The LGBT-Q debate: Where is our sovereignty?

President of Ghana

President of Ghana

When it suits them, they say “Traditional African” is organic when it does not they say “traditional” is backward.

Before you judge me, I have relations that are gay or lesbian. I have friends who are open about their sexuality and publicly acknowledge that they belong to the LGBT-Q community. I am not anti-gay or anti-LGBT-Q. 

On the ongoing discussion on LGBT-Q in Africa, my position (which does not matters) remains – let people choose their sex life. That is not for you or I or for that matter any government or church, mosque or Imam to decide.

In moving forward, we all (yes, all) talk to rule of law and respect for rights (and I will add sovereignty). Indeed the last 15years has seen “development partners” pour money into Africa in the name of “Good Governance” and the main rhetoric was “Rule of Law”.

If the rule of law is to subject us all, respective of your position in power, or society under the law, why is it suddenly not right to have certain laws and have our sovereignty usurped?

Time and again, “science” which we all believe in have shown that Africans are opposed to legalising “gay rights” (according to research conducted by the Pew Research Center).

I have maintained that, there are bad laws in EVERY constitution across the world. When countries find such laws, they work together and remove the laws or find middle grounds.
In the case of Ghana, a constitutional Review Committee was set up to review our laws. One key issue was the call to legalise same sex. From the findings of the Commission, Ghana was not ready for it (and thank God that the administrative head of the Commission was a respected and well know international lawyer so no one could call him or the commission names) and advise that government be open to exploring how to work that into the constitution in future.

Then someone authors a paper to say “It is homophobia not homosexuality that is alien to traditional culture” (my empahsis here is “African Traditional Culture). The argument in that paper was;  Africans had diverse sexual orientation that were subjugated by Christian teachings during the period of European colonisation (yes, we are quick to point at colonialism for every thing).
But culture evolves – indeed when Africans hold on to polygamy, circumcision among others, we are told they are “backward traditions” that must we must let go without understanding really why we do what we do. To be “human” we as Africans must toe the line and dance to the tune of the “developed world”.

The narratives change on who, or how Africa is depending on what is sort from Africa.

Until 2008, there are countries in the “developed world” that criminalised same sex. Indeed, benefits that accrued to couples in the “traditional male-female marriage or partnership” did to extend to same sex couples in those countries forcing the legal recognition of LGBT-Q relationships in Africa. Indeed 14% and 33% of Canadians and Americans respectively think their society should not accept homosexuality.

I write now not as an angry anti-gay African, no I write as an angry libertarian African who feels that the true values of democracy, freedom and other liberties of the African must be disregarded with disrespect and disdain because the majority do not agree with the minority (which is what democracy is all about). To shove in our faces what “elite and celebrated Africans” should do (aka civilised Africans) and by extension calling the rest of us (even those that inherently support a bill that legalises same sex relation) as uncuth and stupid.

Africa has too many problems to have LGBT-Q to dominate our political and social discourse. We have instability in Uganda, killings in Sudan and South Sudan; war in Central African Republic. Ivory Coast is now just beginning to settle-in after more than a decade of instability. Sierra Leone and Liberia yet to find their feet after more than 25 yeas of instability in both countries.

In the last 3 years, the West African region has been suffering economic crisis – indeed all of Africa; with increasing cost of living characterised by increased transportation costs, electricity, water and other utility bills. People are unceasingly not able to meet basic costs of living – those are our problems; those are the things that matter.

Of course when people are weary and starved, any politician seeking power – as in the case of Museveni of Uganda has the perfect setting to leverage LGBT-Q as a cause for the problems his country faces and therefore put gay people at risk.

The posturing adopted by African and Western Gay Rights activists only serves to make increasingly vulnerable the personal safety of the people they claim to want to protect. I am yet to see anyone that is gay, stays within the law, does not go flouting the rules (knowing that until the law is revised he is in the wrong) being lynched and or haunted.

All we ask (I hope I speak for many Africans) to respect our laws; respect us as humans and watch our society and culture evolve. We have shed a significant amount of our organic social welfare system aka extended family in adoption of what the “Western” standard is aka, me, my wife and kids or me and my pets.

Allow us to grow, according to our natural strength and capabilities. You have taken and destroyed enough of us…is this something too difficult to ask?


S. Eyram Tsike-Sossah holds an Msc Political Science from the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of Youth and Local Governance: Youth Participation in Local Governance: Bringing Youth to Decision Making in Sierra Leone

3 Comments on “The LGBT-Q debate: Where is our sovereignty?

  1. Sossah,

    I completely understand your stance, bit would like to add to it.

    I have always been one to champion the need for a nations sovereignty. The “developed” world’s faux-guilt ridden pity for the poor dark savages is obscene. The prevailing idea being that there is no way that Africans can “develop” Africa, that they need us to guide them, because they’re no more than children.

    This is an attitude prevalent from colonial times but not colonialism. It is borne from an ethnic group’s perceived superiority and is as ancient as humankind. However the excuse that it is an archetypal human trait no longer washes.

    Africa is not the only place where the poor dark folk are deprived the chance to forge their own history. Look at South America, the Middle East especially Iraq, South-East Asia, the Indian subcontinent. White superiority complex, followed by pity, followed by faux-guilt has denied more than half the world’s population from having pride in their history. Every chapter in modern times will necessarily have a credit, good or bad, given to the white man.

    There is hope however. Finally it seems the newest generation seem to get it. Most likely because economic power has shifted from London and New York, to Mumbai, Beijing, Sao Paulo and Moscow. The poor old darkies aren’t so poor anymore. Perhaps a few years from now NGOs in the old developed world will be accepting rich Chinese students to help run an old clinic in New Orleons? Irony would be an understatement.

    However on the plight of those Africans with an “alternative” sexual orientation, I do think it is too easy for heterosexuals to be dismissive. Although I understand Africa has bigger problems to sort out, the ability to think about those problems is a privilege of those who don’t have to worry about “breaking the rules” or “being lynched.” To those people freedom would be being allowed to walk down the street holding hands with their partner without fear. No heterosexual would think that is freedom, because they don’t have to. It is not for heterosexuals to dictate the political activism of LGBT people, they must do what is right for them. Until they are satisfied in their personal freedom, they will not be in the fight for Africa’s freedom.

    • Thank you Filosofer for finding this post worthy of your comment.

      I appreciate your position and challenging my last few paragraphs. It was a difficult point to state – as it gives the impression of not caring for the plight of the LGBT-Q community or their safety.
      As a colleague earlier challenged same on another platform, I think it is fair to try and fine-tune that point.

      So this is what I wanted to say and I will make an analogy: Take weed – I grew up in Maamobi, there is weed everywhere literally but you only smell people smoke it at night. Others smoke while burning some sweet smelling incense. In my country Ghana, possession of weed is 10year jail term. I know very few people that smoke and got that term. Why, because they knew it was against the law and made it their goal to not get caught.
      You and I know in the last 20years, the discussion in other benefits and how to regulate weed aka marijuana has been rife and now we have cities, states and countries across the world legalising it.
      I think we need to first recognise the law – the bastion of the concept of democracy and regulation of humans. First we respect that, and I have accepted that there are unfair laws and rules – society is known to remove, correct or negotiate those laws; but first, we respect and uphold those laws until they are re-negotiated. I believe that was my position.

      I am not aware of a government encouraging its population to hunt and kill or beat gay people. When it happens governments have found themselves in unfriendly corners – by being silent, they are deemed as condoning wrong and by enforcing the law (as unfair as it stands) makes them the villains and that is not fair either.
      So we have a position that needs careful, sensitive negotiation – and in Africa and other parts of the world where authentic research has shown that majority are against legalisation of same-sex relationships – we need not be antagonistic to the keepers of the law. It is only tact that wins and that is what I advocate.

      As our elders have said, “when the tsetse-fly is perched on your scrotum, it takes great skill to kill it”.

      • I agree that a delicate comprise has been arrived at with the legal position of same sex desire and great care must be taken in Ghana not to push it down the same path as Uganda and Nigeria.
        However the emphasis on public violence does not, I feel, pay enough attention to the private violence that occurs. There is the constant risk of extortion, as the law functions as a “blackmailer’s charter”, and robbery which cannot be reported without risking the circumstances that led to it. There are the young men and women battling with self-disgust and low self-esteem, perpectuated by a dogmatic religious morality – a result of colonialism. And the instances of those youth who decide to commit suicide as the only way out from families or communities that make their lives worthless and future-less.
        In the same way other abuse, such as domestic violence, was covered up until recently, some Africans are now highlighting the abuse of those with different sexual desires, and ways of being, and the public discussion is unnerving as they request their place at the table.
        Ironically some of those in power who rage about “foreign interference” and aid with strings, are those happy to forget their mock anti-colonial pose when in power and receiving the kickbacks, whilst selling out the economy to the neoliberalist agenda of the USA. Instead they mask their agenda in mock horror generated by what they call “western promotion of gayism”.
        Ghanaians who express same sex desire are criminalised as they continually break a law that seeks to police their desires. The threat of exposure, the Victorian moralising of England’s past, the suicides, blackmail and self loathing are perhaps more pernicious than a lynching as they constantly rule the lives of Ghanaians.
        The focus on the “West” is usually only possible by negating and silencing the voices of African progressives.
        Sorry for the rambling!

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