Reasons Why Anti-gay Sentiment is Still Prevalent in Africa 

Africa is home to 38 of the world’s 76 nations that have not moved away from outlawing same-sex relationships and behaviors. According to the results of recent surveys, the vast majority of individuals who live in African countries have a strong distaste for the homosexual lifestyle. This is true even in South Africa, it is the only nation on the African continent that recognizes the legitimacy of marriages between people of the same sexual orientation.

A vote to legalize marriages between people of the same gender was passed with an overwhelming majority in Ireland just one month ago. It was the first country in which the populace, as contrasted to the judiciary or the legislature, decided to legalize marriages between people of the same gender. Ireland is now one of twenty countries around the world that allows gay couples to get married. Back in the early 2000s, this type of marriage was not recognized anywhere in the legal system of the world.

What the Findings of Scientific Research Show

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people are actively discriminated against in Africa and the continent’s harsh laws and strong anti-homosexuality sentiment warrant investigation.

A report compiled by the Academy of Science of South Africa examines recent scientific findings about human sexuality and sexual direction. The findings call into question attitudes that are prevalent in many African nations. In addition to that, the report offers some insight into the norms and legal systems that are prevalent throughout Africa.

It explains how science all over the world has progressively indicated that gay people aren’t “sick” and don’t suffer from “conditions” that require treatment. This research, particularly from the 1950s until the 1990s, encouraged various professional organizations to remove references to homosexuality from diagnostic manuals.

The “binary opposition” model of thinking about sexuality, which divides people into normal and abnormal categories based on their orientation, is not supported by modern scientific research. Instead, it encourages thinking about the diverse expressions of sexuality that can be found in humans.

The Findings of the Report

There has never been a time when normal societies did not tolerate a diverse range of sexual personas and orientations, there is no reasonable excuse for efforts to ‘eliminate’ LGBTI people from society. The widespread public admiration of this scientific discovery has been an important factor in the shift toward more progressive public perceptions and laws around the world.

The result of the Practice of Colonialism

Untangling the current political situation in Africa requires first gaining an understanding of the ethics that emerged in Europe during the 19th century. These moralities entailed missionary-driven attacks on African sexual and social traditions and customs such as polygamy and having sexual encounters before or outside of marriage.

Numerous studies have shown that same-sex activities were not generally frowned upon in pre-colonial Africa in the same manner that colonial leaders deemed them to be illegal. There are many traditional communities in Africa and other parts of the world that have established ways of ordering and accepting same-sex attractions and behavior.

Many people were okay with men having relationships with other men of the same gender, especially within age-related collaborators or military units. While maintaining their sexual orientation in other aspects of their lives, a significant number of men participated in activities with people of the same sexual orientation as them.

In many separate African societies, there is documentation of women engaging in diverse types of cross-dressing and role-swapping. Some of these societies also record marriage or other types of recognized relationships between women. Among these are the cultures and societies of countries such as Kenya, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Lesotho, South Africa, and a great number of others.

It wasn’t until the height of colonialism that accurate classifications of sexual orientations were established, and it wasn’t until then that illegal behavior was made illegal. Because they believed “native” cultures did not penalize “perverse” sexual behavior nearly as severely as they did, the British in specific were the ones who introduced legislation.

These laws, along with a great number of others from the colonial era that was based on Victorian biases, ought to have been abolished as part of the process of decolonization. However, upon gaining their independence, the majority of English-speaking colonial possessions did not repeal the “sodomy” or “crime/vice against nature” laws that had been in effect during the colonial era.

There’s been some movement in the right direction. For instance, Mozambique will officially repeal its “vice against nature” legislation within the next few weeks, coinciding with the nation’s celebration of its 40th anniversary of independence this month.

In More Recent Years

However, attitudes and laws regarding homosexuality were not entirely brought over by colonial powers. Since the country’s independence, anti-LGBT attitudes have been driven in part by other variables, including political populist politics. More recently, a portion of the motivation behind new laws has emerged from organizations based in the United States that are conservative and frequently racist.

In the past 15 years, the Christian right, particularly charismatic right-wing churches from the United States, has been extremely active in pushing anti-homosexuality attitudes in parts of Africa such as Uganda.

These organizations have provided their African alliances with science that has been debunked to reinforce what is inevitably a limited and foreign set of values that are considered to be ultraconservative. In a similar vein, the expansion of a more conservative collection of Islamic customs in certain regions of Africa has resulted in the deterioration of indigenous beliefs that have traditionally been more accepting of non-heterosexual orientations.

The world’s attention and condemnation have been drawn to Uganda’s efforts to impose new and more stringent laws. In 2014, President Yoweri Museveni issued an order that established a Presidential Scientific Committee on Homosexuality. The purpose of this committee was to advise President Museveni’s government on whether or not to pass a contentious anti-homosexuality law. The medical academics who participated came to the following conclusions:

  • “Homosexuality is not a disease,” as the saying goes.
  • The term “abnormality” does not apply to homosexuality;
  • To be more specific, that “homosexual behavior has existed throughout the whole of human histories, such as in Africa”
  • The term “before the emergence of the white man” refers to the time when homosexuality already existed in Africa.

Despite obtaining this report, President Museveni signed a bill into law that included severe new penalties for “homosexual acts” and for what the law refers to as the “publicity” of homosexuality. The Ugandan Constitutional Court has, for the time being, blocked further action on the integration of that law.

Other examples include new laws that have been passed in Nigeria, changes that have been made to the constitution of Zimbabwe that is homophobic, and discussions about the possibility of new laws being passed in several different countries, including Kenya.

Affects That Aren’t Desirable

This kind of legislation has a devastating effect not only on the people and communities who identify as LGBTI but also on the available public health services.

The fact that new legislation in some regions of Africa is intended to criminalize all who endorse LGBTI rights or petition for better access to public healthcare facilities is an especially dangerous aspect of these new laws. Because of this, the work of non-governmental organizations and activists, as well as the wider spread of new scientific findings regarding sexual orientation, is hampered.

The purpose of this report is to make recent scientific findings more readily available to policymakers in Africa so that legislation can be formulated based on solid evidence rather than social prejudices. The attraction between people of the same gender is neither “un-African” nor a product of colonial rule. There are between 350 and 400 million individuals around the globe who do not identify as heterosexual; approximately 50 million of these people live in countries in Africa.

It is time to reshape the regulations of the continent, as well as the societies that exist on it, in light of a scientific knowledge of sexual orientation that is rapidly progressing and becoming more convincing.

Africa is home to 38 of the world’s 76 nations that have not moved away from outlawing same-sex relationships and behaviors. According to the results of recent surveys, the vast majority of individuals who live in African countries have a strong distaste for the homosexual lifestyle. This is true even in South Africa, it is…