Fighting for expression: how homosexuality is breaking out into Africa’s public life





While there are many things we can choose to deny as ‘un-African,’ homosexuality is no longer one of them. With issues of sexuality being brought up in the political, social, legal and economic sectors of society, it is now a matter, both private and public, that is very much part of our African fabric.

stabane. Kuchu. The Gays.
Issues of sexuality are a hot topic right now. People are either arguing that homosexuality is ‘un-African’, being wildly successful and queer, sleeping with another woman or man on the down-low, or enacting violence against members of the LGBT community. In one way or another, sexuality is a big part of our lives and there is a cacophony of voices surrounding it.
The idea that ‘homosexuality is not African’ is a very disturbing notion. Historically, homosexuality has always been present in African society. Consider marital and economic practices in which women married other women to maintain the household, to certain religious practices, or, simply, to practices stemming from desire.
Sexual fluidity, where neither gender nor sexual preference is fixed, exists in African societies, as it does elsewhere, and this is a fact we can no longer deny. It is not a ‘Western’ gay agenda. And now there is an evident shift in social and political thinking afoot. A good example of this shift can be seen in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria. Due to wider Internet access in Kenya, they have some of the highest search rates for gay porn in the world. It is clear that ‘the gay’ is here to stay.

Changes to the political landscape
The continent remains a multi-faceted site of contention when it comes to issues surrounding LGBTI persons, as reflected in two recent occurrences. First was the legal victory by Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), the only LGBTI organisation in Botswana, allowing them to register as an organisation. The court case Attorney General v Thuto Rammoge and 19 Others was the culmination of an 11-year struggle to register the organisation and saw a full bench of the Court of Appeal of Botswana uphold the decision of the High Court. They ordered the Botswana government to register LEGABIBO as a society in terms of the Societies Act.
The judgment in favour of LEGABIBO saw the organisation being allowed to register legally as an organisation even though homosexuality is not legal in that country. The coordinator of the organisation, Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, stated that ‘this judgment is one of the many occurrences in Botswana where democracy has come into play. The courts are protecting minority rights and giving a voice to the LGBTI community.’

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