This week I watched the excellent Channel 4 Dispatches programme – Africa's Last Taboo. The programme looked at homosexuality across the continent, focusing on what it is like to be a gay person in Africa and the issues that continue to drive homophobia in the birthplace of the human race. Well, I am not African and I have never been to Africa, so maybe I am not best placed to write this. However, that will be the same for many people who watched the programme and those who hopefully will watch it.
The programme put a lot of blame, predictably and some would say accurately, with the church in Africa. When interviewing a preacher in Uganda – a country that has received a lot of press regarding homosexuality in the last six months or so – who is convinced that homosexuality comes from 'the west'. He said; “It (homosexuality) is economic manipulation, economic colonisation.
Homosexuality is Western Colonisation.” Which sounds suspiciously like a conspiracy theory – but for idiots. It is funny then that the preacher man was by miles the best dressed person on the programme. Why is that? Maybe it is something to do with the collection box. After all that was a model that seemed to work well for the Catholic Church. But that is another column.........
Part of the preachers claim was that homosexuality is un-african. Science tells us that the human race began in Africa, so it is therefore goes hand-in-hand (if you bow to genetic science) that homosexuality began in Africa too. However, that is not the belief of most religious leaders (not just in Africa, but throughout the world). Their belief (for the Abrahamic religions at least) is that humankind was born in the Garden of Eden, which was most likely in Iraq. Religious leaders in Africa blame the white man for importing homosexuality. They don't want to admit that is the white man that has imported homophobia to the continent. It is very to forget that it was the British who imposed its sodomy laws across the continent. I don't know about African attitudes to homosexuality, but the programme hints at a history due to there being names for homosexuals in African languages.
There is hope, in the form of people coming in from other parts of the world to preach - Oh no, wait, they are pentecostal US preachers who, um, preach a hatred of gays. I always thought that bible taught love - it seems in this case not to be true.
It is interesting to muse on the fact that The Criminal Justice Bill bans groups of people in the UK from getting together and dancing - maybe we should look at a bill to stop people getting together to 'worship', see how they would like it.
I don't want to go on about the religious issue as that was only part of the programme. The documentary delved into the lives of homosexuals and their day-to-day issues. One male sex worker, who had been abandoned by his family had sex with up to four men a night – who were mostly married. He was HIV+ and never used condoms, as he would make a lot less money if he insisted on them being used. Therefore the men who he slept with would go back to their wives and would be putting them at risk. Another tragedy in a series of ongoing tragedies regarding HIV in the worlds' poorest continent.
The programme contains so much more and I think everyone should watch it as it is very eye opening and the tales of personal struggle are inspiring. It is good to remember the struggles of others across the world – especially straight after Pride, as it is very easy living in our bubble to think that our battles have mostly been won.
Africa IS the birthplace of the human race, and over the last month the continent has been celebrated like never before due to the World Cup. The battle to end racism, in South Africa especially, has been given a lot of focus in the press – and rightly so. But the battle to end other forms of inequality has not been given much of a voice. This programme has helped do so. I urge you all to watch it.
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