BOSTON — While speaking to delegates at the African Union’s two-day summit, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged stronger protection of homosexual rights, BBC news reported.
More from GlobalPost: Ban Ki Moon tells African leaders to respect gay rights
Ban highlighted the detrimental nature of discrimination based on sexual orientation, which prompts, “governments to treat people as second class citizens or even criminals.”
Homosexuality itself is illegal in many African countries, including populous and strategically valuable western allies, such as Egypt and Nigeria.
More from GlobalPost: South Africa: Zulu king's 'gay slur' causes uproar
Citing the Arab Spring, Ban stressed that nations must listen to the will of their people or face the consequences:
"Events proved that repression is dead. Police power is no match to people power seeking dignity and justice"
Ban’s statements have been described as groundbreaking, due to the taboo attitudes toward sexual orientation in Africa.
Many world leaders and activists have been quite vocal about the lack of respect for the rights of the gay community in recent years.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking at Human Rights Day in Geneva last month, urged for nations around the globe to continue to defend gay rights.
“Being gay is not a Western invention,” Clinton stated. “It is a human reality.”
More from GlobalPost: Cameron plays politics with gay rights
Not all African leaders responded positively.
"If the Americans think they can tell us what to do, they can go to hell," said John Nagenda, an adviser to the Ugandan president, to the BBC.
Others have seen the rise in rhetoric from US diplomats as hypocritical: "In the US, gay marriages are not recognized in some states. So how does it expect other countries to listen to it?" UK-based Justice for Gay Africans campaign group co-ordinator, Godwyns Onwuchekwa said.
Some have cited the rising influence of US Christian evangelical lobbies in exacerbating hostile attitudes towards the gay community in African nations. Onwuchekwa stated: "The evangelical lobby is very powerful and we know that they lobbied Uganda's parliament in 2009 to introduce anti-gay legislation.”
More from GlobalPost: Obama backs global gay rights