I have asked many Ugandans why there is such strong homophobia in this country. Nearly every answer I get is some variation on “it isn’t part of our culture. It was brought here by Europeans, and they are trying to recruit young people to become gay.”
The irony is that homosexuality existed here long before Europeans had ever set foot on the African continent and it is, in fact, Christianity, a true European import, that has demonized homosexuals.
An article in the Guardian titled African myths about homosexuality, written by a man from Zimbabwe, cites pre-colonial homosexual activity in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina-Faso, Camaroon, Angola, and Benin. In fact, he points out that in Angola, homosexuality was common until the Portugese criminalized it.
Homosexuality was not brought here by Europeans. Christianity, and its attendant moral code, was.
The Christian Church is the new colonial power in sub-Saharan Africa. The European national powers laid the original and important groundwork for the advances of the church into all facets of life here. They taught Africans to feel ashamed of their cultures and traditional religions, and left a vacuum when local people did not reap the financial benefits of secular “development.” It was then very easy for the church to step in and fill the void. The control of the church here is far more powerful and complete than that of any of the European powers of the 19th and 20th centuries because it has been welcomed with open arms. There is no “opposition” or “underground movement” against it.
So here are my questions:
- Why are Africans so quick to renounce their traditional cultures and accept a European-introduced religion that strictly defines how they should live and who they should hate, even while the worst thing people can say here about homosexuality is that it was “brought here by Europeans?”
- Why the fear around homosexuality? What is the basis for someone to feel personally threatened by the existence of gay people? It is one thing to not like the fact that some people are gay – there are lots of people in the world that I don’t like, too – but what pushes it over the edge to make it seem ok to kill somebody just because you don’t like how they live their lives?
- How can anyone who is even mildly intelligent believe that people in the West are sending money over here to “recruit” people to become gay? Are you serious?!? The only money coming over here is coming from American Christian evangelicals to promote anti-gay hatred. OK – so maybe that was more an opinion than a question, but it seems that lots of people actually believe this, and I really don’t understand it.
- allAfrica.com: Uganda: Can We Talk Honestly About Homosexuality? (indigenist.blogspot.com)
- Ugandan Gay Activist Brutally Slain (huffingtonpost.com)
- Gay Rights in Uganda (Wild Thoughts from Uganda)
Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala