THE QUES­TION

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.

The Africa Report - - CONTENTS -

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

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