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Homosexuality: Is it "un-African"?

In Zimbabwe, having sex with men is part of boys growing up. But we have failed to recognise that.
Gwinyayi, Zimbabwe

When I grew up in Ethiopia, I never came across any "gay" person. It is something unthinkable in Africa!
Binyam, Ethiopia

Just two of the comments Talking Point received. Read more below.

Background ¦ Your reaction

The Background:

Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi has become the latest well-known African leader to denounce homosexuality, which he described as a "scourge".

News and Information for Africa
A few days earlier, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, spoke sharply against homosexual relationships, saying that the full law should be used against such "abominable acts". His pronouncements followed reports that a gay wedding had taken place in a Kampala suburb between a male hairdresser and his boyfriend.

Since 1995 President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe have been very outspoken against homosexuals whom he described as "lower than pigs and dogs".

The argument among most Africans is that homosexuality is "un-African" - foreign to the continent, against its teachings and traditions and even against what the Bible teaches. In fact, some people would argue there is no word for homosexuals or homosexuality in their local African languages.

But it has become common knowledge that an ancient King in Uganda "paid special attention to boys in his court". A former President and prominent church leader was also recently convicted of sodomy and sexual assault. And some Gay Rights activists say that gay-bashing by national leaders is just an attempt to divert people's attention from economic problems and political discontent.

Is homosexuality really "un-African"? Are African leaders right in condemning the practice or are they fighting a losing battle? Should homosexuality be de-criminalised in Africa?

Background ¦ Your reaction

Your Reaction:

Click here to read the first comments we received

Our sexuality cannot or should not be decided by others. It's a part of living and Africa is therefore no different from any other place on this planet. God gave us life and God does not shun love.
AndyO, Zaf

I am a 101% HETEROSEXUAL AFRICAN DIASPORA MALE, who strongly believes in the rights of individuals to live their lives as THEY SEE FIT. And, as far as I am concerned, who people chose to fall in love or have sex with is solely their decision as well as their right. As thinking and free human beings, we have to learn to respect the rights of other members of our societies, as well as tolerate their "deviations" from our so-called acceptable "norms of what is "right" and "wrong". I believe it is time for our so-called African leaders, Africans and the rest of world to understand and accept that the earth is inhabited by a coalition of INDIVIDUALS, with different colours, sex, interests, beliefs, needs, lifestyles, and sexual orientation. And as Africans and blacks, we should be very careful how far we can push our intolerance and discrimination against others in our societies. I wonder whether these three short-sighted leaders and their supporters have given any thought to the me!
Dee Deen-Sie Sawaneh, Sweden

I have hard time to believe that we have homosexuals in Uganda. I grew up in Uganda but this is the first time I have heard of such a thing in schools. I really agree with African leaders, who are condemning homosexuality in Africa. Tim Okelo a Ugandan
Tim Okelo, Uganda

Not only is homosexuality Un-African it is against the law of nature, and by all means should be condemned. Africans and Asians must protect their civilised culture against Western influence. The media is trying to force us to believe that homosexuality is a norm. Unfortunately Africans know better. Musovoni, Moi and Mugabe (3M) should be commended for their courage to stand against homosexuality.
Kebe, Ethiopian in USA

As much as the Western world would like to associate homosexuality with Africa, it is not. It is an issue of perception of normality, it is normal in the west (with their own associations and rights), but not in Africa. I agree with President Museveni that full law should be used against such acts. It should be discouraged in the strongest terms possible.
Shaukat Abdulrazak, Japan

The idea of it being cultural is totally absurd. I do not condone it, however, as a Muslim. I think it's not only unnatural, but it has so many health risks. I don't think you're born knowing, but rather you teach yourself that it's right or it's ok. I mean, Adam and Eve sounds better than Adam and Steve, right? (For my name's sake, YES!)
Adam Knoerzer, USA

Homosexuality is not that common in Addis, but it is there! It is rather risky to come out of the closet, but we even have a term for it - BOOSHTEE! Which is regarded as an insult. The risk of admitting being gay is DEATH! Which is pretty sad cause.
Ermias, Ethiopia

It seems rather strange that this should be looked on as a matter of opinion. We know that a reasonably stable percentage of people in the West prefer same sex sexual relations. Either a significant percentage of Africans prefer same sex or they don't. If they do then it is not Un-African and if, unlikely as it may seem, the percentage is nil or very small in comparison to all other regions of the world, it is Un-African. This information may be difficult to compile accurately, particularly if there are social factors causing folk to conceal either the practice or even the desire. However, in deciding this issue, the opinions of neither the bible bashers and bigots nor the gay rights militants about whether it is 'right' or 'wrong' matters not a jot.
Dzhokhan Nilbayev, Kazakhstan

I think Europeans have introduced "homosexuality" in African countries through movies, books, and their education system separating boys and girls. Now with the access to the internet, homosexuality will colonise African youth because they are given the belief that what is produced in the West is superior!
Katenda Pashi, U.S.

I have had many gay/bi-sexual experiences in north and sub-Saharan Africa.
Tom, USA

Being neither for nor against homosexuality, the only point I would like to make is that no problem belongs to a people or continent, every problem is now global, whether we want it to be or not.
Allan, New Zealand

The idea that homosexuality is "un-African" is in fact the product of prudish colonial missionaries working in Africa in the early years of this century!
Jack Lewis, South Africa

I think if Africa didn't come in contact with the white man we would never even have known the word GAY
Telly C. Jalloh, Sierra leone

I commend Presidents Mugabe and Museveni for speaking out against this un-natural behaviour. Homosexuality is highly immoral and is definitely a learnt behaviour. Africans must unite to repulse this scourge that is being unleashed against our Continent. Do not let anyone tell you that being Gay is ok. It is NOT. Just remember, GOD created Adam and Eve not Adam and Charles.

It is sad to see that we are said to be approaching a new era and people are still guided by their bigotry and prejudice. Not that I ever believed society would change but you always have the hope. Don't people who condemn homosexuals and other minorities ever think of how much harm and suffering they cause? It's time we stopped tolerating intolerance - it's just not acceptable to keep living and dealing with differences as if this was the Middle Ages.
Andre Rypl, Brazil

The question itself is unproblematic. What is African and un-African? Homosexuality is a human condition. I am a heterosexual myself but I am able to tolerate and even condone homosexuality - my mean concern is that whatever sexual encounters occur should be mutual and coerced. Once that is the case I have no problem at all. Like the Zimbabwean noted, most boys first sexual encounter is more often than not with the same sex. The homophobes in Africa make a noise about this being un-African and that being un-African. Is the big planes they ride, the Mercedes Benz they drive , the pounds and US dollars they crave, the language they speak - English, French and Portuguese African?
Ezekiel Pajibo, Liberian resident in the USA

Homosexuality has always been with the human race. It is not a thing of choice to some though there are segments of the homosexual community who choose to be gay. And I have seen homosexuals in over 5 different African countries. I am born and raised in Africa so nobody can tell me that this never existed in Africa. In fact, the reason why some may not know it happens in their very backyard is that the gays/lesbians have to be real discreet due the drastic repercussions that they may experience if they were found to be gay by the uneducated and narrow minded masses that are always ready to use violence to issues unfamiliar to them. This is a disease that has plagued Africa for centuries and we have to either accept that the world we live in now is a more advanced world and we either change, or we will continue to be left behind in all forms of human advancement. We need to make up our minds: do we want to stay in perpetual anachronism or get with the program and stay off this constant denial. I am a patriotic African but issues such as human rights and personal freedom always touches a sensitive nerve especially when closed-minded demagogues tend to have the biggest mouths. During colonialism it was the Europeans that kept us down, now we are the very people putting our own brothers and sisters from advancing economically, socially, and psychologically. People are tired of repressive governments and repressive cultures. So called cultures that force female genital mutilation for nothing but self gratification of the few. It surprises me how much effort our leaders spend on this issue instead of trying to curb our pressing problems: AIDS, famine, warring factions, and improved housing and medical conditions. Let us make our continent a place conducive to living instead of the history it seems to never advance away from. We are reaching another millennium and by golly I'd be much prouder if our continent was much more organised than this.
Concerned African, West Africa

God created man and woman not man and man. homosexuality is a sin and has no place in africa, African leaders must stop and deal with this evil act.
Aidid m. Hassn, Canada

Homosexuality is not un-African but in admitting that it exists in Africa, we need to think about how it fits in with our cultural and traditional practices, way of life etc. Gay activism does not fit in with African cultural or traditional practices simply because sex, sexualism, sexuality is taboo and not talked about openly and I presume that is how gayness should also be treated. I personally don't care and don't want to know who is doing what with whom. Maybe like African leaders, I am too caught up in the continents more pressing social and economic problems. In response to Kirsty Hearn, UK, I would like to point out that the spread of AIDS is not a purely sexual issue. Granted some of Africa's cultural practices like polygamy make it easier for AIDS to spread within a community but there are other reasons such as the lack of information of what and how the disease is spread as well as the means to protect oneself.
NO, Kenya

I think westerners know too well about Africa's position as far as homosexuality is concerned. Lets remember that when AIDS first appeared as an epidemic, the westerners themselves were quick to point out that it might have been transmitted from African monkeys, and that the main groups threatened in The west were homosexuals. In a western media that is so quick to berate all things African, they could not bring themselves to even suggest that AIDS was spread in Africa by homosexuals. So it seems today the west is trying very hard to make a connection with gays in Africa that isn't there. I have a hard time believing that homosexuality is an inherited condition. If it is linked to genes, and homosexuals (as far as we know) have no chance of impregnating one another, how come the gene pool has not died out. How come it only seems to be on the rise. I believe that people everywhere have the right to make choices, and those who choose to be gay should be gay. But the arguments put forward so far are not convincing. If you can prove to me that is a genetic condition, then sure, Africa has no argument to deny its existence among its people. But if it is a choice made by individuals, then African cultures also have the right to choose against it. In my experience, it seems the latter argument is closer to reality. Homosexuals are attracted to their own kind same as some of us like tall women, blonde women, short women, fat women... but please, don't manipulate us. Sex should remain a bedroom matter.
Epie, USA

In this time of advancement, it is immature to think that homosexuality is unthinkable.
Victor Fraser, USA

Why, every time the issue of homosexuality comes out of the closet, are the first people to scream the loudest from amongst those who profess a faith in the Islamic or Christian religions? What makes them so sure they are the final arbiters of social behaviour? What gives them the right to determine how "everyone" should conduct their lives or where they can find their "happiness"? Do they really believe there is no room for those who do not agree, believe differently or have different characteristics? Intolerance seems to be the one characteristic both groups share! Is this their religion? It's not mine! Can't People, whether or not they are African, understand that the right to believe and behave as their consciences dictate should be allowed to others as they expect it for themselves? What makes people so arrogant that they believe they alone have the right to decide how we live our lives? It's not a matter of whether homosexuality is or is not un-African; it is a matter of whether anyone has the right to determine others believes and live their lives wherever they may be. As long as I or others are not harmed, I must respect your life choices. In turn I expect it of you! After-all, as a heterosexual, I have to consider what I'd feel if the shoe was on the other foot. So to all you arrogant, intolerant would-be dictators out there who feel you have the right to choose for me (or others) I hope you get the message; YOU are not MY God or anyone else's!
Keith Scott, USA/UK

Homosexuality is not natural at all. Almighty God has created men for women and vice-versa. I strongly support the idea that says homosexuality is a terrible decease.
Hacene.M, Canada

Why this question? People are born black or white man or woman as they are born gay or straight, what is the problem? Isn't there enough hatred in the world without adding more? Coloured people have suffered discrimination for so long, I find it hard to accept that they would look down on other humans, just because of a different sexual orientation. What are they afraid of? Their own sexuality? To deny a human the right to its sexuality is as 'acceptable' as denying people the right to participate in public life on the grounds that they have a coloured skin (apartheid), the 'wrong' sex, the 'wrong' ethnic roots.

If you want to fight racism, that is fine, but when at the same time preaching hatred against people who love differently, you lose all credibility. If you discriminate yourself on grounds of sex, religion, sexual orientation or ethnicity, don't claim the right not to be discriminated against on whatever ground. Especially somebody like Mugabe (not exactly the leading moral example when it comes to integrity and family values). If you think homosexuality is "non-African" (or non-Muslim or whatever) wake up to reality. There are plenty of gays and lesbians everywhere in the world, in all cultures. But it is true that homosexuality is repressed in too great a part of the world.

Not by accident, the countries with the most oppressive legislations are not the most pleasant places to live (Saudi-Arabia, Iran, China...). You will notice that refugees do seldom seek refuge in Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, China, Sudan.... They come to the 'decadent' West, where human rights are not perfectly guarded, but apparently much better looked after than in other parts of the world. Pretending homosexuality is un-African (or non-catholic/Muslim/ whatever) means just that you look down on homosexual people. This superiority statement is no different, and no less racist as stating that black or Muslim people should not be European, that democracy is not African, human rights are not Asian, blacks shouldn't go to school with whites, Catholics shouldn't mix with Protestants, women shouldn't show their face in public. The superiority doctrine that inspired Hitler and the nazi's led them to kill Jews, communists, gypsies and homosexuals and I don't think that is the example to go by. Some claim that human rights are only western rights, and cannot be accepted by the rest of the world. But those people then are the strongest advocates for equal rights -in the western world alone of course - for non white/not Christian people. Those one way non discrimination claims are getting more and more unsustainable and unacceptable. I would think Africa has got more urgent fish to fry than start a discussion on the africanity of homosexuality. 'Leaders' like Mugabe prefer to direct the attention away from the fact that their regime is corrupt and not able to bring welfare to the people. What about the ethnic and civil wars, starvation, aids, economic disaster, agricultural mismanagement in Africa?

This could be beautiful world if people, 'leaders', religions, ideologies would not try to control or oppress other people, and instead would ensure every human a loving and respecting environment. To love costs so much less energy than to hate And the quality of life would become so much higher. But of course, if one is not happy with oneself, it is easy to start picking on others. Like the nazis on the Jews, the kukluxclan on the blacks.
Roosens Geert, Belgium

In Africa, as everywhere in the world, many young men play with each other's genitals, explore each other's bodies, and obtain sexual "relief" from each other, but this is not regarded as "homosexual" behaviour, sometimes it's not even seen as real "sex" (and they certainly don't see themselves as "gay", which is a very modern (originally Western) concept. However, homosexual activity is happening all over Africa. How many African men can honestly say they have never touched another man or fantasised about it?
Ari, Uganda

I don't know if Homosexuality is un-African or not but I do know that when it comes to sexual behaviour we Africans should be more concerned about the kind of promiscuity that is spreading AIDS and other STDs. I just came back from a trip in various regions of the continent and what I witnessed is just unbelievable. Women and men, young and old, rich and poor are all messing around unprotected. Africa is the least restrictive place in the world for those looking for cheap sex. I am a heterosexual and a father but I can see a lot of hypocrisy here.
Oba, West Africa

As an African, this is the most shocking story that I have ever come across. However may this investigation be conducted thoroughly.
Gomez, Germany

When I was in Ethiopia, I have never seen a homosexual. Whether the Christian or the Muslim society is not accept this mental attitude. I do believe Africa is not the centre or the origin. Thanks

Well its like having a tiger for a pet. You know it could eat you. some people can handle that, some can't. Likewise, homosexuals. if you have a homosexual as your cohort, there is a chance. tigers have no telling. Some can handle this, while some cannot. that's all.
Vasu Polladhu, USA

Homosexuality: Is it "un-African"?

Final Votes:


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Yes: <% =percentyes %>% No: <% =percentno %>%

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