With the ushering in of the new year, debate about homosexuality and homosexual rights on the continent has heated up like never seen before. This is coupled with the new Anti-Gay laws that have been legislated in the economic power house of Nigeria and the recent Anti-Gay law that has also been passed and signed by President Yoweri Museveni in Uganda.
So, What’s the Problem?
This was my personal initial reaction to the debate. I don’t see why anyone should have the right to legislate on who other members of the society have relations with, or the nature of those relationships. I mean, at the end of the day why is it anyone’s business to begin with? But like many things in Africa there is always a deeper meaning. Firstly this is something the Western world has come out quite strongly to condemn. President Barack Obama in a public statement freshly denounced the proposed Anti-gay bill in Uganda, calling it “odious.” He went as far as warning that ties between the two countries may be affected by the law. The mood on the continent in relation to western powers is currently one of intense defiance.
Africans are tired of the interventionist policy of Western states and want to make their own decisions. This is one of those areas where African nations feel that they can and will take their own stance.
Then the question arises, why this particular stance? Religion. Africans are famous for being “notoriously religious,” and there is no exception to that when it comes to political policies as well. The church is unified in its disapproval of homosexual activities and homosexual rights, the people follow the church, by default African governments cannot afford to alienate the church or they will lose the people; it is an unbreakable chain.
So, Why is this A Problem?
Firstly and most importantly because of the fact that people – human beings – are being subjected to cruel practices such as corrective rape, many are being killed simply for being gay while others risk losing their lives if they expose themselves. This is the biggest problem. The debate in turn has aroused a great and intense hatred for anything associated with homosexuality. In the Anti-Gay laws that were recently passed in Nigeria, it is illegal to support and hide the identities of gay people. What nonsense is this? The law actually requires anyone who knows of a homosexual to report this person to the authorities, those who don’t face a possible 4 years in jail. So if you have a gay brother or sister, or friend you have to report them to the police. The principle of separation of church and state needs to be applied in this situation more than ever.
It doesn’t matter which side of the divide one falls; with famine, disease, human rights abuses all prevalent on the continent African governments have a lot more important things to do than legislate on morality.
Photo Credits: Aljazeera.com, africareview.com