homophobic and racist attack that Smollett alleged occurred against him may in fact have been a hoax. What is more stunning is the allegation that he carried out this hoax to impact a higher salary for himself. I am devastated at the thought of how this could detrimentally impact the LGBTQI community. It is my hope that we can avert the harm with productive messaging.
I state categorically that African HRC vehemently condemns the actions of Mr. Smollett if proven to be true, while recognizing that there may be mental wellbeing issues yet to be explored and uncovered that could have led to his actions. This cannot serve to justify his actions in any way, though should be recognized in the event any apology may be forthcoming.
In condemning his actions I want to emphasize the following:
1) Mr. Smollett’s actions are those of an individual and not of a community – and hence the LGBTQI community should not be blamed or held accountable;
2) This insidious hoax by Mr. Smollett should not derogate from the fact that LGBTQI individuals experience discrimination, ostracization, stigma and violence, all concomitants of homophobia, both here in the United States and around the world, especially in the over 70 countries where homosexuality continues to be criminalized, including the 32 countries in Africa. Criminalization gives license to violence by both state and non-state actors. We call on all to join us to use this opportunity to call for the decriminalization of homosexuality worldwide; and
3) I am imploring upon the media and LGBTQI advocates to use this as an opportunity to highlight the real victims of such homophobia – rather than to focus on the actions of one man.
If you would like to hear about real genuine violence perpetrated against LG TQI people worldwide, our asylum and refugee caseload looms large. Feel free to reach out and feel free to donate to www.africanHRC.org/donate as we pursue our mission to safe shelter and advocate for the LGBTQI individuals in hiding, those seeking exile, refugees and asylum seekers.
African Human rights Coalition