By Kay Kaseke
“Beware Imperialism has many faces” Fidel Castro once said. As we celebrate Africa Day we should ask ourselves; Is Africa still under imperial rule or has it taken a new face in the form of homosexuality and cultural imperialism?
Africa will always be a colonised continent as long as the Western world provide aid to the poor and hungry and propagates all their wishes through the several human rights civil societies which are now pushing for the acceptance of homosexuality, a norm in western culture yet a deadly taboo in Africa.
Campaigns for sexual rights and ‘coming out’ are frequently perceived as a form of Western cultural imperialism, leading to an exportation of Western gay and lesbian identities which are threatening and provoking African cultural patriotism and humanism.
Silent acceptance of same-sex relationships or secretive bisexuality are meanwhile also problematic given the high rate of HIV prevalence on much of the continent.
The West's commitment to fiercely push the lesbian-gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights philosophy in the world in general and Africa in particular has caused it to embark on a number of questionable advocacy tactics.
In Africa, precisely, the West has proffered coercive ploys in the form of threats and bullying approaches to reform the African minds in favour of the LGBT rights concept. However, this muscled activism by the West could, in many respects, be viewed more as an imperialist and neo-colonialist strategy than a humanistic project.
In effect, the West seems more determined to let its voice and ideas prevail at all costs in the world in particular in Africa than it is bent on championing the course for human rights as exemplified in the case of Malawi which was denied donor aid for refusing to legalize homosexuality.
Homosexual rights or acceptance of homosexuality is perhaps one of the most socially unwelcomed, touchy and politically a thorny topic to broach in contemporary Africa. In 2013 former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe stood out as the reference point for African resistance to homosexuality when he proclaimed that “homosexuals were worse than pigs and dogs” and deserved no rights whatsoever.
The Namibian President, Sam Nujoma, with equal measure of intolerance as his Zimbabwean counterpart, described homosexuality as a gruesome inhuman perversion which should “be uprooted totally” from society. In 2009, a Malawian court sentenced a gay couple to 14 years’ jail time for what it considered lewd sexual behaviour. This ruling made sensational news in Western media and elicited an outcry from human rights organizations. That same year anti-gay activists in Uganda tabled a bill before parliament proposing the death penalty for anyone convicted of homosexuality.
In November 2011, a court in Cameroon slammed a five-year jail sentence on three men convicted of homosexuality. Meanwhile in Ghana, one of Africa’s most celebrated democracies, President John Mills stated that homosexuality was against Ghanaian values and he would “never initiate or support any attempt to legalise it.
Most African counties have rigorously rejected homosexuality on purely religious, moral and cultural bases, brandishing, the ‘satanic’ nature of both homosexuality and the LGBT rights movement. In line with this theory, homosexuality is (arguably) considered a ‘western evil of neo colonialism’, a terrible cultural and social anomaly.
According to a 2018 survey by the non-governmental organisation GALZ (Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe), 50 % of gay men in Zimbabwe had been physically assaulted, and 64 % had been disowned by their families. Twenty-seven percent of lesbians also reported disownment. Often, they are accused of exposing their parents to “blame and shame”.
Any attempt by the West at pressuring African countries and its leaders to legalize the phenomenon is simply interpreted as a strategy to reinforce western cultural imperialism in Africa.
Africa's culture has been deemed archaic and draconian even dressing has been stamped as yester years’ trend with new western fashion trends becoming more popular on the continent with men and women’s clothes becoming similar in design.
As we reflect on the Africa Day, it is time that Africa unite to defend indeed, with vigor, the philosophy of African Hunhuism or Ubuntu in all its facets culturally, politically, religiously, socially and economically.