Africa / Ghana

Homosexuality in Africa

Read this Article –> Homo-Sexuality in Africa

Here’s my commentary on the article:

This is a “no-go” topic of discussion in many African circles be they religiously entrenched or engrossed in certain political ideals – liberal or conservative. I do believe these are the issues my generation is definitely going to be faced with when the time comes for us to run our country’s state of affairs.

The slightly recent backlash between then president of Ghana, President Atta Mills and the British Prime Minister, David Cameron about the bid for Ghana to legalize homosexuality or else suffer the consequences of restrained aid from Britain was definitely a saga that incensed many, and perhaps, even I myself. (We will not legalize homosexuality – Ghana Tells Britain). I think it is one thing to suggest that African nations begin to consider their different stances on homosexuality and a totally different thing, to give a mandate backed with a threat. I personally find that insulting to the very sovereignty of any nation. In Ghana, there is no legal recognition of homosexuality in our constitution, therefore it is uncertain whether it is legal or illegal. Is it okay to remain neutral? Is it okay to just say “let’s not go there”? Is it okay for us to ascribe homosexuality a category such as a “Western ideal” or from what this article purports, “an ancient African tradition”. Again, should it just remain “a no-go” area? What does our neutrality say for us? Do we need to take a stance? Does our neutrality in itself, signify a certain political stance?

Now to talking about legalizing homosexuality in an African context. I do agree that culturally this is a huge paradigm shift for many African countries, which is why the arguments staked in this article are enlightening and interesting because of the historical context it draws on. I am not saying I agree with this argument though. I am attempting to give a very discursive analysis here, so as not to get ahead of myself.

As a budding anthropologist myself, I appreciate the historical context from which the author pulls up evidence of otherwise “uncommonly known” facts about the historical and cultural roots  of same-sex marriages in many African countries. However, having been exposed to the issues of cultural relativism, and the problems that come with having an ethnographic bias or the danger of denying cultures their coevalness and dynamism, I realize that we tend to fix culture in a certain time and space, much removed from our current reality. We make cultures “static” when it truly is more dynamic than we see. Example, the “Ghanaian culture” I grew up in, is likely to be somewhat different than what my grandmother grew up in and what my daughter will come to meet. In my grandmother’s days (which was even before independence and after), there was no azonto, there was budding high-life and not hip-life, who knows what next? We also need to move away from thinking that culture solely defines how people behave.

I am a strong Christian and engage in this debate in many Christian and non-Christian circles, so believe me, I think I may have heard it all. Or at least, for the most part. Most of our debates are inconclusive and so is perhaps, my opinion. I do not condone homosexuality but neither do I discriminate against people who are. I live with many of them, some of who are very remarkable and affectionate friends. And guess what? Hearing the argument from them too, introduces in my mind, more room for debate. This is not to say I am in support of it or not in support of it. It is to say I am still formulating an ideology and perhaps, without sounding too pretentious, a plan. And I do think it is necessary for us to talk about it – internally or externally. At least, think about it.

I say it is important to think about such issues because in a world burgeoning with many “universal humanitarian ideals” and by virtue of being citizens of a global village that is fast advocating equality and non-discrimination, sooner than later we might have to take a legal stance on this rather than remaining neutral or adamantly opposing. How long more could we go for instance in Ghana, without any legal mention of homosexuality in our laws? Could there possibly be any religious/cultural reconciliation with this increasing trend? How do we explain ourselves int he 21st Century and beyond?  How is this going to affect our relationship with the international community? How do we stay true to who we are as ‘a people” despite all the internal and external pressures? And for people like myself, how do we reconcile theological foundations with secular ethics? These are all questions I ask myself and many people. I am thirsty for answers and I hope many more are asking.

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