Capetown, November 30, 2006. Many same sex couples began hurrying to make preparations for their long-awaited nuptials. “There will be a huge response from same sex couples who have waited such a long time for their relationship to be recognized,” said Melanie Judge, a program manager for the South Africa-based gay rights group – OUT.
It was announced that day, the legalisation of same sex marriages in South Africa. This made the country the first in Africa to legalise same sex marriage. Despite this “supposed” positive move in right direction, there still existed mass backlash to this decision. In 2008, Eudy Simelane, a player in the national female soccer team, was a victim of “corrective rape” (a phenomenon in which lesbian women are gang-raped in order to be “cured” of their homosexuality) and murder. In 2013, a case was also reported to the South African Police of a serial killer who may have targeted gay men in Johannesburg . Some people lauded the killer a “hero.”
The “Anti-gay” Facts
Its June 2015 and South Africa is still the only country to legalise the same sex marriage. 38 out of the 55 states in Africa declared it a crime. In Mauritania, Sudan and northern Nigeria, homosexuality is punishable by death. In Uganda, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone, offenders can receive life imprisonment for homosexual acts. Nigeria took it a step further by enacting legislation that would make it illegal for straight family members and friends to be supportive of homosexuals.
In a 2013 survey by on Global Attitudes and Trends by the Pew Research Center revealed that 90% of Kenyans were against homosexuality. The survey goes on to say: “Africans in predominantly Muslim countries remain among the least accepting of homosexuality.
In sub-Saharan Africa, at least nine-in-ten in Nigeria (98%), Senegal (96%), Ghana (96%), Uganda (96%) and Kenya (90%) believe homosexuality should not be accepted by society”.
A bright side ?
The state of same sex relations in Africa takes a different twist In Kenya. The National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, applied five times to register under the nation’s Non-Governmental Organisations Co-ordination Act since 2012 and failed. But on 24 April 2015, Kenya’s high court ruled in favour of the gay community, arguing that refusing to register the organisation was an infringement of the constitutional rights of association for the LGBT community.
The United States President Barack Obama recently wrapped up his first major visit to Africa where he openly urged the African leaders to treat all fairly including gays, lesbians, transgender persons.
Uganda which initially made efforts to institute the death penalty for homosexuality invalidated and reversed this law in late 2014.
A new opinion poll conducted in 2015 suggests that 87% of people in Nigeria support the legal ban on same sex relations. That number is lower than a few years ago, when 96% of Nigerians opposed relationships between same sex couples.
What the leaders are saying ?
President Robert Mugabe who has ruled Zimbabwe for over 30 years has held an uncompromising position against homosexuals (and the LGBT community) and has previously referred to lesbians and gays as being “worse than dogs and pigs”.
Gambian, President Yahya Jammeh has led the call for legislation that would set laws against homosexuals that would be “stricter than those in Iran”, and that he would “cut off the head” of any gay or lesbian person discovered in the country. He called homosexuals “vermin” by saying that “We will fight these vermin called homosexuals or gays the same way we are fighting malaria-causing mosquitoes, if not more aggressively and also adds that “As far as I am concerned, LGBT can only stand for Leprosy, Gonorrhea, Bacteria and Tuberculosis; all of which are detrimental to human existence”.
The Nigerian Senate – dominated by conservative Christians and Muslims, in 2011 approved a bill to further criminalise homosexuality, ignoring the British Prime Minister, David Cameron’s threat to cut aid to the nation.
The religious leaders aren’t left out as both parties in Nigeria and around Africa find common ground and welcome controversial laws that ban same sex marriages.
Its October 2015. Many in Africa still find same sex relations intensely culturally inharmonious. legalizing gay marriage doesn’t seem to make it easier to be a gay man, woman or couple. It’s still a struggle and a scandal in many communities. Some say it’s best left this way, others say it’s a fight that must go on likening the cause to racial discrimination.
Will Africa ever embrace same sex relations ?