[Dedicated to commentator MSA. Hope you read this & change your mind; otherwise, let’s agree to disagree 🙂 ]
Yesterday, my favorite Ghanaian bigot said something that gave me comic relief for the week & I’m really grateful to him for that. Rev. Prof. Martey, the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Ghana stated that ‘teh gays & lezbos’ are witches or similar to witches or something like that. I laughed my head off till my eyes brimmed with tears. I’ve officially been branded a witch y’all, teehee! It was while I was wiping these tears & chuckling that I had a brilliant idea! I decided to search online for similar ‘smart’ statements that my favorite Ghanaian bigot had made about homosexuality just for ‘shits and giggles’.
In between statements that the ‘esteemed Reverend’ (lol 🙂 ) had made about gays being ‘filthy’ & ‘satanic’, I discovered the statement that ‘Homosexuality is un-African’. I almost choked on the fruit juice I was sipping out of my glass at that moment because that statement was so dumb. Like seriously? Duh! (vodafone advert alert lol)
There are those who argue that homosexuality is un-African. Our ancestors were running around naked & innocent & totally ‘un-gay’. They were very heterosexual indeed! Oh, men were marrying 50 women & women were fruitfully bearing 200 children per available uterus until the wicked Europeans appeared. The evil Europeans introduced homosexuality into Africa & have been recruiting Africans into this evil cult since. Bullshit!
Since homosexuality is un-African; how did I (an African, descended from Africans & born & bred in Africa) know when I was a 4-year-old girl that I liked other girls? It would be years before I met a white man/ woman & yet at that tender age I was aware of my orientation. What about the scores of African gays in diverse parts of Africa who are yet to travel outside Africa or meet white men/ women? And how believable is it that homosexuality has existed in every corner of the world but not in Africa?
Then there are those who argue that homosexuality may have existed but it was never accepted by any African culture. This argument is totally false when you consider historical records, anthropological records & simple logic.
Some people argue that most African native languages don’t have any word that translates into ‘homosexuality’ & this means that our ancestors frowned upon LGBTs. I beg to differ! I’m a Fante & in my language, there’s no word for ‘privacy’. Yet I’d laugh anyone out of town who claims that Fante culture never accepted the concept of ‘privacy’. Indeed, a well-bred Fante knows that couples have sexual intercourse in private & our kings also eat in private. Similarly, the mere fact that there’s no single word for homosexuality in our culture doesn’t mean that African cultures didn’t embrace LGBTs.
A commentator on this blog referred me to an article by another blogger (Nana Nyarko Boateng- Beyond Tales Blog) where she argues that that our ancestors didn’t have a word to describe homosexuality because they understood that all types of sexual orientations were respectable orientations & so they didn’t need to strictly divide sexuality into homosexuality & heterosexuality & bisexuality. This is why there are also no native African words for heterosexuality. I’m inclined to agree with her. After all, the British coined the words ‘homosexuals’ & ‘sodomy’ when under the influence of their Christian religion, they decided that homosexuality was a sin against their god & they set out to stigmatize, persecute & weed out gays. Maybe our ancestors felt no need to do this.
I have read the writings of historians & anthropologists who have researched Ghanaian culture including Rattray, J.B. Danquah & Sarbah. In their books, I notice that they state different types of offences/ crimes in the different Ghanaian ethnic groups & the sanctions for them. Eg: in Rattray’s Ashanti Law & Constitution, he mentions sexual offences such as rape, sex with minors, adultery & even sex in the bush (lolz). They all have names & their punishments are indicated. Eg: a man who commits adultery with the wife of another is liable to pay ‘ayefare’ as compensation to the cuckolded husband. Interestingly, at no point in ANY of these books is it mentioned that homosexuality is an offence or any punishment for it given. Which conclusion is more probable? Is homosexuality not mentioned as an offence by these anthropologists because it never existed in African societies or is it not mentioned because although it existed, our ancestors accepted it?
I have been researching the issue of homosexuality in Africa for some time now. My research revealed several interesting facts. A tomb for two male courtiers in ancient Egypt contains bas-reliefs depicting them in erotic & intimate poses that alluded to marriage or a relationship. Similarly, Uncle-Bob-I-will-rather-die-than-hand-over-power-Mugabe has been ranting & raving that homosexuality is un-African. Yet, an ancient rock painting of the ancient Zvidoma people of Zimbabwe illustrates 3 men engaged in intercrural (thigh) or anal sex. Then there are cultures like the Azandes of Central Africa who had customs that embraced homosexuality. Male Azande warriors took young ‘male wives’ for whom they paid bride wealth while some female Azandes also engaged in same-sex relationships with each other in which, among other things, they’d sometimes tie bananas or maniocs carved into phallic shapes with cords and then tie it to their loins & use it to pleasure each other. There were African cultures that LGBTs were revered as spiritualists & medicine men/ women eg: among the Dogon people of Mali where gay men were viewed as spiritual gatekeepers.
TO BE CONTINUED
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