- Burkina Faso
- Cape Verde
- Central African Republic
- D.R. Congo
- Equatorial Guinea
- Guinea Bissau
- Ivory Coast
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan
Sunday, July 19, 2015
Remembering the past
“Gays are worse than pigs and dogs,” Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe is on record to have said. Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni, who has described gays as “disgusting” people; and Yahyah Jammeh of The Gambia, who says gays are “mosquitoes” and “vermin”. They are homophobes.
Most African countries have a strong anti-gay cultural environment reinforced by stern anti-gay laws. Uganda and Nigeria passed separate anti-gay laws about a year ago, which prescribe harsh custodial sentences for gays. Homosexuals in Africa are targets of instant injustice. They are, either stoned to death, or burnt alive by marauding crowds with beastly abandon. Anything “un-African” must be intolerable to Africans, and must be purged by ‘any means necessary’ – even lynching.
Africa’s sexual minorities are fighting back. “Who defines what is un-African?” They are falling on ancient traditional practices documented by anthropologists, to counter what in their view, is a misinformed perception about homosexuality being alien to Africa.
A report titled: Expanded Criminalisation of Homosexuality in Uganda: A Flawed Narrative / Empirical Evidence and Strategic Alternatives From an African Perspective, prepared by Uganda’s sexual minorities, says anthropologists Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe, have clearly shown that homosexuality has been a “consistent and logical feature of African societies and belief systems,” throughout the Continent’s history. Other anthropologists like Thabo Msibi of the University of Kwazulu‐Natal, Marc Epprecht, E. Evans-Pritchard and Deborah P. Amory have reached similar conclusions.
The first documented case of homosexuality has been traced to Egypt (Africa) in 2400 BCE. Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, two male “overseers and manicurists of the Palace of the King” were depicted in a nose-kissing position in Egyptian art. In a 2000-year-old “explicit” San Bushman painting, which depicts men having anal sex with each other. Also, the Nzinga – a warrior woman in the Ndongo Kingdom of the Mbundu – who ruled as ‘‘King” rather than “Queen”, was documented by a Dutch military attaché, in the late 1640s, dressed as a man surrounded in her harem, by young men dressed as women she called “wives”. A clear manifestation of early transgenderism and transvestitism in Africa.
E. Evans-Pritchard also recorded that the Azande, or Zande of Northern Congo, practised an institutionalised traditional custom, which allowed older warriors to marry younger men, who were between 12 and 20 years old. They served them as “wives”. The warriors, according to anthropologists, paid a “brideprice” to the family of the young men they married, just as happens in heterosexual marriage contracts within the same traditional setting. The “boy-wives” served their “warrior-husbands” sexually, and domestically. Once married, the warrior-husband referred to his boy-wife’s parents as “gbiore” (father-in-law) and “negbiore” (mother-in-law). A precursor of gay marriage in Africa.
Eighteenth century anthropologist, Father J-B. Labat, is thought to have documented the Ganga-Ya-Chibanda, the presiding priest of the Giagues – a group within the Congo Kingdom, as routinely cross-dressing and being referred to as “grandmother”: another anthropological evidence of primordial transvestitism in Africa, it seems. And there’s a plethora of them.
The “Chibadi”, found in Southern Africa, were thought to have practised transvestitism. They were documented by a Jesuit in 1606, to have expressed aversion to, and embarrassment at, being called men.
Also, effeminate transvestites in 17th century Angola, were documented by Portuguese priests Gaspar Azevereduc, and Antonius Sequerius, to have been married by men. Such marriages were purportedly “honoured and even prized”.
Similarly, men who dressed and behaved as women in northwest Kenya and Uganda’s Iteso society had sexual relations with other men. Same-sex practices were also recorded among the Banyoro and the Langi, while in pre-colonial Benin, homosexuality was apparently seen as a natural phase for growing boys.
The Nandi and Kisii of Kenya, and parts of Eastern Africa, are also recorded to have practised female-to-female marriages, while, among the Cape Bantus, lesbianism was ascribed to women, who were in the process of becoming chief diviners, known as ‘isanuses’. Generally, in Southern Africa, many female diviners were thought to have been either homosexual, or asexual, because the divine healer is thought to be closer to women, and by extension, had spiritual proximity to nature’s fundamental source of sustenance.
Also, the rain queen of the Lobedu Kingdom in South Africa, Modjadji, is said to have taken up to 15 young wives as she saw fit. Anthropologists also claim gay sex amongst Bantu-speaking Pouhain farmers (Bene, Bulu, Fang, Jaunde, Mokuk, Mwele, Ntum and Pangwe), in present-day Gabon and Cameroon, was seen as mystical medicine for transmitting wealth. It was known as “bian nkû”ma”. Similarly, among the Nilotico Lango of Uganda, men who assumed “alternative gender status”, known traditionally as “mukodo”, could marry other men and be treated as women. Other Ugandan tribes such as the Bahima, Banyoro, and Buganda, have also been documented to practise same-sex relationship. Buganda Monarch, King Mwanga II, who was known as the Kabaka, is documented by anthropologists, to have had sex with his male subjects. Mwanga, apparently fought Christian missionaries, who attempted getting him to stop sodomising his male subjects. The Igbo of Nigeria; Nuer of Sudan; and the Kuria of Tanzania; also had homosexual practices in their cultures. Murray and Roscoe documented in their book, Boy-Wives and Female-Husbands that the Bafia people in Cameroon, saw homosexuality among young men as a normal resort to avoiding impregnating young girls during puberty. They found that boys had sex with boys as a precautionary measure for fear of impregnating girls before full maturity. Sexual affection between girls were also common in Lesotho.
Homosexuality is intricately interwoven into many African traditions, and, therefore, cannot be labeled as un-African. It predates colonialism. So, logically, the West can’t be deemed to have influenced a culture that pervaded before its forays into Africa. And besides, the West didn’t choose Africa’s tradition for the Continent. Africa is simply running away from its homosexual past.