Some Western leaders such as Barack Obama and David Cameron have recently acted as Advocates-in-Chief in promoting gay rights in Africa. In response, many African leaders have voiced their vehement opposition.
Former Zimbabwean president Mugabe’s daring “we’re not gays” speech at the 2015 UN General Assembly is one example. Another is Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni’s rebuff of the idea by making of tougher anti-homosexuality laws in 2014.
Some months back, the debate was reignited in Ghana by President Akufo Addo’s Al Jazeera interview. Few weeks ago, Theresa May apologised for Britain’s legacy of anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth, with a promise of helping African countries legalise homosexuality.
Why a western leader such as Britain’s would choose to apologise for her country’s colonial role in Africa’s anti-gay laws, and not apologise for her country’s role in putting so many roadblocks on Africa’s highway to development should make hypocrisy as virtuous as sincerity. But that can wait for another day.
On the issue of gay rights, African societies and Western ones are diametrically, and understandably, opposed. But if Africans continue to insist that homosexuality is a moral, cultural or social aberration that is unnatural and un-African, whatever these descriptors mean, then there is cause to worry: from all indications, this gay question in Africa will not go away.
And if the evidence from thelast 500 years—I mean the years of the slave trade, colonialism and all other things similar—is anything to go by, then we must put our hands over our heads and start to mourn the “death” of our way of life. Because when Western countries, actors or leaders want something in Africa, they come for it. By any means necessary. And they get it!
This is why.
African countries have borrowed theirpolitical system,sociolegal system, language, and their general lifestyle from the West. Most of Africa aspire to becoming like the West—Africa has come to accept the Western way of life as normal or, worse, as ideal.
Why are we now refusing to follow a Western trend, simply becauseit is leading to the trench? Did we think we could borrow our legs from the West and not be told where to go?
Obviously, African countries want an ethical-normative verdict on the homosexuality issue—a verdict that considers the norms, cultural consciousness and normative aspirationsof the people.
Yet their political and social set up are organised around a secular liberal democratic system that mostly delivers an empirical-positivistsociopolitical verdict—a verdict that has little orno regard for communal sensitivities.Let us get this straight; liberal democracy has little respect for our cultural norms and social mores.
Our elders say that a crab begets a crab, not a bird. Similarly, we can’t accept a political system that is empirically secular and foreign, and expect it to lead us to ways that are ethically cultural-religious and indigenous.
So, as Christians, Muslims and African traditional religionists fume at the thought of legalising homosexuality in African countries, we must as well ask ourselves: did we eat our own cake? If so, why do we seem to want it back?
With our cake already eaten, how long before we considered homosexuality as normal?It is coming. If you ask me, I will say it’s a matter of when, not if. Our current political structures might deliver us to a point where we MUST legalise homosexuality.
I’m not arguing that homosexuality is necessarily a “Western” way of life. I believe that the act transcends both race and geography. The point here, however, is that since African countries have borrowed their very socio-political destiny from the West, then calls by western countries for African societies to follow Western steps is only logical, if not natural.
If we feel that those calls are harmful to our inborn instincts and cultural selves, then the harm may be self-inflicted.
Neither is my argument about whether the act of homosexuality should be legalised or not. But if the social and political structures that may eventually lead to the legalisation of homosexuality in Africa is un-African, should African countries then return to a system that would respect Africans for who they are, in their own local spaces, where they can choose to protect their cultural, social and religious collective without any encroachment from “above”?
But that means we must regurgitate our cake, after we have eaten it. It means we must embark on a gracious act of asserting our indigenous selves in the system which governs us.
When President Akufo Addo suggested that legalisation of homosexuality was bound to happen, Ghanaians almost handed him over to the devil himself. Well,it might turn out that the president had a political foresight that travelled at the speed of light.
For some, it might be a foresight that threads on cultural and religious nihilism. But it might still be “bound to happen.” Until we change the system that governs us.
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