Today if you ask any random African a question pertaining gayism, their answer is most likely to be negative. Someone will tell you it’s ungodly while another will tell you it’s a western culture, that has absolutely nothing to do with Africanism. In as much as many Africans may want to relate to gayism as a foreign subject, many will agree that once or twice they have come across occurrences, heard rumors etc, that are gay yet they had nothing to do with the west.
The question of whether gayism is a new concept to Africans should be up for discussion because for one to make unbiased judgments you have to know whether it does have an history in Africa or not. Very less has been said about same sex marriages in traditional African communities as that would have been a taboo in most communities, but mostly because many people really don’t like talking about it.
Truth is, gayism and homosexuality were not entirely unknown to African culture even in the pre-colonial periods. In some African communities one will find out that they actually did and still do have a name in their local dialect for homosexuals. In his article Published on The Guardian News, Bisi Alimi says that in Yoruba, a homosexual is known as adofuro while in some parts of Nigeria they are referred to as yan daudu. These names are not new to these languages as Alimi says some are as old as the culture itself. That clearly tells you that this communities knew things to do with homosexuality even before the inception of christianity in Africa.
In some other parts of Africa for instance North Africa (ancient Egypt) and Southern Africa evidences of homosexuality have been found in ancient carvings, paintings, writings like poetry and also ancient modes of dressing. Men would dress like women while others served in the royal courtyards as “maids”. In the old Buganda kingdom for example boys serving in the courtyard would provide sexual services to the visitors.
In West Africa The Asante kingdom had male slaves acting as concubines in the 18th and 19th century, same as the eunuchs of Dahomey kingdom who were addressed as royal wives in the court. This tells us that in some African communities the concept of homosexuality was actually, like a custom. While in some communities it was a strange practice, in others it was just another crime, probably similar or even less evil than adultery.
One would wonder what really became of these practices and customs, and why it is that very less or totally nothing is said about them in most native African communities today. With the introduction of Christianity in Africa, came a religion that found many traditional activities evil and barbaric. Between that time and now, a lot might have happened since there was a massive loss of traditions, cultural beliefs and practices whether evil or right.
Gayism might have been considered an evil act or a taboo, but the fact that it was shut out completely and no folk tales tell anything about it leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Until very recently too, homosexuality was a topic mentioned nowhere, not at school, churches or any kind of social gathering.
Truth be told most anti-homosexuality politics are fueled by religion. While some political leaders and evangelical pastors raise their debates on same sex marriages they not only tell you it’s not African but they also say it’s not biblical. Whether it’s not African or biblical, the reality most people are afraid to accept is that gayism is actually real in African societies. I don’t know what makes people gay but different researches tell different stories from being born that way to the kind of upbringing one gets or the society one grows in and in whose company does one grow in.
Most people don’t want to ask themselves questions like why would a guy, with the full knowledge of the kind of treatment and homophobia gays get, wake up one day and decide to be gay?, why would someone still come out even after knowing the kind of stigmatization he will face?
Real issues pressure them,some just decide to live with them or come out and face whatever circumstances are out there. People in the society perceive homosexuality to be an evil concept and devilish thing that can be exorcised by powerful prayers , but most are just ignorant in that they don’t want to talk about it, they don’t want to accept its there thus hide behind religion and the notion that it is a devil’s doing.
Many African leaders are on record for openly criticising homosexuality, for instance former Gambian president Yahya Jameh is on record saying that if one was caught engaging in same-sex relationships he would slit their throats. President Yoweri Museveni and his former Zimbabwean counterpart Robert Mugabe have also on many accounts made it clear that gay relationships are a western practice and are not welcome in Africa at all.
In a recent interview with the BBC when asked about the issue of gay rights in Kenya,president Uhuru Kenyatta said and I quote ” I want to be very clear. I won’t engage in a subject that is of no main importance to the people of Kenya . This is not an issue as you would want to put it, of human rights. This is an issue of society,our own base as a culture as a people regardless from which community you come from.”That might be what he truly stands for and what Kenyans want and reflect, but he might also be a president who just doesn’t want to be the guy that gave gayism attention or gave space for LGBT rights.
In Christianity and probably other religions too, homosexuality is immoral and ungodly, just as adultery, fornication, incest and all other immoral practices. The church does not compromise when it comes to such practices, they are evil and punishable sins. Yet people are fond of making some “immoralities” look good to favor them while others are purely out of question.
The truth is, it will take a long while for Africans to accept and embrace the fact that gayism truly does exist and probably has always been there. It will take a long while too for people and mostly leaders to actually take it seriously and come up with measures to either fight it and eliminate it entirely or accommodate it. But the notion that it’s a western thing or a foreign imported culture, is purely false.
If you think this is my story to manipulate the discourse on gayism you can have a read of these two books; Adrian Van Klinken;Beyond African religious homophobia. How Christianity is a source of African LGBT activism and Bisi Alimi; If You Say Being Gay Is not African, You don’t know your History.