vendredi 1 août 2014

Africa: Homosexuality, modernity and religion

For many africans, homosexuality is an imported modern phenomenon of society from western civilisation. According to them, Europeans introduced this form of sexuality in Africa during colonization. With the modernity and the development of the media, some Africans easily agree with same sex relationship.   No one wants to recognize that the intimate relations between two men or two women could exist in the past in our traditional societies. 

But, Stephen O Murray and Will Roscoe recognizes in their book Servant boy-wives and females husbands (studies of African homosexuality)[1] that homosexuality existed in another form in the African traditional societies. However, they declare that the obvious absence of a real existence of this form of sexuality such as known today can conclude that it was introduced into the continent by the colonists. But, more recently, searchers discovered several cultural varieties of same sex relationships in Africa.
1.     One notably ‘‘explicit” Bushmen painting, which depicts African men engaging in same-sex sexual activity.

2.     In the late 1640s, a Dutch military attaché documented Nzinga, a warrior woman in the Ndongo kingdom of the Mbundu, who ruled as ‘‘king” rather than ‘‘queen”, dressed as a man and surrounded herself with a harem of young men who dressed as women and who were her ‘‘wives”.

3.     Eighteenth century anthropologist, Father J-B. Labat, documented the Ganga-Ya-Chibanda, presiding priest of the Giagues, a group within the Congo kingdom, who routinely cross-dressed and was referred to as ‘‘grandmother”.

4.     In traditional, monarchical Zande culture, anthropological records described homosexuality as ‘‘indigenous”. The Azande of the Northern Congo ‘‘routinely married” younger men who functioned as temporary wives – a practise that was institutionalised to such an extent that warriors would pay ‘‘brideprice” to the young man”s parents.

5.     Amongst Bantu-speaking Pouhain farmers (Bene, Bulu, Fang, Jaunde, Mokuk, Mwele, Ntum and Pangwe) in present-day Gabon and Cameroon, homosexual intercourse was known as bian nkû”ma– a medicine for wealth which was transmitted through sexual activity between men.

6.     Similarly in Uganda, amongst the Nilotico Lango, men who assumed ‘‘alternative gender status” were known as mukodo dako. They were treated as women and were permitted to marry other men.

7.     In the former Kingdom of Dahomey, women could be soldiers (above) and older women would sometimes marry younger women, according to anthropologist Melville Herkovits.

 8. Same-sex relationships were reported amongst other groups in Uganda, including  the Bahima and the Banyoro

9.    King Mwanga II, the Baganda monarch, was widely reported to have engaged in sexual relations with his male subjects.

10.   A Jesuit working in Southern Africa in 1606 described finding ‘‘Chibadi, which are Men attired like Women, and behave themselves womanly, ashamed to be called men”.

11.   In the early 17th century in present-day Angola, Portuguese priests Gaspar Azevereduc and Antonius Sequerius encountered men who spoke, sat and dressed like women, and who entered into marriage with men. Such marriages were ‘‘honored and even prized”.

12.  In the Iteso communities, based in northwest Kenya and Uganda, same-sex relations existed amongst men who behaved as and were socially accepted as women.

13.  Same-sex practises were also recorded among the Banyoro and  the Langi.

14.   In pre-colonial Benin, homosexuality was seen as a phase that boys passed through and grew out of.

15.  There were practises of female-female marriages amongst the Nandi, the Kisii of Kenya, as well as the Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan and the Kuria of Tanzania.

16.  Among Cape Bantu, lesbianism was ascribed to women who were in the process of becoming chief diviners, known as isanuses.

Today in Africa, homosexuality means two things: black magic and western culture. In DRC, for example, when you currently ask a person about same sex relationships, she without any doubt answers you that people who like this form of sexuality want to copy the white culture. If you question another person, she will say to you that a homosexual is an occultist. There is, therefore, a total confusion in comprehension more especially as approximately 50% of the population are illiterate and a good portion of the people known as educated are not interested in the reading of books or documents to understand what homosexuality is. 

 The other element which creates confusion is the religion. Since more than one decade, most African countries are invaded by evangelical churches. The proliferation of those churches contributed largely to spread homophobia around the black continent. Pastors of those ministries describe homosexuals as immoral persons and do not hesitate to link them to Satanists.   Now, populist politicians are claiming that homosexuality is not african. They are improving homophobia among people just for wining popularity. Some of them launch anti gay bills for criminalising same sex relationships. In countries like Nigeria and Uganda, anti gay bills were voted and homosexuals are living in fear. In August 1st 2014, anti-gay law were invalidated by ugandan court.

[1] Published by Palgrave Mc Millan

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