Two weeks ago, Tanzania’s second largest aid giver, withheld ten million dollars, citing crackdown on homosexuality and alleged human rights abuses. According to Reuters, Denmark, joined the World Bank whose decision not to release a $300 million loan, was made following Tanzania’s recent “policy of banning pregnant girls from school and ...making it a crime to question official statistics.” These developments are far significant, yet today, we should discuss homosexuality.
We should be alarmed by the use of finances to make us Africans accept gay rights. In 2013, the well known British businessman, Richard Branson, called for an economic boycott due to what he termed Uganda’s mistreatment of homosexuals.
December 2013, the anti-homosexual law was passed by the Ugandan Parliament; a creed that made it punishable by imprisonment. Then US President, Mr Barack Obama, was quoted by BBC saying it was “odious.”
Odious means revolting, disgusting, hateful, offensive, and so on...
Across the Continent, most countries have declared homosexuality illegal. The stats are as interesting as the ongoing (equally startling) issue of GMO foods—which most Africans do not even follow, unfortunately, serious as it might be. Genetically Modified Organisms is also a foreign backed project. But let us leave that huge bear of a discourse for another day.
Being gay is legal in 19 nations across Africa, among them South Africa, Seychelles, Madagascar, Rwanda, Guinea, Congo DRC, Congo Brazzaville and Chad. The demographics do not reflect rich-poor or religious leanings. A majority of African countries (34, total) including Libya, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Malawi, Libya, Kenya, Liberia and Tanzania, consider it illegal.
Mauritania, Sudan, North Nigeria and South Somalia, are far, far strict. Those found guilty of practising it face the death penalty.
Recent developments in Tanzania have caused wide ranging chats and palaver on streets, social media and one-on-one debates. What disturbs is not the actual pro-gay stick, but the use of economic shove to reinforce an unpopular behaviour. It is no wonder; the development caused a big outcry and complex debate on social media.
I followed four main strands of thought. First, the hard-line supporting government policy. That homosexuality is against our culture and we should not be forced to subscribe to practices that are against our norms.
Second line sat on morals.
That homosexuality is not allowed in the scriptures (the Bible and Holy Quran, cited repeatedly); therefore, sinful.
Third was the actual “physical graphics” of homosexuality. When the average African speaks about homosexuality they are thinking sodomy, period! The fact that it is not natural; a minority preference, therefore, a private matter. Why make it a national scheme?
Last, the more liberal, consider gay rights an acceptable international inevitability.
I followed the thoughts, weighed up involved emotions and reached one conclusion. Here is yet another misunderstood interchange (or exchange) of a very sensitive global idea. Whereby things are done and conclusions reached, without looking at differences. Let us refer to African history to elaborate.
Before the two popular Middle East religions were imposed on the Continent, centuries ago, Africans had their own ways of worship. Lately, the only public figure to have openly explored this through his music is the late Nigerian Afro Beat jazz maestro, Fela Anikulapo Kuti. His songs and one particularly fascinating, insightful and compelling interview with the European media in 1988, shriek for an African identity. It is available on YouTube and copyrighted as www.reelingintheyears.com.
Prior to colonialism, most Africans were hostile to the imposed religions, however, in 2018, are ready to die in the cause of supporting and propagating them. This is an example of how one can embrace something else to reinforce what one already has, yet lose his/her original identity in the process.
Another case is Western democracy. Before colonialism we had our own courts, systems and ways of resolving matters. Come independence, and we began following administrative structures piloted by leaders who had studied in the West. No wonder most of those who stood against the sustenance of colonial structures were efficiently kicked out...a long list of which contains: Patrice Lumumba, Kwame Nkrumah and Thomas Sankara. The only survivor, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, was an exception. And thanks to his pragmatic gift, Tanzania (like it or not) is arguably one of the most peaceful places on the Continent.
Meanwhile, we keep witnessing total inadequacy of adapting to this novel way and are forever, carrying the tag of “Africans cannot administer themselves...” Truth is, we had to adapt; sink or swim...
Third specimen is recent technologies. The Internet. Very positive means of communication but with negative consequences too. Pornographic films have grabbed the attention of most of our young and impressionable. An area that President Nyerere banned. Now we hear many horror stories from these porn films: low sexual drive, erectile dysfunction, marital and psychological issues, plus homosexuality.
Let us conclude next week.
-London, Also published in Citizen Tanzania, 30 November 2018