The common claim by African homophobes is that homosexuality is somehow “un-African”. The reality is just the opposite. Same – sex relationships have always been part of African culture, across the continent, just as they have been the world over, in every period of history (until European colonists and missionaries attempted to stamp it out, thus introducing homophobia).
Writing in the Guardian, Bisi Alimi gives some examples.
If you say being gay is not African, you don’t know your history
When I was appointed by Berlin’s Humboldt University this year to teach the course “Pre- and post-colonial sexual orientation and sexual identity in Africa”, I knew I had a huge task before me. I had to teach students about a history that is mostly unwritten. In digging up facts I found that, while many Africans say that homosexuality is un-African, African culture is no stranger to homosexual behaviours and acts. For example, in my local language (Yoruba), the word for “homosexual” is adofuro, a colloquialism for someone who has anal sex. It might sound insulting and derogatory, however, the point is there is a word for the behaviour. Moreover, this is not a new word; it is as old as the Yoruba culture itself. In the northern part of Nigeria, yan daudu is a Hausa term to described effeminate men who are considered to be wives to men. While the Yoruba word might be more about behaviour than identity, this Hausa term is more about identity. You have to look and act like a yan daudu to be called one. It is not an identity you can just carry. These words are neutral; they are not infused with hate or disgust.
In the Buganda Kingdom, part of modern-day Uganda, King Mwanga II was openly gay and faced no hate from his subjects until white men brought the Christian church and its condemnation. Though King Mwanga is the most prominent African recorded as being openly gay, he was not alone.
In Boy-Wives and Female Husbands, a book examining homosexuality and feminism in Africa, the researchers found ‘‘explicit” Bushman artwork that depicts men engaging in same-sex sexual activity. There have been other indicators that the transition from boyhood to adulthood within many African ethnic groups involved same-sex sexual activities.
- Queer “Saint”, Ethiopian Nun Walatta Petros
- Uganda Martyrs: Charles Lwangwa and companions
- Gender and “Ideological Colonialism”
- Neo – Colonialism and Gay Rights in Africa
Boy Wives and Female Husbands