Fw: [BRC-NEWS] Homophobia Contributes to Persecution

George Snedeker snedeker at concentric.net
Fri Apr 20 17:43:31 MDT 2001

does anyone on the list know anything about homosexuality in precolonial
Africa? Who is the "Johnson" the following article makes reference to?

----- Original Message -----
From: Keith Boykin <boykink at aol.com>
To: <brc-news at lists.tao.ca>
Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 6:30 PM
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Homophobia Contributes to Persecution

> http://content.gay.com/channels/news/boykin/boykin_22.html
> Keith Boykin's 411
> April 15, 2001
> Black Homophobia Contributes to Persecution of GLBT Africans
> By Keith Boykin <boykink at aol.com>
> This summer, the United Nations will convene an historic
> World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa.
> Perhaps it makes sense to hold a conference on racism in a
> place that has experienced so much of it for hundreds of
> years. But ironically, it's black homophobia, not white
> racism, that has become the newest form of intolerance to
> sweep across the African continent.
> In the past few months, gays and lesbians in Somalia, Egypt,
> Zimbabwe, Uganda, Namibia and elsewhere in Africa have come
> under attack because of their homosexuality.
> African leaders attack gays
> Last month, the International Lesbian and Gay Human Rights
> Commission (ILGHRC) reported that two women in Somalia were
> sentenced to death for "unnatural behavior."
> In Egypt, three men accused of setting up a gay Web site
> were charged with violating the Egyptian legal code, which
> penalizes homosexual sex. And in February, the government
> began closing down bathhouses frequented by gays.
> In Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe has compared
> homosexuality to bestiality, police last month raided the
> offices of Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ). The police
> allegedly recovered two pornographic magazines and arrested
> a suspect for violating the Censorship and Entertainment
> Act.
> In Uganda, church leaders of the Uganda House of Bishops
> called on the government not to register a gay and lesbian
> group called Integrity Uganda. The church group reportedly
> described the gay organization as unbiblical and inhuman,
> and a church statement accused the gay organization of
> serving as a front for U.S. gays and lesbians to set up a
> base in Uganda.
> Nowhere has the homophobia been more blatant recently than
> in Namibia. President Sam Nujoma announced in March and
> again on April 1, that "the Republic of Namibia does not
> allow homosexuality or lesbianism here. Police are ordered
> to arrest you, deport you and imprison you." Nujoma
> described homosexuality as "against God's will" and called
> it "the devil at work." His statements follow those of Jerry
> Ekandjo, Namibia's home affairs minister, who last year
> urged newly graduated police officers to "eliminate gays and
> lesbians from the face of Namibia."
> In contrast to its continental neighbors, South Africa has
> actually been a world leader in civil rights for gays and
> lesbians. After all, it was the first country to adopt a
> constitution that outlaws sexual orientation discrimination.
> But even in South Africa, the seams are coming undone. For
> example, a recent marketing campaign to lure GLBT tourists
> sparked an outcry from religious groups, who reportedly held
> an assembly in Cape Town last month "to pray for a sin-free
> city." And on April 11, Durban Mayor Obed Mlaba reportedly
> told a group of business leaders that Durban should stop
> comparing itself to the more cosmopolitan Cape Town -- a
> city that "can stay with its moffies and its gays."
> Is homosexuality un-African?
> To be honest, these recent examples of African homophobia
> are not much different from the homophobia in the United
> States, but what makes them noticeable is the assertion that
> homosexuality belongs solely to other cultures. The leaders
> of these anti-gay campaigns seem to share a common belief
> that homosexuality is somehow un-African, a vestige of
> European colonialism. But "culture and values are changing
> things," says Cary Alan Johnson, a representative for an
> American relief and development agency, who has been working
> in Central Africa since 1993.
> "Some would argue that multi-party democracy, gender
> equality and restrictions on child labor are also
> un-African," says Johnson. "That doesn't mean that they
> haven't been embraced and integrated into by African
> jurisprudence."
> Johnson has written several published essays about
> homosexuality in pre-colonial Africa and points to "the
> growing academic research" on the subject as evidence that
> gays and lesbians existed in Africa long before the
> Europeans. Much of the modern anti-gay rhetoric, however, is
> based on Christianity, which white Europeans introduced to
> Africa. If African homosexuality existed freely before the
> Europeans, then it seems that homophobia, not homosexuality,
> is what the Europeans actually brought to the continent.
> Thus, anti-gay rhetoric makes the African leaders less
> revolutionary, and more evolutionary, as they evolve into
> the same prejudiced culture of their oppressors.
> Gays become scapegoats
> What's really going on here provides another reminder that
> Tip O'Neill was right when he said that "all politics is
> local." As Cary Alan Johnson explains, "Mugabe and Nujoma
> are politically bankrupt leaders whose countries are in deep
> economic and social trouble." In fact, several of the
> African leaders who led the fight against colonialism in the
> 1960s and 70s are now aging dictators clutching onto power
> decades after the revolution.
> It's not hard to understand how gays and lesbians became
> convenient scapegoats for the problems in these countries
> when you remember the old adage that "patriotism is the last
> refuge of a scoundrel." So long as the GLBT community puts
> forward a white European image, gay rights causes in Africa
> will be portrayed as another extension of European
> colonialism. For example, I was surprised to learn on a 1997
> visit to Zimbabwe that the leadership of GALZ was then
> largely white. That's why President Mugabe was able to
> characterize homosexuality as a white creation. The millions
> of black GLBT Africans are mostly invisible.
> The truth is, after hundreds of years of racist colonial
> exploitation, white people have no credibility to challenge
> homophobia in black Africa. That's why black leaders in
> Africa and America must stand up on these issues. The Black
> Radical Congress is already in the process of developing a
> response to the Namibian incidents. Hopefully, black
> American organizations such as the National Black Lesbian
> and Gay Leadership Forum, the NAACP and TransAfrica will
> also become more involved.
> Of course, you don't have to be black to be concerned or
> involved. All people of conscience can support international
> organizations like Amnesty International, the International
> Lesbian and Gay Association and IGLHRC, all of which are on
> the Web.
> It's time for a change. After fighting off white colonialism
> in the last century, Africa need not embrace black
> homophobia in the new one.
> Copyright (c) 2001 Online Partners. All Rights Reserved.
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