'Very concerning': Margaret Court's controversial move for anti-gay country

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Margaret Court is once again at the centre of controversy after she reportedly helped set up a consulate in Perth for an African country where homosexuality is illegal.

According to Nine Newspapers, Court recently played a role in setting up a consulate for the east African Republic of Burundi in the West Australian capital.

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Court and husband Barry reportedly got approval from the Federal Government to use their Pentecostal church to establish the consulate, which only has jurisdiction in Western Australia and will be completely funded by Burundi.

Burundi has been at the centre of major controversy in recent years, with the UN accusing the regime’s government of crimes against humanity such as the persecution of gays, torture, sexual violence and executions.

Video uploaded to YouTube shows Court praying for the “bridging of these two nations” at the opening of the consulate last year.

Margaret Court looks on during a Tennis Hall of Fame ceremony at the Australian Open. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

The consulate was formally opened by first lady of Burundi, Denise Bucumi Nkurunziza.

However president of Burundi and Nkurunziza’s husband Pierre was not able to attend because of fears he would be arrested by the International Criminal Court if he left Burundi.

In the video Barry Court defends the Burundi consulate.

“The place has changed a lot,” he says.

“The economy is blossoming, and we can really help the people there. I’m quite enthusiastic about its future.”

Nkurunziza's 14 years in power have been marked by accusations of violence and rights abuse.

Election-related unrest in 2015 left 1200 people dead, drove 400,000 from their homes and sparked an inquiry by the International Criminal Court.

“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,” Pacifique Ndayisaba, a spokesman for the ‘Survivors and Victims of the Burundi Dictatorship’ group, told Nine Newspapers.

Barry and Margaret Court watch on at the Australian Open in January. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Tennis legends fed up with Margaret Court

Court has also been the source of major controversy in recent years with her criticism of same-sex marriage and similar conservative views.

Trailblazing tennis legend Billie Jean King recently declared she'd turn down the volume of her criticisms of her one-time Australian rival - but she wants Court to change her tune on the LGBT community.

Two years ago, King called for the renaming of the Australian Open's Margaret Court Arena after Court said tennis is “full of lesbians” and spoke out against transgender youth.

King said her response got under the 77-year-old's skin.

“She's mad at me, because she doesn't want me to say her name should be removed,” King told the New York Daily News.

“And I appreciate that. I'm going to stop probably.”

But she added she wants Court to be “more loving.”

Fellow American greats Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe voiced their displeasure with Court last month, staging a protest at the Australian Open.

The two held up a sign that said: "Evonne Goolagong Arena" in colourful typeset, pushing for the renaming of the court for the seven-time Grand Slam winner.

with agencies