Accepting homosexuality in Africa: Myth or reality? by Chofor Che, 8 August 2012

08 Aug

Homosexuality remains a controversial issue in our world today. This is worse in Africa and many are prosecuted for this. Why shouldn’t we all be gay(happy) and let gays be?

I shared this concern with several friends on the professional network, LinkedIn. The reaction i got was interesting, some of which i have shared below. The discussion is still ongoing and this page is updated on an ongoing basis.

Robby Clement Mumba, MZIHRM, Lesbian and gays need deliverance.

Gert Danielsen • Thank you for your comments, Chofor and Robby. A personal point of view:

I am an openly gay man, with gay friends in every corner of the world, also in several African countries. No deliverance is needed. We need respect, tolerance and freedom to live out our lives. We never chose to be gay, but some of us chose – against all odds – to live out freely our sexuality and respect our bodies, minds and hearts in a society where being in the ‘closet’ would have been the easiest option.

So, while I appreciate the great intentions, Robby, of giving us deliverance – there is nothing to ‘deliver’. All we need is love, and as a Christian, taught to love thy neighbour, I am sure this is an obvious priority for you and your Christian brothers and sisters (not to speak of all other religious people, whom live by the same principles of unconditional love).

Thank you for your time and attention.

Yours, Gert

PS: It is also interesting that almost all, if not all, anti-gay legislation in Africa was imposed by the colonial powers. So while many Africans (and here I do generalise by saying ‘Africans’) state that being gay is ‘western’ and ‘anti-African’, perhaps they should get rid of the ‘western legislation’ against homosexuality. Or do we choose when colonialism is useful, and when it is not?

Abigail Lucas Maia • Gert – your spot on 100% . “We need respect, tolerance and freedom to live out our lives.”

Gaelle Tchouta • It’s true that the issue of LGBT is still controversial in many African countries because of what they call “African culture” and religious beliefs. But I think and believe that no culture is static, and cultures change with the course of time. In addition, through education and the responsibility of media to educate the society in a positive way, homophobia someday will reach its end. Education and media play a very important role in the construction, understanding and tolerance in the society. They are key tool in bringing respect of human rights and respect of each others…

Artur Lima • I’m also a Christian Apostolic Roman … I subscribe entirely about what you said Gert, and that’s precisely why I don’t agree with positive discrimination. I’m frontally against any kind of discrimination, however, I think that the best way of fighting it, in what concerns this topic, is not starting by the recognition that gay people are different or that who made that choice or born gay has a kind of brain tumor that needs to be treated …
… I know that this discussion is complex, many ideas are emerging in my head but, I’ll just leave you a short account: some years ago, I was having a conversation with a friend, about the birth of my oldest son (my wife was 8 months pregnant) and, at some point, my friend asked me if I wasn’t afraid about my son’s future, about his choices, he could turn out to be gay …
… I simply answered: the only thing that matters to me is that, firstly, that was an assumed choice, completely devoid of fear and, above all, I want him to be happy and learn to love as I’ll love him.

Chofor Che Christian-A • In as much as this is a complicated and sensitive topic, although i respect his view, i am indeed shocked by Robby Clement Mumba, MZIHRM’s position.

Gaelle Tchouta also made an interesting point about education and the role of the media. But is that easy especially in Africa? The probability to be met with repression is very high.

The discussion on the legislation in force in Africa mentioned by Gert Danielsen, especially legislation criminalizing LGBTs, is an important point… ‘do we choose when colonialism is useful, and when it is not?’.

Anita Soboleva • Because some people are happy only when “the other” is unhappy or feel safe and comfortable only when all people around them are alike. They don’t want to tolerate any “otherness”, because it destroys the world which they constructed inside themselves.It’s like some people are afraid to travel outside their small village and no arguments about safety of other places work.

Kelly Imathiu • LGBTI groups serve a large proportion of Most- At -Risk populations both in terms of health and human rights approaches. African setting has promoted and maintained laws that incriminate sexual minorities based on cultural norms and societal values. In Africa its always a question of we are straight and until proven otherwise, however the environment in which we are born does not recognise the nature of sexual fluidity or the existence of an infra-sexuality. The understanding is even incredibly minimal with regards to gender identity/gender minorities.
However lobbying and human rights advocacy for LGBTI groups is progressive and it will take sometime for sexual diversity to be understood in its entirety.

William A. Rodriguez • i think the time factor will be more difficult as sexual preference is more “choice” than race or sex. religion is, to some degree choice and some degree cultural but, this is a barrier that is more difficult. it could be, in part, due to the fact that it references a part in history many cultures wish to forget. most histories had a period where same sex relationships were common and openly displayed. while only theory, perhaps the persecution of the same today is a way of forgetting the past.

Silvia Francesca Pedrini • the fact is that homosexuality is seen as a problem, as something “weird”, instead of something absolutely normal. Freedom of being what you are, freedom of expressing your feelings and sexual orientation must become the NORMALITY. We are all equal in our diversities and I don’t see any other way to live. In my utopic world there should not even be any need to talk about homosexuality as it really SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS NORMAL, but the reality proves to be more bitter….I’m afraid there is still a long way to go…. just as an example, I had a discussion with a woman a few weeks ago, who claimed she did not have any prejudices v. homosexuals…. yet, she said “they should invent a vaccination to prevent homosexuality”… gosh, how backward can people be, thinking homosexuality is a disease!!!??? This is exactly the kind of attitude that needs to be eradicated.

Chofor Che Christian-A • It is a pity the sigma is still very high especially in Africa. It was interesting to learn from William A Rodriguez that there was a time in history when same sex relationships were common and openly displayed. It may be interesting to share more light on that assertion.

Gert Danielsen • Thanks, everyone.

Perhaps we don’t have the same perception of what ‘positive discrimination’ is. Perhaps I link ‘positive discrimination’ to ‘affirmative action’, measures implemented temporarily in many countries (African-Americans in the US and elsewhere, indigenous peoples in some countries, women through quota-systems in Norway and elsewhere).

While affirmative action is never ideal, often this is important to level the playing field. Poor and marginalised (including people are discriminated against) often do not have access to the most basic respect or services. It therefore becomes hard for them to even ‘compete’ for education, jobs, health services, etc. This does not even take into account mental health, which I think most of you would agree is crucial for all human development and for all humans in order to function in society.

Therefore, as with all anti-discrimination policies, special measures are often needed for us to move closer to a just system where all have the same opportunities. Gay rights is not about special rights. The UN Secretary General has been very clear on this: Gay rights is about human rights, just like African-American rights are human rights and women’s rights are human rights.

I would also argue that the most vulnerable in society need more support than others to regain confidence, to maintain good health, to be able to function in society. If even the laws go against these groups, I am seriously concerned for their safety and well-being. Even when laws are in place, many groups struggle for years, even decades.

Ensuring that everyone’s rights are respected, as human beings, does not take anyone’s rights away. Rather, it strengthens the rights for everyone.

As the UN Secretary General says: “No custom or tradition, no cultural values or religious beliefs, can justify depriving a human being of his or her human rights.”

You may want to see this statement, and many more online, to see what the UN’s official position is on this:

Thanks again for a fruitful discussion.

PS: Artur – congratulations on your son. And yes, may he find happiness and fulfilment, whomever he may love and cherish. We are all brothers and sisters.

Chofor Che Christian-A • Thanks Gert Danielsen for the explanation on the context in which u use positive discrimination. This has added some clarity in my mind on what states should do to strengthen the human rights for all, as expounded by the UN.

William A. Rodriguez • Wikipedia goes through the history and contains references:

We do not want to just think it was in Greece, the below is from a paper taught at Fordham University:

Gaelle Tchouta • Chofor Che Christian-A , I know sexual minority rights in Africa is still unsolved and many LGBT people continue to be discriminated on the ground of their sexual orientation and laws criminalizing same-sex relationships in Africa encourage homophobia. I think this is also because of lack of education and lack of awareness. Societies are not well educated enough and still stick on their culture, but one cannot violate others’ rights and kill because of culture, tradition and religion. Through education people should understand that we might be different, but we are all one as human being and human race.
It might be difficult now for most African countries to accept and recognize the rights of LGBT persons but I believe and hope that through education minds will change. And I said earlier on no culture is static and can be change with the course of time. I believe that it’s possible in Africa as well…

Chofor Che Christian-A • Great addition, Gaelle Tchouta. This will indeed need a lot of effort from activists and human rights advocates. A serious hurdle will be convincing governments in Africa that the rights of LGBT, are same as those of straight people. A lot of work needs to be done.

Gaelle Tchouta • Definitely this needs lot of effort and work from activists and human rights defenders on the issue, there is nothing great done without sacrifice. I believe Africa will achieve it no matter the time it will take.

Kelly Imathiu • Its absolutely interesting how history informs our present world. Its being in our rightful place now that creates the history that the forthcoming generation in the next years to come. I sincerely wish there was African history on same- sex relations in our current society today because then we start punching holes into the belief that homosexuality is an exported behavior form the west. I have read a few of from Uganda although its not as substantive or explicit as the Greece cultural traditions explain it to be. Williams this is a good read though.

Joseph Banda • I want to contribute to this discussion by asking why gay rights are so popular in the USA and European Countries. At the UN,why is polygamy not advocated which is a right to most Africans and which is not accepted in European and American governments and christian faith? why do we not discuss Asian countries that have imputed a death penalty for gays and lesbians? why do we always want Africans to feel as if we are the only continent which is opposing this right? What about the moslem community? have they accepted this? what about the Asian countries?

Being Gay is an anti social condition not accepted in many of the cultures in the world. This was supposed to be widely discussed in UN Assembly and agreed upon before UN human rights organization put it as one of universal righs.This was not the case. Some few individuals justify it as being big issue,and force acceptance of this controversial right. The secretary general has the right to express the his opinion but as Africans,Asians and many cultures of the world we have a right to express our position on this issue.

This condition has been there in African society for longtime and has been considered as an anti social condition and was not tolerated and is not tolerated.As Africans we have our our position on this issue.

I recall in my Country, the Secretary General caused a controversy when he spoke on this  issue. It was not accepted and the UN was called names which was embarrassing for us who are associated with this great international government which is supposed to accommodate all and not the minority. The UN was supposed to listen to African voices on this issue.It will remain unaccepted. It is not about education. It is about the right to be identified and respected as Africans and to respect our cultures and norms and beliefs as Africans.This is not an African is anti social practice which many of us have not accepted. We have the right to be respected.

The big question is who set the standards of the world? The UN is a forum for everybody so our African governments have the right to be heard.

Caesar Kurewa • If I may ask, how many times does the “other” world wish to colonise Africa? Who determines what Africa believes in? What is wrong with Africa following its culture? If some Christians have turned gay/ les, has God changed? If He says men shall not sleep with other men, why do you think you have the right as a non-Chrtistian to tell Africa what you want? for a change, why don’t you listen to what Africa wants? Now some developed country comes to Africa with conditional aid, “… for us to support you, you should support gay people…” What about our beliefs? What about the beliefs of those devoted to God and not some church? Ask yourself…

Artur Lima • Thanks for your kindness Gert …
Yes, “positive discrimination” concept as I understand and as Gert clearly explained, has to do with “positive action”, nothing to add at this point.
Of course I agree entirely that the marginalized, the poor, the most vulnerable in society, should be protected, at least by the legal framework applied, however, my point of view as to do with human nature, in the sense that an action leads to a reaction and, frequently, a reaction leads to a retaliation, ie, anti-exclusion and anti-discrimination measures can’t be blind and must consider always the fact that chance, particularly in what concerns cultural values and society beliefs, must be previously built under the assumption that it will extend into the future, other thing makes no sense, we need to change minds, beliefs, ways of thinking, etc., but not for who who have reason, we must (really) change the minds of who who have not … that’s precisely why I don’t agree with positive discrimination, ie, this kind of legal regulatory approach must necessarily be temporary, the problem is that I don’t consider to be possible to change minds and culture in the short term.

However, I must agree that something must be done, in any time, place or culture and, this leads me to a short comment on what Caesar Kurewa stated: nevertheless my green yes and my white/blond air, I was born in Africa, more precisely in Angola, where I was raised till the age of 8 so, I think I’m entitled and free to have an opinion – this discussion as nothing to do with living or not in Africa, having or not “African beliefs” (I don’t know what that is), nothing to do with colonization or the African cultures, which I respect and under which I was raised, nothing to do with being or not Christian, … and so on !!!
One thing I agree with Caesar, God is God and is above any church, just because “church” is a men’s creation and God is above men.
But sorry, I can’t ask or even listen to “what Africa wants” when I know in advance that the answer will always be a wrong one, simply because the question is wrong. I explain this quoting the expression used by the UN Secretary General, cited by Gert: “Gay rights is about human rights, just like African-American rights are human rights and women’s rights are human rights.”
This is not about anything else than HUMAN RIGHTS, they are HUMAN, not African or anything else, they don’t depend on “what African want’s”, what you want, what I want …

Joseph Banda • being born on a continent does not make u a native of the that continent and it is not an argument to be used for this problem .As Africans we have the right to be what we are. We do not need other cultures to impose their beliefs and cultural values on us. If gays are accepted in your culture do not impose it to other societies with conditionality. If you do not follow our culture you will not receive help,why is this so called human right tied to aid? why is child rights,women rights  not tied to aid?

We are saying take your Aid, leave us with our culture we don’t need such practices in Africa ,it adds nothing to our development.What we need is our strong family values.The west has lost its family values and substituted these values with anti social values.Leave us alone,

Gay rights has brought controversies all over the world,and not only in Africa. It has nothing to do with theories you talking about. Why don’t you talk to Asia,Arabian countries who have said openly that it is not accepted. This practice attracts the death penalty. It is because the West has  money and they are exempted from being critised? is being poor a sin?. Africans have suffered a lot, please let us discuss issues that can bring development,abuse of major human rights which affect many people in the world.

Gays and lesbians have the right to exist and practice their culture freely, but this should not be imposed on the majority by making it a conditionality to aid. If Africa had achieved a sound level of development,these issues were not going to be a talking point. We have the right to be Africans and practice our culture and reject values that do not fit our society.

Ravi GOOJHA • Good for you Joseph Banda!

Gay and lesbian relationships are unnatural, period! In whatever continent!

It’s so ridiculous its not even funny.. to see a man “marrying” another man as husband and husband or a woman “marrying” another woman as wife and wife! Hahahaha!

The homosexual community wants to push its agenda everywhere, at least Africans have the guts to resist their onslaught! I am getting sick and tired of it! This little vocal minority is making such a big deal of their lifestyles with their “in your face attitude”, holding parades and asking to boycott Chick-A whatever, etc. From what I read, Chick-A whatever’s sale is up. Maybe the gay community gets the message!

Listen if you have a problem, keep it within your community, but don’t go around parading your problems and forcing African governments to bend to your will.

Gaelle Tchouta • Talking about religious and christian beliefs: what’s the greatest command according to God in the Bible? Is it not Love God first and love your neighbor? Why kill and stone your neighbor because of who he/she is? So let God be the judge.

Talking about culture, I will keep saying no culture is static. For instance, before in every society, mostly in Africa, women were not allowed to sit or eat at the same table as men, they were not allowed to work, talk in the presence of men, briefly, they were discriminated against and abused…However, nowadays this culture of contempt regarding women has been improved in many continents. Today women’s rights are spread everywhere and the position of women has changed. Women as well as men have rights to enjoy the basic human rights.

It’s just a matter of time, even LGBT rights will be accepted someday as women’s rights today are accepted almost everywhere no matter the continent.

Joseph Banda • we are not talking about of woman her the issues are not related don not confuse people you do not even know why the women and men were separated i am old enough to know why .the women not dressed so the cultural was just right to fit the circumstances of that time for not mixing with men,this cultures are there i Tukan,Klamajoes,and most nude communities up today the culture has change because the women dress now.

Do not examples which are not relevant to issue women don’t Mary their fellow women,men were not allowed if caught it was the sentence was death.Even dogs have female for reproduction, it is universal natural law not in humans only but even animals all of practicing this practice should be Counselled you are sick and rehabilitated to join the wider community it is cancer in the community accept the that you are sick.please seek help.

Ravi GOOJHA • I do not know why Gaelle is mixing God in all this. This is also not a question of the natural and healthy relationship between a man and woman.
It is simply a question deviant human behaviour and should be seen as such! Just think about it, what would happen if all of a sudden male dogs forsook female dogs and started coupling with male dogs? The dog species would become extinct! And this goes for all animal species. Some guys went and did research on deviant sexual behaviour in other animal species and posted it on wikisomething or other. Of course, this deviant behaviour was found not to be limited to humans only. But that does not justify shouting from roof tops that deviant behaviour of any kind is now normal and be encouraged and be thrust upon impressionable young humans as a natural condition!

In any animal population, there will be a certain percentage of deviant behaviour and it should be accepted as such, as an abnormality and our sympathy goes to them. They should not be persecuted, only be educated that what they think as normal, is in fact not normal and the larger society should deal with them with patience and hope and pray that they learn to become normal again.

But what I am against is this very aggressive pursuit to advertise their condition, going so far as to force the UN and other institutions, using their lobby power to publicize their agenda to convert impressionable young humans to their deviant behaviour!

Gaelle Tchouta • @ Ravi, I talk about God because He is used as alibi to discriminate against LGBT people.

@ Joseph, I am alright, I am neither sick nor need help.

Ravi GOOJHA • Gaelle, unfortunately we humans find all manner of ways and excuses (alibis) to discriminate against fellow humans, to the point of open wanton murder , as was the case recently in Mali where a couple were murdered in front of everybody for having had natural children outside of “marriage”.

For me, as my posts above indicate, we should hope that LBGT be taken for what it is, an unfortunate unnatural if not aberrant human behaviour and not be discriminated against. But LBGT should not to be advertised as a natural human condition! How can you have two husbands within a couple? Or two wives within a couple? Don’t sound natural to me!

Gaelle Tchouta • Discrimination is wrong regardless of sexual orientation.
Respect people’s feelings. Even if it doesn’t mean anything to us. It could mean everything to them.

Louisa Boyle • Joseph I urge you to get your facts straight before you start labelling intelligent women as sick because that person is in support of equal human rights for all people. Please read this link – and you will see that you are factually wrong about the West bringing homosexuality to Africa. Homosexuality existed hugely in Africa as everywhere in the world way before the colonial powers came here – the factual truth is that the Christian and Muslim faiths brought homophobia to Africa, not an acceptance or introduction of homosexuality as you incorrectly state.

Also, I refer to your point – “”i want to contribute this discussion why are gay rights so popular with the in USA and European Countries in the UN,why is polygamy not advocated which is right to most Africans and it is not accepted in European and American governments and christian faith?””

Gay rights is not something that is ‘popular’ as you say, it is a HUMAN RIGHT as Arthur, Cho and Daniel have pointed out. Im pretty sure you wouldnt feel the same way if you were born disabled or as a woman and had to endure abuse and discrimination because of the way you were born as many disabled people and women have to endure still in the world today. I am Christian and I have many LGTB friends and they are wonderful people who dont judge anyone but wrongly face discrimination because of how they were born. Many of them are also Christians and live by God’s teachings far more than many of my straight friends – African and Western.

Then I draw you to your point on polygamy – the double standards here are disturbing to say the least when coming from someone who works for the UN. African men still practise polygamy but have the audacity to call themselves Christians when this is clearly illegal in the Christian Church because God said that marriage is the union of A man and A woman – i.e. two people, he never said, A man and ten women! So get your facts right, if you want to claim that homosexuality is wrong that’s your personal opinion but you cannot in the same statement say that polygamy is right because ‘it’s African’ for anything to be right it must be right for all and polygamy is not accepted if it is A woman and ten husbands – why is that? Very clearly because polygamy itself is an abuse of women’s rights and almost all of my African, Christian friends agree.

God is indeed love and quite clearly said that no person on earth had the right to abuse, kill or judge another person on how they live their life. Many of my gay friends were born that way and God decided they should be born that way, just as he decides who is born a man, a woman, black, white, Asian etc so why should anyone on earth think they have the right to judge and discriminate against another person when God is clear that no one should be the judge of another but HIM! Those who harm other human beings or kill other human beings are going against God’s commandments and it is them who will be judged and punished by God.

And also Joseph when you say ‘we’ as in Africans, you can be assured that you are not representing a whole culture/country – as I have many Gay African friends and human rights advocates who would happily testify that yours is not an ‘African’ standpoint. I could never say ‘we’ as Europeans and put my personal opinion across as that of the whole of Europe – that is narrow minded to think that you think the same way as the whole of Africa as Gaelle has made very evident.

I find it wrong on every level that you work for the UN which is all about Human Rights protection and you have such strong views against homosexual people.

Anyway your whole point is proven wrong in the article at the head of this message so perhaps do some more research before you start insulting people in a professional forum.

Louisa Boyle • Ravi indeed – how can you have two wives within a marriage – when polygamy is involved – there are often up to twenty wives and 1 husband. That is not natural in any way. A union should be between two people.

Chofor Che Christian-A • It is indeed very sad that we have SOME so called ‘UN’ workers who are ouvertly for discrimination of man kind. They keep on hiding behind the UN mask, but this forum and discussion has truly exposed them. Thank you very much Gaelle and Louisa for the insightful contributions. Let us also be reminded that this is an open debate and there is no need for some very emotional beings to become so worked up to the extent of inboxing me. I threw this discussion to the open because it is a serious concern the UN is grappling with today.

Samuel Brooks • Chofor Che Christian,

Intense debates have occurred in the United States where some factions have argued that homosexuality is a disease which can be cured or corrected. I’m in accord with you and Ms. Zurawski in that one’s sexual orientation is an innate condition. A hopeful sign regarding a wider acceptance of the LGBT community are the number of states and municipalities which have recognized civil unions and marriage among same sex couples. Many politicians are aware of the growing political influence of the LGBT community.

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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Uncategorized


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