By Daisy Okoti
Published March 11, 2014
From Algeria to Zimbabwe, Morocco to South Africa, and Somalia to Senegal and all the other places in between, same gender sex is frowned upon as an aberration and an illness, an act of deviance calling for an antidote.
â€œHomosexuality is taboo across every single country in Africa â€“ and that is how it will remain. No president in Africa, other than Nelson Mandela who was still operating under the White Apartheid System can legalize â€˜gay rightsâ€™ and survive in office,â€ says Dida Halake, a Gambian national working in United Kingdom as Managing Director of the Daily Observer.
Halake, like many President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda who in 2014 passed into law a billâ€”The Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2014â€”criminalising homosexuality in the East African country, argues that the West should not impose its cultures on Africans just because it sends them â€˜development aidâ€™.
But who hasnâ€™t heard of the men who rape lesbians in South Africaâ€”despite the countryâ€™s most liberal constitution that recognizes same gender unionsâ€”believing that they are curing her from an illness? Print and electronic media, including documentaries, have reported on that practice.
Speaking to CNN, President Museveni reiterated that homosexuality cannot be legalised in Uganda because it is unnatural. He vowed not to bow to any external pressure pushing him against outlawing it.
In his response to US President Barrack Obamaâ€™s threat to withdraw donor aid from Uganda if the law criminalising same sex relations in Uganda was not repealed, Museveni told the US president to stop meddling in the private affairs of a sovereign state.
â€œRespect African societies and their values. If you donâ€™t agree, just keep quiet. Let us manage our society, and then we will see. If we are wrong, we will find out by ourselves just the same way we do not interfere with your affairs,â€ Museveni said.
And President Museveni is not the first African leader to criminalize homosexuality. Amid pressure from the West, some 38 countries in Africa, among them Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, Malawi, Zambia, Senegal, Cameroon and Algeria, have made the practice illegal.
President Macky Sall of Senegal is on record for having stood up against Obama, who during a visit to the West African country, said that all humans should have their human rights respectedâ€”including those who want to go into gay unionsâ€”regardless of their race, creed or sexual orientation.
â€œWe are not ready to decriminalize homosexuality,â€ Sall is reported to have responded.
Writing in New York Times, Adam Nossiter says gays and lesbians in Senegal are abused by police, beaten and sometimes tortured, with impunity. They are threatened by mobs, mocked on the front pages of newspapers and subjected to criminal prosecution for being gay. And the persecution is even more severe elsewhere in West Africa.
Bouraman Nâ€™Dour, a retired military officer in Senegal, supports the stand taken by Sall against Obama.
â€œHe [President Sall] did extremely well in standing up against President Obama. Nobody here can accept that [homosexuality]. We are absolutely staunch on it,â€ Nâ€™Dour tells Dave Bohon of The New American.
Technology may have made our world a â€˜global villageâ€™. But when some of the things that an African sees in the process of interacting with others do not sit well with oneâ€™s belief systems, cultures, traditions and realities, one retreats into oneâ€™s own â€˜African villageâ€™. And this appears to be the message being sent across by African leaders by refusing to recognise homosexuality in their countries.
Hardly surprising, is it?
African leadersâ€”Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Goodluck Jonathan Ebele of Nigeria, Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia, John Evans Atta Mills of Ghanaâ€”may be a bag of mixed fortunes to their people. But perhaps nothing seems to endear them more to the continent than their stand on â€˜gay rightsâ€™; they all appear to take a united stand: that â€˜same sexâ€™ relations threaten the family unit which is at the centre of not just societal development in Africa, but is the bedrock of the mother continent.
Voice of America appears to be right when it reports: â€œMany African countries inherited their anti-sodomy laws from colonial rulers. Some have since added stiffer penalties and sought to broaden the list of offenses.â€
Indeed that is the line Uganda used in hitting back at her former colonizer, Britain, when the latter threatened to withhold â€˜aidâ€™ to the latter after her anti-gay bill was signed into law.
And proponents of homosexuality in Africa appear to harm their cause even more by their open, defiantâ€”you must accept us; we are here!â€”behaviour that is backed by threatsâ€”blackmail?â€”by North American and Western European politicians to Africans most of whom draw their identityâ€”indeed, their very beingâ€”from their rural and traditional worldview.
Homosexuality cannot be banned on the grounds of being â€˜un-Africanâ€™ because it has been practised on the continent since time immemorial, advocates of â€˜gay rightsâ€™ may argue. Well, this may be true, but does it change the fact that the practice is â€˜un-culturalâ€™ in Africa?
â€œCulturally, we have no evidence that homosexuality is part of our culture. In the rare instances where an individual was known to have been homosexual, it was not a thing to be celebrated and it was hidden to protect and shield the rest of the community,â€ Chinwe Ohanele writes in Arise Africa.
There is no denying the fact that culture evolves to pave way to new ways of thinking and doing things. But is everything that is possible, right? Is everything that can be done, valid?