The question whether Homosexuality existed in Africa before Colonialism continues to cause interest and controversy as ‘Africanists’ insist that Homosexuality did not exists in Africa before Colonialism.
The idea that Homosexuality did not exist in Africa before Colonialism appears to be based on the understanding that Pre-Colonial Africa did not tolerate Homosexuality, making Homosexuality in Africa a Colonial Import.
The other agument made in support of the idea that Homosexuality did not exist in Africa before Colonialism is that since Homosexuality does not lead to procreation, its unnatural, deviant and without precedent in nature.
Homosexuality In Africa Before Colonialism
The following are examples of Homosexuality in Africa before Colonialism:
It is believed that Kabaka (King) Mwanga II, who ruled Buganda in the latter half of the 19th century, was gay.
Furthermore,Cave paintings of the San people near Guruve in Zimbabwe depicting naked men having same sex intercourse have revealed that same sex sexual relations existed in Bushmen times;
The rain queen Modjadji of Balobedu peoples was also believed to be homosexual in her relations as she has ‘many wives’.
Among the early Zande warriors found in Congo and Sudan, homosexual relations were also believed to be commonplace. The warriors were said to marry younger men who performed the duties of a wife until they became Warriors.
In Gabon and Cameroun male sexual relations were believed to transmit wealth between them.
In light of the above, it cannot be said that Homosexuality did not exist in Africa before Colonialism making it a foreign Colonial import.
Its simply not accurate to suggest that Homosexuality did not exist in Africa before Colonialism and that somehow Homosexuality amounts to a corruption of authentic Pre-Colonial African values.
Homosexuality In Nature
The Procreation argument also stands to fall as evidence suggests that a whole host of animals from Baboons, Sea Lions, Whales and Rams habitually engage in Homosexual relations.
It cannot therefore be suggested that Homosexuality amounts to some form of ‘unnatural’ deviance that is not present in nature because it does not result in procreation.
This means that the Procreation Argument cannot be used to claim that Homosexuality did not exist in Africa before Colonialism.
Gay Discrimination: The Implications
Since the probabilities indicate that Homosexuality did exist in Africa before Colonialism, it is problematic when the Law is used to discriminate against Homosexuals in Africa.
Beyond the harassment of Homosexuals, to also deny them the right to be married, inherit and access to spousal support including medical benefits because they are people who happen to be in a Homosexual relationship in Africa is draconian.
Its one thing to deal with the issue as a matter of personal preference, but to deploy the power of the State against Homosexuals in Africa based on their sexual preference alone reeks of the same irrational discrimination Blacks, and other racially discriminated groups have fought so hard against in the past.
It would also be useful for us to remember that most Anti-Homosexual Legislation in Africa was put in place by Puritan Colonial Regimes, and insisting that they remain is aligning ourselves with the oppressive Cultural attitudes that led to and entrenched Colonialism in Africa.
‘Inxeba:The Wound’, is an excellent South African Film that explores the hypocrisy and denial around Homosexuality in contemporary African culture.
In the final analysis, there’s no legitimate argument that can be made to suggest that Homosexuality did not exist in Africa before Colonialism and in the words of a famous Philosopher whose name I’ve forgotten: “It amounts to you not wanting other people to do what you simply dont want them to do”.