‘Homosexuality is un-African’
Am I the only one tired of this one argument used against homosexuals in many African countries?
This has been a very sensitive topic in Africa. Whenever any foreign leader talks about LGBT rights in Africa, the whole issue of the ‘Western agenda’ comes up. I remember when former US President Obama came to Kenya and many people kept on saying he should not talk about their rights here because it is not for us.
The laws against the homosexuals are becoming stricter in Africa, the rhetoric of African leaders is becoming more strident, the culture of the African community is becoming more homophobic, and, despite the debate and the amount of information being provided on this topic, the people are becoming more ignorant.
In March 2012 on BBC’s Hard Talk, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni said “Homosexuals in small numbers have always existed in our part of black Africa… They were never persecuted. They were never discriminated.”
The Langi of Uganda had the ‘mudoko dako’ who were effeminate males treated as women and could marry men. It’s also known that Kabaka Mwanga II of the Buganda tribe in Uganda was gay. The evidence exists to support the statement made by President Museveni and yet he went ahead and signed the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014.
He claims that the western world has made it okay to celebrate the homosexuals in our communities and act like what they do is normal and acceptable which was not the case in African communities. He says they existed but people paid them no mind. How does that then lead Museveni signing a bill making it acceptable to persecute people for their sexual preference? Something that was not punishable in the African cultures he spoke of.
According to a report by Sexual Minorities Uganda, “The passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act has given permission to a culture of extreme and violent homophobia whereby both state and non-state actors are free to persecute Uganda’s LGBTI people with impunity.” The rise of homophobic incidents went up from 750% to 1900% in comparison to previous years.
The point is, homosexuality existed in some African communities throughout the continent and claiming that it is a western thing is very ignorant. They could exist in the community without the fear of being harassed but that is not the reality today. They face violence in many forms including what people call corrective rape.
The un-African thing is the homophobia. Homophobia was brought into Africa by the missionaries and colonizers who made it illegal through the constitutions they implemented. But our leaders condemn the LGBT community talking about ‘our culture’ did not tolerate it when it’s far from that.
The other common argument about homosexuals in Africa and the reason people are against it is the fact that the Bible and Quran say it is wrong. People will quote them every time mentioning Sodom and Gomora, Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve and so on. But weren’t these religions also not part of your tradition, weren’t they brought in by foreigners?
And it not just Uganda, but homosexuality is still a crime in 38 African countries. In Nigeria for instance, LGBT people can either be stoned to death according to Sharia Law followed by the mainly Muslim north or get 14 years in prison if convicted in the mostly Christian south. In Kenya, it has been illegal since 1897 when it was the East Africa protectorate with a punishment of 5 to 14 years imprisonment.
South Africa remains the only country in Africa to date to legalize same sex marriage. Same sex couples can adopt children jointly and also use IVF and surrogacy treatments. That does not mean that it brought an end to homophobic violence and social stigma but it’s still a step in the right direction.
When people claim it is un-African, what exactly do they mean by it? Is there one specific African culture that we are all a part of? Africa is a continent made up of 54 countries and in these countries there are many different ethnic groups. In Kenya alone, there about 42 different tribes which have their own cultural practices. Therefore we cannot claim that homosexuality is un-African because different communities had different practices so there is no blanket African way about it.
I’ll just say this again, as much as we claim homosexuality is un-African it’s clear that homophobia is the un-African aspect. And using the argument that it is a western influence on our society is just ignorant.
What are your thoughts on this?
Here are some videos. President Museveni talks about homosexuality at 11:00 in the first video: