At a time when more countries are moving towards inclusive human rights, Africa is taking steps backwards. Backwards, that is, specifically on the issue of gay rights, though sadly not to before colonialism, the era in which anti-gay legislation has its roots.
Most Africans don’t recognise homophobia as a colonial legacy even though before colonialism, many traditional cultures were tolerant of different sexualities and gender relations.
For instance, in my tribe, the Ganda or Baganda, (Uganda’s largest ethnic group) women from the royal clan are addressed with male titles and may or may not be required to perform duties expected of women. More broadly, from the Azande of the Congo to the Beti of Cameroon, and from the Pangwe of Gabon to the Nama of Namibia, there is ethnographic evidence of same-sex relationships in pre-colonial Africa.
By preying on African values of inclusive difference, however, Africa’s colonisers rewrote its history, the effects of which haunt Africa to this day. Tribal chiefs and village courts of law which were traditionally the hallmark of conflict resolution were traded for a European Penal Code system which included the criminalisation of homosexuality.
It is also important to stress that so-called sodomy laws would not have impacted African sexual politics without the influence of Christianity. Christianity was used to whitewash African culture as primitive and to demonise traditional interpretations of African intimacies. The bible became the credo of African morality, disordering African sexuality to missionary positions of heteronormativity (ie. the idea that heterosexuality is the only ‘natural’ sexual orientation)…
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Why does The Guardian publish this rubbish? The article goes on and on, ranting about American evangelical preachers.
First, I do not know anything about pre-colonial Africa and I suspect that neither does the writer. After all, nothing was written down. It is sheer speculation.
Second, the colonial era ended a good fifty years ago. It is odd that after all this time, African countries are choosing now to pass restrictive laws.
Third, while Christianity undoubtedly plays a role, the article is strangely silent about Islam. The only mention of Islam is this is another dig about British imperialists:
In Sudan meanwhile, British imperialists divided the Northern Muslim region from the Southern Christian region creating divisions that perpetuate ethnic tensions to this day.
It is well known that Islam is totally intolerant of homosexuality, and that Islam was spread by Arab colonizers. But, the enemy is always the West, so Islam gets another pass. And this piece of crap newspaper prints it.