HOMOSEXUALITY AND RELIGION IN THE AFRICAN CULTURE (Group 3)

Recently, homosexuality has been a subject of heated debate in the world. However, homosexuality as we know it, has been in existence as far back as the 15th century. Several African countries including South Africa, Burkina Faso and Zimbabwe have had homosexuality in their custom; in pre-colonial times, it was normal and accepted. According to Patrick Awoudo, for the Mossi people of Burkina Faso, leaders had male attendants that sometimes dressed as females to satisfy their sexual desires in times where it was not allowed to touch women (as cited in Lembembe, 2012). Of late, most European nations are legalizing homosexuality; LGBT communities, which were formed in the mid-1980’s in support of this movement, are increasing in numbers. Despite these leaps in accepting homosexuality, most Africans still cling on to the belief that it is totally wrong for anyone to engage in such activity, and even in some countries people that participate in homosexual acts are prosecuted. But as is going to be discussed in this essay, this belief – generally stemming from religion – is flawed and goes against our own cultural and core values as Africans and as humans.

If we step back and make a careful analysis of the root of all the religious contempt for homosexuality, we realize that most of it stem from religions that originated from the West. Homosexuality has always existed in Africa since pre-colonial times, and it is steeped in our ancient culture. “The Ndebele and Shona in Zimbabwe, the Azande in Sudan and Congo, the Nupe in Nigeria and the Tutsi in Rwanda and Burundi all engage in same-sex acts for spiritual rearmament,”(Tamale, 2014). As can be inferred, our African Culture has been aware of homosexuality for years now and has embraced it. The perception that came along with colonialism is just but a myth. In the online article “21 varieties of traditional African homosexuality,” published by Colin Stewart, we see several instances where our culture depicted acceptance of homosexuality(2014). Included in these are Bushmen paintings, which explicitly depict African men engaging in same-sex activity. We can clearly see that this negative perception that we have adopted is not one of our own religion and culture, but that of religions imposed upon us. We are only reflecting what we have been thought, but not what we actually feel.

Several religions that oppose homosexuality believe that it undermines the institution of marriage, therefore family and society. If the central reason religious people are against homosexuality is this statement, then it is totally unfair and biased. For what is a family if not a group of related people who have vowed, explicitly or implicitly, to love, care and provide for each other. And it is a fact that homosexuals, like every other couple, do create a family of their own after marriage; whoever said adopting a child is not part of life’s cycle? By preventing homosexuals from having their relationships, we will be shutting down a whole new kind of family. Which goes against the very principles of the same religions that condemn it.

Religion also creates an unnecessary dilemma for parents of gay children. For what are a father and mother to do if they conceive a gay child? Do they turn to their religion and faith, or do they turn to their core values as humans? And should such a dilemma even exist in the first place? In such situations, we find the parents try to force their child to convert from being homosexuals, in order to rescue themselves from making that choice. Yet, they don’t find it wrong that their belief conflicts with a basic human principle such as loving a child for who they are. Consciously or unconsciously, the parents begin to curse themselves and feel some level of contempt against a being as innocent as a child. This was the case with poor Ryan Robertson who died of drug overdose after his parents constantly forced him to resist his urges and convert from a homosexual (Spargo, 2014). Thus, the family bond that religion preaches so much about are torn apart when gay people begin to think they are defective, and their parents are forced to choose between their faith and accepting their child for being gay.

There are religious scriptures, like the Bible, that condemn homosexuality, calling it an “abomination.” Some of the followers of such religions have been able to realize that most of the things stated in these scriptures are metaphorical or figurative and therefore should not be taken literally. The president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama is an example of someone who identifies as Christian but is in favor of gay rights and gay marriage. On the other hand, some Christians still think the Bible should be taken literally, ignoring the fact that the Bible promoted extreme punishments such as stoning and slavery for something as minor as disobeying one’s parents. The world has changed and people have realized that things are not the same as they were. So why then do we still cling on to these relics of the past – relics that were not even ours to begin with. We should realize that we are in a different period and that change is necessary. We need to be able to accept homosexuals for who they are, not as deviants or weirdos.

People say homosexuality is a touchy subject, but frankly it isn’t. It is those who fear to change their beliefs that call it a “touchy” subject. The irony is that people who frown heavily on the subject are people that engage in much more atrocious sins within their own belief system. We are in a new era; world leaders and people of high position are beginning to realize the negative impacts of persecuting gays. As Africans, we need to analyze our position and recognize that no good will come from mindlessly persecuting someone because of their thoughts, feelings and ideals. And that any disgust held against homosexuals is flawed and goes against our own cultural and core values as Africans.

References:

Lembembe, E. O. (2012, May 8). What traditional African homosexuality learned from West. Retrieved from https://76crimes.com/2012/05/08/traditional-african-homosexuality-has-learned-from-west/

Spargo, C. (2014, December 27). Parents who forced gay son into therapy called murderers after he dies. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2888476/Christian-parents-gay-son-died-overdose-forced-conversion-therapy-called-murderers-abusers-never-parents.html

Tamale, S. (2014, April 26). Homosexuality is not un-African. Retrieved November 9, 2016, from http://america.aljazeera.com/opinions/2014/4/homosexuality-africamuseveniugandanigeriaethiopia.html

Stewart, C. (2014, January 30). 21 varieties of traditional African homosexuality. Retrieved from https://76crimes.com/2014/01/30/21-varieties-of-traditional-african-homosexuality/

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