Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homophobia, Not Homosexuality Is the Western Import to Africa

Ignorance and revisionist history are the most powerful allies of Christianists who seek to inflict their toxic form of Christianity and anti-gay hatred on all other citizens. And in Africa, American Christianists are busy brainwashing indigenous Africans to the myth that homosexuality did not exist in pre-colonial Africa. Like so much of what the Christianists disseminate, it's a lie that too many Africans in their gullibility are accepting from the lips of less than holy and pious preachers. If I often show contempt for Christianists it is the willingness to constantly lie and deceive that I find so despicable - especially in those who falsely claim to honor the Ten Commandments. A op-ed in New Zimbabwe looks at the real historic truth of sexuality in Africa before the colonial conquest and it's a very different story than what the Christianists and their puppets in African governments are peddling to the masses. Here are some highlights:

But of course, as historians of Africa are beginning to learn, we now know that the basic assumptions underlying these African attitudes towards homosexuality are wrong and quite clearly ahistorical. At the very dawn of history in southern Africa, when there was a transition from the hunting-gathering economy of the Khoisan to the cattle-based economy of Bantu-speaking people that brought more male control over the sexuality of women, dissident sexualities such as hungochani began to emerge or were already known.

The Shona of Zimbabwe, for example, like other societies, observed a culture of discretion around sexual matters, and actually recognised various forms of queer sexualities. Examples of pre-colonial gender variance and sexual inversion included ritual incest and celibacy, such as the mbonga, a female guardian whose celibacy protected the Shona chief, and the chibanda, a caste of male diviners possessed by female spirits and referred to in early European sources as “passive sodomites”.
Among the Lovedu people, the gender inversion involved women. The “rain queen” kept her virginity but married girls.

In the nineteenth century, Ndebele and Ngoni warriors introduced the practice of ritual male-male sexuality as part of war preparations. The argument here being, therefore, that in pre-modern Zimbabwe, as in other pre-modern African states, Africans did not conform to the idealised heterosexuality that contemporary African leaders like Mugabe prefer to claim as “African tradition” (see especially Marc Epprecht, Hungochani: The History of a Dissident Sexuality in Southern Africa).

Sexuality in Zimbabwe on the eve of European conquest was more diverse than so far recognised. This is a critical point to acknowledge if we are to honestly confront and debunk the ahistorical view of homosexuality as something “foreign” and un-African.

Secondly, it is important to appreciate the real roots of our current homophobia. There is little connection between the revulsion we have as Zimbabweans towards homosexuality with our pre-colonial ancestors who, despite having strict rules that governed all sexualities, did not really see homosexuality as “evil” or deride gays as “worse than dogs and pigs”. In fact, the roots of our homophobia can actually be traced, paradoxically, to the influence of European colonial rule!

If we want to argue that homosexuality is “un-African”, it is better not to use “tradition” as a justification for our homophobia because it was actually European colonists who introduced homophobic sentiments in colonial Zimbabwe.

[T]he extreme homophobia of Zimbabwean nationalist leaders during the 1960s and beyond had its origins in their colonial Christian schooling and middle-class aspirations of seeking bourgeois respectability.

It is fallacious, therefore, for present-day Zimbabweans to claim that “tradition” dictates that homosexuality is “un-African”, or that homophobia is very modern and it has colonial roots. And so it is very wrong, actually, to blame colonialism for introducing homosexuality in Africa because, to the contrary, European colonists were notoriously homophobic.

Drafters of our new constitution need to set aside their own prejudices (just as they would in reference to ethnic or racial minorities) and accommodate sexual minorities in the envisaged new constitution of Zimbabwe. It is only fair and just!

So now you have the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say and it is very different from what Christian extremists are claiming. The column was written by Dr. Munya Munochiveyi, a professor of African History based in Boston, Massachusetts.

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