Former Australian tennis star Margaret Court has thrown her support behind an African country that has been accused of the horrific abuse and torture of gay people.
With the help of the Pentecostal church, where Court is a pastor, she and her husband Barry have assisted in establishing a consulate for Burundi in Perth, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
The east African country of Burundi is being investigated for “crimes against humanity”, with the United Nations accusing the government of persecuting homosexuals, abductions, torture, sexual violence and summary executions.
Court’s own views on homosexuality and the transgender community have resulted in significant backlash.
Margaret Court has received backlash for her controversial views on homosexuality. Picture: Morgan Hancock/Getty ImagesSource:Getty Images
During a sermon in December 2019 Court condemned transgender athletes, claiming young people should not change their assigned sex because “God made us that way”.
She went on to call young transgender Australians “so wrong” during the passionate sermon.
The ex-tennis star has also caused controversy in the past for her views on gay marriage and labelling homosexuality an “ungodly lust for the flesh”.
The establishment of the diplomatic office for Burundi was approved by the federal government and officially opened by the African nation’s First Lady, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza.
A video taken at an event to mark the opening of the consulate last year shows Court leading a prayer, saying she is thankful for the “bridging and coming together of these two nations”.
In the same video Barry Court, who was appointed honorary consul, seems to defend Burundi and the numerous accusations that have been levelled against it.
Margaret Court with Burundi’s First Lady Denise Bucumi. Picture: Victory Life Centre/FacebookSource:Facebook
“The place has changed a lot,” he said. “The economy is blossoming, and we can really help the people there. I’m quite enthusiastic about its future.”
Homosexuality is against the law in Burundi and under the law can be punished by up to two years in jail, though there are various reports of LGBTI people receiving even more horrific punishments.
An education policy was introduced to allow students to be expelled from school for their sexuality.
The allegations against the government means its President Pierre Nkurunziza can’t leave the country without risking arrest by the International Criminal Court.
A spokesman for the group Survivors and Victims of the Burundi Dictatorship, Pacifique Ndayisaba, said the introduction of the consulate in Australia was “very concerning”.
The consulate was opened last year. Picture: Victory Life Centre/FacebookSource:Facebook
“It is very concerning that a famous Australian lady would host and support a regime which kills people, discriminates against LGBTI people, and uses rape as a weapon,” Mr Ndayisaba told The Sydney Morning Herald.
A spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade told the publication that the consulate only had jurisdiction in Western Australia and Burundi was responsible for all costs.
“This is not a diplomatic appointment,” the spokesperson said.
Court’s controversial views on the LGBTI community were openly condemned by Tennis Australia in November.
“Tennis Australia does not agree with Margaret’s personal views, which have demeaned and hurt many in our community over a number of years,” Tennis Australia wrote in an open letter.
“They do not align with our values of equality, diversity and inclusion.
“Our sport welcomes everyone, no matter what gender, ability, race, religion or sexuality, and we will continue to actively promote inclusion initiatives widely at all levels of the sport.”
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