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On the Street- Homosexuality in Africa


They are abnormal. They should be hanged or ostracized form the community. That is what many Africans say about homosexuals. TVC host Bukunmi Ayo-Ariyo takes to the streets of 3 big cities in Africa to find out what Africans think about the subject. The program is called ‘On the Street’. Bukunmi introduces the documentary by some facts from the BBC which reports that homosexuality is outlawed in 38 African countries. Many African leaders feel that homosexuality is against the cultural and moral values and systems. But Bukunmi wants to know if that is the opinion of the contemporary African society.
Laolu Bolarinwa is a Nigerian student. He says in this documentary that he is aware of people in Nigeria who practice homosexuality. But he opines that most of them are not expressly homosexual but rather bisexual. Waidera is a Kenyan student. She too has lesbian and gay friends. Diana-Abasi Ibanga is an author and researcher. He informs this documentary that African communities have always had homosexuals. He points out that among the Anam people in Nigeria in Akwa Ibom State that there are women who would call each other husband. They would close themselves in a closet and would not allow anyone else in for hours. He argues homosexuality is an African phenomenon and a human phenomenon for that matter.
Most countries in Africa have not yet legalized homosexuality. Bukunmi reports in the documentary that in Kenya and Nigeria it’s punishable by up to 14 years. In Algeria and Libya homosexuals risk a jail term of 2 and 5 years respectively. In Morocco and Tunisia that term would be 3 years and in Sudan 10 years. According to statistics presented in this documentary only a few countries have legalized homosexuality in Africa. These include Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Guinea, Cote D’ivoire, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea and South Africa.
Bukunmi begins her search for answers in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Speaking to this documentary Brian a student says homosexuals go through a lot in Kenyan. They are discriminated. Waidera adds no one talks about the subject in the open. Liz says gays tend to hide more than lesbians because the stigma against them is greater. Brian has a close friend who is a homosexual. As much as he does not find it normal, he says he cannot judge him. Liz opines that people should be judged on their personality not their sexual orientation. For Liz as long as one is happy being homosexual no one should judge them. Waidera says Kenyan authorities act as if homosexuals do not exist. Brian informs this documentary that a pro-gay legislation that was recently brought on the floor of the national assembly was rejected.
Nigerian story is quite similar to that of Kenya. Gabriel Ebenezer, Nigerian student thinks it’s immoral and against the laws of nature. He argues it is a psychological condition and should be treated. Mayen reckons that homosexuality is not accepted in her home area. Akinbo Ebunoluwa, another Nigerian student tells this documentary that Nigeria is a spiritual country which views homosexuality as evil and so does she. But she does not agree with imprisonment for homosexuals. For her it does not constitute a crime as would armed robbery or murder. On the contrary Gabriel Ebenezer suggests a jail term of 14 years for homosexuals. Seen in this documentary are Nigerian newspapers most of them are running anti-gay headlines.
Diana Abasi Ibanga decries the passing of anti-gay legislation in Nigeria. In the documentary he argues it is an aberration of human rights. The Nigerian Senate recently passed an anti-gay bill that would see homosexuals imprisoned for 14 years. But Ibanga argues that if the Senate believes homosexuals are sick and need to be rehabilitated as they indeed argued then they should advocate for rehabilitation and not imprisonment. Ibanga argues homosexuality is human nature and even a jail term of 100 years cannot change human nature. Laolu Bolarinwa holds a different opinion. For him jail term is the only way to keep people from the practice.
Gays in Kenya and Nigeria live in shadows. They are not allowed to express themselves in public. As a result most of them are withdrawn and lack confidence. Jackson Otieno is a Sexual and Gender Rights Advocate. Speaking to this documentary he says violence against homosexuals in Kenya have been reported. But he says even reporting such incident is challenging. Institutions such as police and health workers who should take up these matters are unresponsive and do not understand LGBTI issues. Jackson reports in this documentary that a lesbian who has been raped for instance would have a challenge with health workers. When they realize a rape victim is a lesbian most health workers begin to question them based on what is moral or not. Jackson is concerned that homosexuals in Kenya have challenges accessing health care. Most of them struggle with issues of acceptance at the family in social settings such as the church as well as work places.
In South Africa homosexuals are free to enjoy their liberty. South Africa is the fifth country in the world and the first in Africa to legalize homosexuality. As we can see in the documentary they even hold a walk called gay Pride. Despite the law in South Africa there are still plenty of traditionalists here who believe its evil. Bukunmi takes to the streets of South Africa to hear what the youths have to say. A young lady says she believes its demonic and a sign of the end times. A middle aged man says homosexuals offend his senses and should do their stuff away from the public eye. But one young man says he went to school with a few gay people and does not find any reason to have a problem with them. A gay rights activist tells this documentary that although homosexuals are not punished by law in S. Africa, lesbians for instance suffer secondary victimization from police when they repot rape incidents.
Nhlanhla and Fannie seen in this documentary is a gay couple that has lived together for 12 years. Nhlanhla has not told his parents because he is one of those who believe homosexuality should be outlawed. Fannie has it easier though. They have an unwritten, unspoken understanding with his parents. They don’t talk about it though they sort of know he is gay. Fannie submits that homosexuality has existed in Africa for centuries. Nhlanhla agrees. He tells this documentary that there is an old Zulu folk story that Shaka Zulu was queer. Nhlanhla’s opinion is homosexuality is not un-African. He thinks it’s the Christian doctrines that were brought to Africa from the west that made homosexuality un-African.
But how can Africa find a balance between religion, cultural values and communal values? Diana Abasi Ibanga believes he has the answer. He informs this documentary that according to his research homosexuality is a biological construct that cannot be changed just like heterosexuality. He has also found that homosexuality is totally African. In fact there were more homosexuals in Africa than in Europe before the advent of Christianity. He urges that sexual tolerance is the remedy; live and let live. In an interesting twist Ibanga opines that the bible too supports homosexuality. He argues that in Colossians 3:11 the Apostle Paul writes there is now neither Jew nor Greek, man nor woman and son on. For him this is recognition of different sexual orientation. but Dele Adegbite, a cleric disagrees. He says in the documentary that homosexuality is a total rebellion from God’s purpose and plan for man. Back in Kenya Waidera and Liz seem to agree with Ibanga. Waidera says all people are equal before God and should not be judged on the basis of sexual orientation. Liz submits that homosexuality should be legalized in Kenya to allow homosexuals to live a full and free life.
Enough of that talk about homosexuality. ‘On the Street’ now takes a look at the latest fashion trends that have gripped the youth in recent times. The art of tattooing has gained popularity in different parts of the continent. Many young people are making inscription and drawings on their bodies. For a long time as Bukunmi reports in the documentary, tattoos were considered demonic and were associated with hoodlums. Among today’s youth tattoos is not just a mark of fashion but a form of expression. Tattoo studios are coming up fast in Nigeria with celebrities taking the lead. Bizzyaski a tattoo artist tells this documentary that in Nigeria many people draw religious signs. Bizzyaski cannot recall how many people he has tattooed in the last one year. They are so many. The art is however not new in the continent. In olden days tattooing of the face and body were a way of exemplifying class and tribal hierarchy. Egyptian women for instance have been known to irk symbols of fertility on their bodies. Somewhere along the line the age old art faded. But the youth of Africa has embraced it and this time it is here to stay.
The last segment on this documentary is called Inspired. A 27 year old Congolese has just designed the first truly African smartphones and tablets. Vérone Mankou was initially a blogger designing applications for windows and smartphones. He designed the French search engine called Keyforin.com. Based in DRC’s capital Brazzaville Vérone has challenged the World Bank report that out of the 185 countries of the world his is the worst to do business in. in 2009 registered a company called Vumbuka (VMK) which for 2 and ½ years specialized in interactive communication and internet technology. Vérone tells this documentary that he was inspired by the need for a computer tablet that was inexpensive. Today his company has a capital of approximately 500,000 USD. The company has introduced the Way-C tablet and ‘elikia’ smartphone. These phones and tablets are designed in Congo and assembled in China because Congo lacks a manufacturing company and the production costs are high. Already the phones are on sale in Congo, France and 10 other West African countries.

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