The homophile movement started after world war II in the Western world, and in recent years we are seeing the efforts made bare fruits, as gay people are being given the right to marry in countries like Australia, Brazil and even South Africa. But is the rest of the African continent ready to embrace its LGBTQ community or even recognize its existence?
Generalizing, Africa as a whole, can be said to be at a different stage of development and most people being on a lower level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it seems the rights of the LGBTQ community has had to take a backseat. As the standard of living is increasing in some African countries in particular, and the use of social media becomes more wide spread, perhaps this will create room for LGBTQ issues to be brought to the forefront.
In November 2018, a regional governor by the name of Paul Makonda of Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam, vowed to set up a task force to round up and arrest people suspected of being gay.
According to CNN more than half of the countries on the continent have enacted laws that make it illegal to be gay and in several, including Somalia and South Sudan, homosexuality is punishable by death. Although warfare and genocide taking place in these same countries, is not getting much news coverage by the international community, this message by Makonda made it to the center stage.
If one looks into the topic there are many sides partaking in the discussion on homosexuality. On one end there’s the people who argue that they were born that way, and that has also been their slogan, “Born this way”. On the other side of the debate, there’s the ones that believe it’s a learnt condition which can be untaught, and in turn offer treatments such as conversion therapy.
Societies in Africa may not have reached that level of discussing LGBTQ issues, but the community undoubtedly exists and their voices will be heard more and more in the time ahead, although some may not dare to explicitly admit their sexuality, and frankly, is it even anyone’s business? Their true selves is likely to shine through one way or another.
The film ‘Rafiki’, directed by Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu created an uproar as it tells the story of two girls who fall in love. The Kenya Film Classification Board, banned the film, stating “It is our considered view that the moral of the story in this film is to legitimize lesbianism in Kenya contrary to the law”.
In an interview with Christiane Amanpour, the president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta stated that gay rights were “of no importance to the people of Kenya”. However, the high court lifted the ban on the film and the people of Kenya, responded by turning up in massive numbers making the film a success. Perhaps this is a sign that tolerance is growing and that people are ready to start having open discussions about homosexuality.
At the end of the day, does someone’s sexual orientation and who they love matter, or are things like their personality and character what’s essential?
Afronection recently connected with one of Africa’s biggest groups, Sauti Sol from Kenya. Due in part to their stage outfits, the group has come under attack by some internet trolls questioning their sexuality. Their thoughts on the matter are very clear, and can be watched below.