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Thursday, 11 June 2009

Africa: Gay and lesbian voices in African blogosphere


by Haute Haiku

Homosexuality is perceived as a new phenomenon in Africa and a taboo. It is outlawed in many African countries. Many African leaders have condemned homosexuality as being un-African. The Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe once described gays as worse than dogs and pigs. Former Namibia's President, Sam Nujoma, once stated that “Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society.”

Nigeria introduced a bill in 2007 banning same sex marriage. According to Rod 2.0 the bill is the most comprehensive homophobic legislation ever proposed in the world. Early this year homosexuals in Nigeria stormed the National Assembly seeking for legislation that will guarantee the protection.

Lifestyle, culture and religion have become the invisible fence to many homosexuals in Africa barring them from their freedom of sexual expression. A Kenyan blogger, Wilde Yearnings, was quite optimistic after US President Barack Obama officially declared June being a gay pride month and decriminalizing of homosexuality all over the world earlier this month. He posted Obama's speech on his blog:

My Administration has partnered with the LGBT community to advance a wide range of initiatives. At the international level, I have joined efforts at the United Nations to decriminalize homosexuality around the world…NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2009 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to turn back discrimination and prejudice everywhere it exists.

Naughy Feeling commented on the post:

It is great our comrades in America are getting recognition. In our dear country we can't stick our necks in the sand and tell ourselves all will be well. The gigantous task ahead demands of us that we kid not ourselves of the responsibility ahead of us. It may require sacrifices but all for the greater good. May God bless LGBT kenya n give us strength for what is ahead. But hey, look on the bright side, we can still have fun at it.

But will culture, religion and lifestyle factors derail the decriminalisation of homosexuality in most African countries or will it be as Wilde Yearnings described “meanwhile in Kenya… The struggle continues…”?

It has been said that homosexuality is a lifestyle adapted by Africans from the West, SebaSpace a Ugandan blogger tries to points out that his “sexuality” and “him ” are one, that homosexuality cannot be a lifestyle because for him to be involved with someone it has to be sexually, emotionally and spiritually bringing the fact that homosexuality is a physiological function too.

SebaSpace has been on a constant war with an anti-gay blogger also from Uganda and the war is always revolving around religion, culture and lifestyle. This created a stir in the LGBT blogosphere and another gay Kenyan blogger wrotes a post to answer the three questions The Red Pepper had asked. The questions were:

1. If you try to drink water through the ear, you naturally spoil it because it was created by God to do the hearing function. That's physical harm.

2. when they discovered you were gay. You know very well how we love having grandchildren in Africa. Imagine what goes on in your parents' minds to know that you will never give them grandchildren (I am assuming that you a die-hard gay man but if you are bi, please forgive me). So that is emotional harm.

3. Spiritual harm. You tamper with God's plan of procreation. Understand that the main reason of creating the sexual organs was procreation purposes. For you in an attempt to be very creative, you put your organs at the disposal of pleasure only (I hope it is fun).If you have radical parents, they can start questioning God as to why he gave them such a child. I know parents of a gay boy who visited scores of witchdoctors thinking that their child had been bewitched. I can give you as many reasons as possible. I hope you are an objective gentleman who looks at things objectively.

With so much hate from all sides, will the African Leaders put their priorities in order from all the pressure by the UN, IMF and World Bank and speak out for the sexual minorities or will still hold them in this invisible cage?

His answers:

The Ugandan rag called Red Pepper has been engaging Afro gay, a fellow Gay blogger from Uganda in arguments regarding the situation on Homosexuality in Uganda. Follow this link to see the full post. Recently, the editor of red pepper wrote to Afro arguing that he (Afro) was causing Physical, emotional and Spiritual harm to his family by being gay.

I promised Afro that I will write my responses to the Editor on my blog and link back with him. I have taken their questions, edited without altering the message and I have responded to each question.

I tend to disagree with you when you say that homos have never done anybody physical, emotional or spiritual harm.

Without any prejudice I want to tell you that they are guilty of all the three accounts.

Count 1. If you try to drink water through the ear, you naturally spoil it because it was created by God to do the hearing function. That's physical harm.

Red pepper has made three elementary mistakes (assumptions) 1) The common one that homosexuality is equal to sodomy (their shallow analogy of the ear above) 2) Following number 1 above that sodomy is practiced only by homosexuals and 3) That all homosexuals engage in anal sex.

I will deal with the last one first. Is the paper saying they are ok with someone with homosexual orientation as long as they don’t engage in sex? Have they ever heard of celibate gay people and gay people who don’t engage in anal sex? Well, I have and know both types.

It's worth noting, that from the very beginning sodomy and homosexuality were two categorically separate things. The correct definition of sodomy–then and now–is simply non-procreative sex, whether practiced by heterosexuals or homosexuals. It includes oral sex, masturbation, mutual masturbation, contraceptive sex, coitus interruptus, and anal sex–any sex in which semen does not find its way into a uterus.

The anal sex thing is one elephant in the room, but it's not an inherent part of being gay, it isn't an activity engaged in exclusively by gay people.

SebaSpace refused to answer the questions from Red Pepper. He gives reasons for his refusal:

If you look at the e-mail below, the editor of the Red Pepper has valid questions he is asking and, ordinarily, I would answer them – indeed I have answered these questions over the years more times than I have had hot dinners.

The problem for me now is I don’t believe the people asking the questions are sincere. Rightly or wrongly, I think all they are looking for is material to feed their tabloid frenzy and so I have refused to provide the answers. That said, I think it would be okay for other bloggers to attempt to answer them on their blogs or wherever as they are legitimate.

Here is the e-mail I got from the Red Pepper and the questions they posed [heavily emended for clarity]

Thanks for the reply.

Well, you have not answered Phiona's question and I am sure she will maintain her opinion. I also have a feeling that you don't have an answer for it. The times I have interacted with you I have discovered that you are a clever man who cannot answer a question unless you are sure the answer is convincing.Again I tend to disagree with you when you say that homos have never done anybody physical, emotional or spiritual harm.

Without any prejudice I want to tell you that they are guilty of all the three accounts.

While gay and lesbian bloggers in Africa use blogs to express themselves freely, there are also anti gay bloggers targeting them. One of them, Blake, had a blog called Kenyans Against Gays before it was suspended for violating Blogger's Terms of Service. Kenyan Gay wrote about the suspension:

A couple of years ago, a dude called Blake started this blog and I think the first thing he did was to announce its launch on my blog. Over time, that blog grew with articles explaining why he felt he should take a position against us etc.

However, from propagating his position against homosexuality in recent times he moved to actually calling for gay people in Kenya to be killed. I have been alerted by a reader that the blog has been suspended whilst being investigated for possible blogger rules violation. I suspect it is because of his latest position that was quite militant.

I am a believer in freedom of expression and actually think that blog helped expose that there are some willing to propagate hate to get their point across. But I draw the line when someone advocates for homosexuals to be killed.

I think his blog served us more than it aimed to destroy us. This is because we have many Kenyan gay blogs and Blake used to visit all of them and in the comments section try to drive traffic to his site. If you followed links, you would find that very many of the comments were from people who attempted to engage him intellectually on gay issues. Unfortunately, there were those usual vile comments from both sides with most insults coming from him. He was a troll on my blog until I decided to ignore him.

When you visit Kenyans Against Gays blog you get the following message:

This blog is in violation of Blogger's Terms of Service and is open to authors only

However, Blake went on to start another blog using Wordpress.

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