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Sorry Mr/ Ms. Bigot! Homosexuality is VERY African

FannyAnn_Eddy_Sierra Leone_2004

PART TWO

Fanny-Ann Eddy (pictured above)was a Sierra Leonean lesbian & gay rights activist who was brutally raped & murdered after bigots bayed for her blood.  Her story is similar to that of other African gay rights activists like Eric Lembembe (Cameroon) who was murdered after his feet were broken & his arms & feet burnt & David Kato (Uganda) who was bludgeoned to death with a hammer. Across the continent, LGBTs are being assaulted- a lesbian was raped to death with a toilet brush in South Africa & a group of gays & lesbians were assaulted by vigilante youth in Ghana. Meanwhile, countries like Ghana & several African countries continue to criminalize gay sex while others like Nigeria & Uganda are passing laws to impose draconian sentences on LGBTs. If the ‘anti-gay’ bills in Nigeria & Uganda become law, gays will not be able to access healthcare & family members will be obliged to ‘report’ their LGBT relatives. Yet,  African politicians have not imposed draconian sentences on themselves for massive corruption & incompetence. African pastors condemn gays daily but never breathe a word about adultery, divorce & ‘fornication’ which their bible equally condemns.  ‘Big men’ with scores of wives & mistresses sit in the front rows of these churches since the pastors turn a blind eye to polygamy (condemned by Jesus in the bible)- yet they persecute gays. It is my opinion that Africans are incited to commit these hate crimes by religious bigots & ignorant politicians who claim that homosexuality is ‘un-African’.  In this concluding part of the blog post, I set out to debunk the argument that homosexuality is ‘un-African’.

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I believe that our African ancestors had a superior understanding of fluidity of gender & sexuality. There were some customs that, though not specifically homosexual in nature , were so fashioned that homosexuals could use them to obtain emotional or even sexual satisfaction. Take the practice of ‘woman-marriage’ prevalent in some West African cultures & some ethnic groups of Sudan. This culture involved a special type of marriage where women could marry other women.

Scholars like Ife Amadiume have argued that there is nothing homosexual about these customs & they were only done solely to allow women bear children. However, other scholars have argued that this is a limited view because firstly, although there was a type of woman-marriage in which an infertile woman could marry another woman whose children would become hers; there was also another type of marriage where a wealthy women & women of significant social standing could take wives. Was the latter type of marriage also solely for children? & if our ancestors entered into heterosexual marriages for several reasons including childbearing, security & to satisfy their emotional & sexual desires; why assume that women in such societies (including the queer ones) didn’t enter into women marriages for diverse reasons including sexual & emotional fulfilment?  How would one know what happened behind closed doors when the couple in a woman-marriage retired to bed?

Coming home to Ghana, there’s the tradition among the Fantes where women can be kings & they take stool wives. Eg: the king of my dad’s hometown is a woman & she has stool wives. I’m not indicating that ALL female kings have sex with their stool wives but this is what I’m suggesting:  in the long history of the Fantes, is it so preposterous to think that some of these female kings could have been lesbians & they could have found emotional satisfaction from their stool wives?

There are African gods who could be considered as inter-sex (both male & female). There are African gods who are male but dress as women & require their worshippers (male) to also dress as such. There are female African gods who have wives.  All these things, in my opinion point to a group of people who accepted different forms of sexual orientation & didn’t stigmatize sexual minorities.

Because of the heterosexist bias of African researchers, I’ve not come across lots of serious studies by Africans on the issue of African sexuality & homosexuality (save for writings of a few bold researchers like Sylvia Tamale) so there’s so much to learn & so much information on this subject that we have not tapped due to our bigotry!

In saying these things, I am mindful of the fact that Africa isn’t monolithic & so I accept that it’s entirely possible that some African cultures embraced gays while others persecuted them. However, even if some African cultures persecuted gays, culture is never a good reason to discriminate against any group of people. We all know that in some of our African cultures, murdering twins & albinos, torturing widows, FGM & trokosi/ slavery were all permitted. However, today, we Africans have decided to discard such traditions since they are discriminatory. Why then do we still continue to abuse our LGBT brothers & sisters under the guise of ‘culture’?

The funniest thing though is that the people who protest loudest that homosexuality is ‘un-African’ are people like Rev. Prof. Martey who  have benefited financially from a religion introduced into Ghana by Europeans who carted slaves away on a ship named “The Good Ship Jesus”. People like David Bahati of Uganda have the temerity to persecute LGBTs in the name of “culture’ while they sidestep African culture to wear European clothing (suits), eat rice imported from overseas & speak ‘the Queen’s English’.The hypocrisy is galling. Sorry bigots of Africa! Homosexuality is 100% African but your homophobia sure doesn’t seem African to me!

References:

Marc Epprecht, Hungochani: The History of the Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa, McGill-Queen’s University Press, Canada, 2004

Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe (Ed), Boy Wives and Female Husbands, Palgrave, New York, 1998

Ifi Amadiume, Male Daughters and Female Husbands, Palgrave Macmillan, New York,  1987

E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Sexual Inversion among the Azande, American Anthropologist New Series, Vol. 72, No. 6, Dec. 1970, page 1429

William Eskridge, A History of Same Sex Marriage, 79 Va. L. Rev. 1419, 1993, page 1435

Melville J. Herskovits, A Note on ‘Woman Marriage’ in Dahomey, Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Vol. 10, No. 3, July 1937

 

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Published on: 07 January 2014 by in General Issues, Lesbian

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6 Comments
  1. Nana Darkoa says:

    Ekuba is on fire! Tell ’em

  2. Nana B. says:

    I’ve been an ardent reader of this blog for close to a year and this is my first contribution.
    LGBT is un-African?? Then I guess amorous emotions are un-African too. It was back in my all-girls high school that I came to realise that lesbianism is natural. It occurred to me then that sexuality indeed is fluid. Girls who supposedly had boyfriends at home were so enamoured with other girls to the point of the physical. Thus relationships that set out as platonic later became sexual or almost sexual. I think it’s highly possible to have carnal affections for someone who you feel a strong feelings for (family not inclusive). Well in my case, that is what I have come to realise. To say that gay n lesbianism is un-African is ludicrous. You CANNOT learn to be gay. You are either gay or you are not. Before the white-man walked the shores of this continent, I believe strongly that same-sex relationships were prevalent. So Ekuba, what are these bigots saying really? That there were gays in the Americas, Europe, Asia and everywhere else apart from Africa? As for the issue of it being a sin, that is one matter I don’t really get. These so called pastors who have several girlfriends are against LGBT. They harshly condemn it to be a sin. Eii, these self-appointed judge advocates of God. Kk… well, we are all sinners so maybe adultery is your transgression , someone’s is being gay. Please don’t judge gay people. ahh me i tire sef for this argument.

  3. cosmicyoruba says:

    I think one of the most amazing things is how much denial props up when discussing things like female husbands, stool wives etc. I wrote on woman-to-woman marriage in Igbo history last year and a few people came out to tell me there was no way even one female husband was not having sex with her wife :/

    Another thing is how many of these books/research on same-sex relations in African history are written by white people. I love that more Africans are adding their voices, I had no idea Sylvia Tamale has written on homosexuality btw only read her work on female sexuality.

    For this I recommend “Black Bull, Ancestors and Me: My Life as a Lesbian Sangoma” by Nkunzi Zandile Nkabinde because that book provides a firsthand account that shows a traditional institution that so many will deny had any sort of same-sex relationships actually had such relationships. Sangoma have “spirit partners” iirc, the ancestor that resides in them may want them to marry someone else so female sangoma may marry other women. Some of these female sangoma are/fall in love with the women they marry and chose to live together with them as lovers. I think “Black Bull” is so important, even though I personally did not agree with everything in it, because it is one voice that attempts to shut down the denial. Now if only we have accounts by female husbands who are lovers with their wives etc, but in this current climate few will admit to it and I’m sure all the oral histories have been altered.

  4. Ekuba says:

    @ ; ) & Nana D: Lol, girls have become wild!

    @ Nana B: Yay! Thanks for commenting! & am I not delighted that your first comment here was on my blog post? I co-sign everything you said 100 percent plus 1!

    @ Cosmic Yoruba: I should have given you props for that article you wrote mehn! It helped me so much & directed me to articles I should read. I’ll definitely read Black Bull also.

    Yes Sylvia Tamale has written a bit on homosexuality (especially on LGBT rights). Some of her work related to homosexuality which I enjoyed include ‘Out of the Closet’ published in ‘Africa After Gender?’, A Human Rights Impact Assessment of the Ugandan Anti-homosexuality Bill 2009 & a work she edited ie: African Sexualities: A reader’.

    I am also sad that there are so few Africans writing about homosexuality. First, I think this is due to the high levels of homophobia in Africa today. 98% of Nigerians, 96 % of Ghanaians & 90% of Kenyans believe ‘homosexuality is unacceptable’. I’m sure you can imagine how difficult it will be for someone who finds homosexuality unacceptable to research into whether our ancestors practiced it or to write about LGBT rights.

    Second, I think that few Africans have written about homosexuality due to historical factors. With the exception of some ancient African empires eg: Egypt; most African cultures were oral cultures as opposed to writing cultures.

    Thus, our ancestors never documented their views on homosexuality. Moreover, some centuries ago, it was mostly white people who were anthropologists & these are the people who have recorded evidence of homosexual practices among the Azandes etc.

    Sadly, some of this information on homosexuality in traditional African society is lost forever because the people who lived in that era are dead! So, for eg., who can you interview to give you a first-hand account of how 18th century Africans used to view homosexuality? In such circumstances, we can only rely on the writings of anthropologists who lived in that era & documented certain things & they were mostly white men.

    But I’m glad people like Zandile are writing. I’ll definitely check out her book. I hope to also research into these issues & write soon. Thanks for reading!

  5. cosmicyoruba says:

    @Ekuba

    I look forward to what more your research brings! I hope you write on them, and thanks for visiting my blog.

    Sadly, some of this information on homosexuality in traditional African society is lost forever because the people who lived in that era are dead!

    You’re right. Still I strongly believe that oral history must have made mention of same-sex relationships. And though the transmission of oral cultures among us has more or less died due to different “developed” forms of education, the oral histories are still there. I think oral histories are just as solid as written histories and are prone to the same cons. I mean we’ll never recover what was lost of the library at Alexandria burning, we’ll never be able to decipher those “top secret” texts that have been blacked out or censored. So with oral history, which despite what some may suggest was a structured thing, as far as I know there were specific clans that dealt with the history it wasn’t just any person in the street who was a certified oral historian etc. Anyway my point is with oral history things can be changed and manipulated, just as with written history.

    I was surprised to find that among the Yoruba there still remains oral histories that suggest same-sex relationships. Granted I found these out from Yoruba scholars that were largely homophobic they were still amazing finds. Proverbs like “you can’t sleep with a man the way you would with a woman” (the scholar insisted that this is from the perspective of a man but either way it suggests queerness, whether it is a man attempting to sleep with another man, or a woman affirming her preference for women) or a story about a woman who was advised to “start sleeping with men if she wanted to have children” suggesting that she was sleeping with women before.

    I also feel like the current history is dying out. Like old women today will know about people in same-sex relationships they saw in their youth and I wish those were kept and treasured you know.

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