A report by The Initiative for Equal Rights reveals an increasingly positive portrayal of LGBT people in media and culture in West Africa, but across the sub-region, activists continue to feel the full force of anti-gay laws.
Yes Prior to the colonial encounter, West African societies had a variety of attitudes to same-sex conduct but none of these included criminalisation, or discrimination. Homophobic attitudes were introduced and have been cultivated by a culture of ignorance. Increasing evidence shows that sexual diversity is a normal part of human existence. Recently, the Academy of Science of South Africa published a study emphatically clarifying that sexual orientation is not a choice, and that homophobia harms African societies. It would be disingenuous to say that homophobia is on its way out immediately, but in the face of greater awareness and education many people have become more enlightened. Recently, TIER ran a poll which showed that in Nigeria 39% of people accept that homosexuals should have equal access to public services like healthcare, housing and education – up 9% from 2015; it is likely this shift comes with greater social awareness of homosexuals, and the knowledge that they do not pose a threat to society, nor do people willingly choose a sexual orientation that puts them at risk of stigma and discrimination. Africans, when faced with the overwhelming social and scientific evidence that homophobia, not homosexuals, is a threat to our societies, acceptance. • are increasingly turning to positions of tolerance and
No No, it’s not and never has! Even in countries where they enjoy gay marriage and civil unions, homophobia is still very real and alive. Not to talk of West Africa where we have laws that stigmatise LGBTI communities. I have a problem with the view that homophobia is a thing of the past – how can it be? When just last week [on 1 June] a journalist was kidnapped in Nigeria for an article about homosexuality in the country. When the government is still enacting laws that seek to punish people who do not conform to the norm of heterosexuality. It is dangerous to assume that the visibility of the LGBTI community in Africa has resulted in the reduction or eradication of homophobia on the continent. A lot of Africans still believe that “the gay agenda by the West” is taking over African society – which is completely bizarre! There is no gay agenda! If there is any agenda at all, it is just that we want to live in a country or continent where everyone respects each other. I think this idea of homophobia being a thing of the past can be related to one of the lies people in Africa try to tell themselves, that homosexuality is un-african. I mean what is even African? Anyone who thinks homophobia is a thing of the past in Africa should just google ‘latest attacks on LGBTI community in West Africa’ community. • and you will see almost daily news of attacks on the