In its perceptions and ideologies, Africa finds itself in a storm of confusion regarding the topic of homosexuality and its history in African culture. The continent’s thoughts of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Intersex (LGBTI) community were as clear as day in the 2016 annual survey of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Association (ILGA). The survey measures public attitudes towards LGBTI people on every continent.
One of the questions asked was whether the same-sex desire is a western phenomenon and almost 50% of Zimbabwe respondents believed this to be true, Uganda had 54% and Nigeria had 51% respondents in the affirmative. South African research analyst, Gerbrandt van Heerden has taken a historical route in truly discussing the topic in his piece titled “Dispelling the Myth That Homosexuality is Un-African”.
Van Heerden’s piece takes a look at pre-colonial times before the west had infiltrated our way of life to uncover the vast homosexual tendencies our people exhibited. Pre-colonial Uganda was home to such trends, Kabaka (king) Mwanga of Buganda resorted to executing male subjects who objected to physical intimacy with him because of their new religion, Christianity.
Yet today one finds African officials such as Rebecca Kagada, Uganda’s Speaker of parliament who has since threatened to withdraw her country from the 138th Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly. The threat came as a cautionary measure should some nations push for the inclusion of LGBTI people in a declaration on migrants and refugees.
The Kenyan tribes of Kikuyu and Meru had special religious leaders known as, Mugawe who dressed like women and had recognized marriages amongst themselves. The Kenyan tribe of Kamba also allowed same-sex marriages amongst women in a bid to aid fertility. Ghana’s Ashanti kingdom during the 18th and 19th had male concubines; these were basically sex slaves who dressed and acted as women.
Despite all this evidence, some like Dr. Ezekiel Mutua, CEO of Kenya Films and Classification Board are willing to risk their jobs to prove otherwise. Dr. Mutau declared himself a defender of Africa’s morals and sexual decency. Just this year Kenyan film ‘Rafiki’ was the first to make it to the Canes Film Festival yet it was banned defiantly due to its unapologetic themes of a lesbian romance.
During Zimbabwe’s 37th independence celebrations, commissioner Petunia Chirisei stated,
“…you (Mugabe) took a firm stand against unbiblical, un-cultural, unacceptable practices which foreigners wish to impose on Africa.”
There is a scary yet clear indication of confusion about Africa’s past by Africans. It’s in how many African reject homosexuality based on its unculturedness yet, history seems to disagree. Of course, people are entitled to their own opinions and can choose how to perceive whatever situations as they wish but one cannot discard or alter history.
According to Bisi Alimi’s article;
“if you say being gay is not African, you don’t know your history!”
Yet Politicians all over the continent have been cashing in on votes by standing behind this homophobic stance because let’s face it…
“Across Africa, if you hate gay people, you get votes.”
The topic of sexuality is a sensitive one and ultimately hangs on the one’s free will; it has been used to manipulate people by leaders. Re-education on the topic would do more good than harm as this so-called ‘western phenomenon’ seems to have strong ties in Africa’s past.