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Africa: Is Homosexuality a Religion?

France-based Togolese Blogger Kangni Alem reflected on homosexuality in Africa recently. Namely, he tackled claims by some on the continent that homosexuality is a heretic religion. In the process, he mentioned recent “outings” of public figures. A debate ensued that involved Martinique's lesbian blogger Le Blog de [Moi] who'd read an excerpt of the post on Global Voices.

Homosexuality and Religion

J’écoutais RFI (…) quand je suis tombé sur un reportage sur l’homophobie à travers le monde. Et là, de la bouche d’un militant des droits de l’homme camerounais, j’appprends que certains auraient peur, au pays de Paul Biya et de William Eteki Mboumoua, des homosexuels, parce qu’ils sont censés propager une nouvelle religion. (…) tout cela relève de suppositions liées à la superstition, à une conception désagrégée de la sexualité en Afrique, suite aux mutations et rencontres civilisationnelles, et d’un tissu d’incompréhensions tenaces.

I was listening to RFI [Radio France Internationale] (…) when I fell on a report on homophobia across the world. And there, from the mouth of a Cameroonian human rights activist, I learn that some, in the country of Paul Biya and William Eteki Mboumoua, are afraid of homosexuals, because they are supposedly disseminating a new religion. (…) All of that comes from presumptions linked to superstition, a disagregated conception of sexuality in Africa caused by mutations and clashing civilizations and of a fabric of stubborn ignorance.

même la métaphore biblique sur l’homosexualité n’attribue pas aux “sodomites” un quelconque prosélytisme religieux, sinon une tendance à la déparavation dont la conséquence directe a été la punition divine. Mais bon, depuis plusieurs décennies, dans les caves du Vatican, cette histoire de “punition divine” ne fait plus rire les prêtres homosexuels!

Even the biblical metaphore on homosexuality does not deem “sodomites” to be religious heretics. What it does say is that they tend towards depravation which has divine punishment as a direct consequence. But since many decades in the Vatican's caves, the story of “divine”punishment only has gay priests laughing!

Recent Gay Scandals in Cameroon

Il faut dire que le Cameroun tient l’actualité quant au sujet. Il y a 2 ou 3 ans, je crois, deux hommes s’étaient présentés à la mairie de Yaoundé ou Douala pour demander qu’on les unisse par les liens du mariage civil; l’affaire avait fait couler beaucoup d’encre, puisque le maire n’avait jugé bon répondre à la “provocation” qu’en faisant intervenir les policiers. Récemment encore, le directeur de publication du journal La Météo avait été condamné à six mois de prison avec sursis pour avoir publié dans ses colonnes le nom d’un ministre sur une liste d’homosexuels présumés. Dans la foulée, plus d’une dizaine de plaintes en diffamation ont été déposées devant le tribunal de Yaoundé contre des journaux qui ont publié (…) les noms de plusieurs dizaines de personnalités politiques, religieuses, artistiques ou sportives camerounaises accusées de “déviances” homosexuelles. Rappelons qu’au Cameroun, les rapports sexuels entre personnes du même sexe constituent un délit puni de six mois à cinq ans de prison et d’une amende de 20.000 à 200.000 francs CFA (30 à 300 euros). Seulement, diraient les plus homohobes!

Cameroon is at the forefront of headlines on this topic. Two to three years ago, two men showed up at Yaounde's or Douala's city hall, asking to be married; much ink flowed from the affair since the mayor only responded to the “provocation” by calling the police. Recently, the editor in chief of the paper La Météo was sentenced to six months in jail for having published the name of a minister in a list of presumed homosexuals. More than a dozen defamation complaints were made to Yaounde's tribunal against papers who had published (…) the names of dozens of Cameroonian political, religious, artistic and sports personalities accused of homosexual “deviances”. Note that in Cameroon, sexual acts between people of the same sex are a crime punishable by six months to 5 years in jail and of a fine of 20,000 to 200,000 African Francs (30 to 300 Euros). “Only,”add the most homophobic.

Homophobia and Ignorance

Evidence des temps, l’homosexualité ne peut plus être perçue comme un mythe en Afrique. même moi je l’ai cru longtemps, jusqu’au jour où je suis tombé sur l’évidence qui me pendait au nez, lorsque j’ai surpris une de mes meilleures amies, dramaturge africaine célèbre, en train de draguer ma copine de l’époque, dans un festival à Cotonou. On a beaucoup ri de l’histoire, nous sommes restés amis, et moi j’ai beaucoup découvert des stratégies des homos en Afrique pour survivre à un environnement hostile, stratégies dont je parle un peu dans mon roman Cola cola jazz, à travers le personnage de la dame Omoneh.

Sign of times, homosexuality in Africa can no longer be perceived as a myth. Even I believed it for a while until the evidence stared me in the face when one of my best [female] friends, a famous African playwright, hit on my then girlfriend at a Cotonou Festival. We laughed, stayed friends and I found out a lot about the strategies that homosexuals in Africa use to survive a hostile environment, strategies I touch upon in my novel Coca Cola Jazz through the character Omoneh.

Et si l’homophobie, au Cameroun comme ailleurs, n’était en définitive que la religion de l’inculture?

What if homophobia in Cameroon as elsewhere was just the religion of ignorance?

Thanks to GV, Martinique's Le Blog de [Moi] Chimes in

Several of Alem's regular readers posted responses to his post.

According to Naomi:

Tu te souviens de Mugabe, Robert Mugabe, Président du Zimbabwe? Lors de son discours d’ouverture de la foire du livre à Harare en août 1995, hors de lui, il définit les homosexuel(le)s comme « (valant) moins que les porc et les chiens ».
(…)il faut y rajouter Sam Nujoma, Président de Namibie, Yahya Jammeh, président de la Gambie, déclarant gaiement ceci sur la très sérieuse chaîne BBC : « Je peux vous déclarer avec certitude qu’il n’y a pas de gays ni de lesbiennes parmi (les) animaux (de mon zoo privé). Ils se conduisent, eux, selon les lois normales de la nature. la nature, ah la nature, elle a bon dos la nature.

Do you remember Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe? During a recent speech in 1995, he defined gays as “being worth less than hogs and dogs”. (…) I have to add Sam Nujoma, President of Namibia, Yahya Jammeh, President of Gambia, declaring happily to the BBC: “There are certainly no gays and lesbians among the animals (in my private zoo). They live according to the normal laws of nature.” Nature is always used as an excuse.

Sami adds:

Pas d’homsexualité chez les animaux? Son Excellence Monsieur le Président n’est pas friand des documentaires animaliers comme moi, il aurait vu que tout ce que nous autres humains classons dans la catégorie perversions se vit chez certains animaux selon les décrets de la nature.

No homosexuality among animals? Mister the President doesn't watch as many documentaries on animals as I do, he would have seen that all that we humans call perversion is lived by certain animals according to nature's decrees.

The Specialist from Le Blog de [Moi], a lesbian Martiniquan blog that recently waxed nostalgic on the travails of being closeted at work, posted the following, confirming the great connections facilitated by the Global Voices community:

J’ai eu la chance de découvrir ton blog grâce Global voices Online (…). J’ai trouvé tres interressant ton analyse sur l’homosexualité en afrique (j’avous que je ne savais rien sur le sujet). “Et si l’homophobie, au Cameroun comme ailleurs, n’était en définitive que la religion de l’inculture?” Je pense également comme toi, la relagion également de la peur de l’autre et de la différence.

I discovered your blog through Global Voices (…). I found your analysis on homosexuality in Africa very interesting (I knew nothing of the topic). You say: “What if homosexuality in Cameroon as elsewhere was the religion of ignorance?” I might add also the religion of fear of the Other and of difference.

4 comments

  • […] Julián, nuestro Argos equinoXial le proporcionó a bloguiverso los dos siguientes enlaces. El primero,  "Voces globales", que citando el blog de Kangni Alem, relata las penas de cárcel, acusaciones de estar diseminando una nueva religión, castigo divino, depravación, como respuestas al homosexualismo. […]

  • Maurice

    Homosexuality in Africa should not be perceived as a habit that is learned or a religion. As Africans, we should embrace our mutual feelings and celebrate sexuality in that sense. I have seen and heard politicians that have vehemently lashed out at gays and wondered what school of thought they may have obtained their ideals. I am surprised at Dr. NSaba Buturo, a cabinet minister in Uganda who has gone the extra mile in dubbing Hornsleth,the pig-man from Holland, an infidel. Mr. Buturo should know that in most cases, those people that turn out to be so much vocally against gays, are in fact stifling their sexual preferences and usually turn out to be gay. I will be reading more on him.

  • Brendïn

    Homosexuality, in my opinion, should not be a crime. It has been proven, that everyone is born bisexual, and their sexual orientation changes depending on how they are raised. Many people also beleive, that homosexuality occurs naturally in nature, as a form of population control. If homosexuality remains illegal in Cameroon, people will continue to be charged and for being themselves, and living the life that God has given them.

  • dan gore

    very interesting. i will look more into la meteo case in cameroon. in general, this site provides africa-wide coverage of glbti issues: http://www.mask.org.za/

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