Today is the first day of Pride Month. Do you know the history of Pride? The first Pride was a riot to protest police violence against LGBTQI people. On June 28, 1969, police raided a gay bar in New York called Stonewall Inn. Now, this was something the police had been doing routinely but on this day, patrons of the bar fought back and started a riot. Every year since then, the LGBTQI community globally celebrates pride as resistance against structural oppression and an affirmation of self and community.
I expressed on my Twitter page earlier today that I can’t be happy about Pride Month knowing that queer and trans Africans still face violence for being who they are.
And while that much is true, I also want to acknowledge what Pride means on a personal level to countless other Africans who are coming out of the closet, who are defying familial and societal rules and accepting themselves as truly glorious and holy beings. Those who are still fighting complicated internal battles and reconciling who they know they are on the inside vs who they are expected to be on the outside. And those who are dedicating their very lives to freedom work. To all these folks, I say happy pride month. I see you. I value you. I affirm and celebrate you.
That being said, my work here today is to highlight structural oppressions that LGBTQI+ persons are experiencing across Africa even while we celebrate Pride.
- Ghana : 21 LGBTQI activists were arrested on Thursday May 20, 2021 for attending a paralegal training to empower activists and members of the community. They are still being unlawfully held in detention as of today.
- Uganda: Yesterday, Uganda Police conducted a raid on an LGBTQ Shelter, and arrested 44 members who are now detained at a local police station. Earlier in May, Ugandan Parliament passed the Sexual Offenses Bill, which contains a clause to criminalize same-sex relationships. The bill prescribes a five-year-jail term for anyone guilty of same-sex acts, and awaits the signature of President Yoweri Museveni.
- Cameroon: Last month, a court in Cameroon sentenced two transgender women on Tuesday to five years in prison for “attempted homosexuality” and other offences namely, “public indecency” and “failing to carry identification”. The two women received the maximum sentence of five years in prison and fines of 200,000 CFA francs ($372.44).
- Senegal: Last month, several hundred protesters rallied Sunday in Dakar to demand that homosexuality be made a crime in Senegal.
It is a shame that sexual rights are so heavily regulated in many African countries and even now as we celebrate Pride, we have to contend with state-sanctioned violence against us and our bodies. The Adventures blog started to create a safe space for African women to safely and freely share their experiences of sex and sexuality, learn more about themselves as sexual beings and find communal healing. But that cannot happen if we’re not free from colonial shackles of puritanism, homophobia and transphobia.
The first Pride was a protest; it was resistance; it was a reclamation of power. I encourage you this Pride Month and beyond to honour the true spirit of pride by resisting the suppression of African sexual rights and taking a bold unwavering stand for sexual freedom and pleasure.