Homosexuality Is Not Un-African But Homophobia Is

The Fallacy of an un-African sexuality

In 2013, Amnesty International reported that 38 countries in Africa proscribed homosexuality. In Mauritania, Sudan, Northern Nigeria and Southern Somalia, individuals found guilty of ‘homosexuality’ face the death penalty. Homosexuals in Africa have been dehumanised and this has justified their extra-judicial killings as sub-humans have no rights. 

This is a fact President Mugabe confirmed when he said gay rights were not human rights. By inference, therefore, homosexuals are regarded as sub-human at best. The argument constantly raised is that homosexuality is contrary to African values. It is regarded as a Western idea being super-imposed on Africa. It is taken to be another instance of the Western affectation of superior values and patronising politics. 

That aid is seen to be tied to recognition of homosexual rights only fuels the fire. Homosexuality is therefore also branded a neo-imperialist “political tool” which should draw pan-Africanist ire. The connections in the argument are incoherent, weak and difficult to justify. First and foremost, Africa has been fighting the “monolithic myth” that seeks to bundle it up as a continent of a single identity. 

This characterisation of Africa is problematic as it ignores the real cultures on the ground for a universal stereotype designed to fit all Africans. The question boils down to: what is “a sexuality contrary to African values” if the so-called African values are a fallacy? Have all these leaders who liberally refer to African values fully studied the almost 3,000 distinct ethnic groups and found heteronormativity to be a common denominator in at least half the groups?

Interestingly, the un-African sexuality argument’s suggestion that homosexuality is a Western import exposes the ignorance of those who throw it around. Research has been carried out to prove that homosexuality is no foreign idea to African societies and there is evidence to substantiate the fact. In Zimbabwe, there is a 2,000-year-old cave painting depicting homosexual intercourse while Amnesty reports that woman-woman marriages have been documented in more than 40 ethnic groups in Africa. 

Boy-Wives and Female Husbands by Murray and Roscoe as well as African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality and Globalization by Hoad are part of the literature by well-known anthropologists proving homosexuality is not an import. What may have largely been imported are the arguments against homosexuality which are based on colonial impositions of values so assimilated into African societies that people now confuse them for indigenous values. It is difficult to then understand why homosexuality in its entirety is defined as foreign when insurmountable evidence to the contrary exists. 

Christian and Islamic values being used to justify heteronormativity are in themselves foreign to most communities in Africa and were used by colonialists to assume control over everything African. Read more via African Exponent