Africa: Analysis - Gay-Bashing in Africa Is 'A Colonial Import'

Posing with the rainbow flag (file photo).

Some have decried Botswana's enlightened High Court judgment on gay sex. But studies show that homosexuality existed - and was tolerated - across pre-colonial Africa.

Certain African leaders keep telling us that "no African is born gay" - that homosexuality is alien to African culture and was brought to Africa by westerners.

No evidence is ever produced to support this claim. The history of our continent, in fact, shows that gays, lesbians and transsexuals were known in the pre-colonial era and, more importantly, were tolerated.

In particular, the 2000 work Boy Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexualities makes a strong case that same-sex practices were recorded and institutionalised in many indigenous African societies.

According to Human Rights Watch, 32 of 54 African countries now have laws that criminalise consensual, same-sex relationships. But such laws are not indigenous: they were generally imported, either by British colonial governments or under Islamic Sharia law.

In some hard-line Sharia law states, including Mauritania, parts of Nigeria and Somalia, and Sudan, gay sex carries the death penalty.

Under British rule sodomy, described at the time as a "vice against nature", was typically outlawed in colonial penal codes. In countries such as Tanzania and...

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