I came across this article on African politics and homophobia via Identity Kenya which set out to find out why many African governments have such a strong anti-gay stance. Its major observation was that many politicians and government officials use homophobia as a tool to divert the attention of the masses away from the lack of support structures, the growing corruption and unstable economies. In other words homophobia has become a bunch of keys for distracting children(citizens) whilst their toys(money) are taken away from them.
Sadly, this is a fact that is already known to most LGBT activists already and I dare say, a significant proportion of the population. One good thing about the study is that such ideas are no longer in the realm of speculation but can be considered evidence. Recently I had a conversation with my coworkers about this issue and they all felt this political homophobia was a smoke-screen. That is not to say that they are were okay with gay people: far from it unfortunately.
In Ghana, people routinely blame gay men and women for everything, including the current poor water supply and power instability in many parts of the country (as bizarre as that sounds). One particular pastor has taken it upon himself to tell everyone who will listen that the homosexuals are responsible for the current poor living conditions. This same pastor recently attempted to ‘exorcise’ a 21 year-old member of his flock with his apparently divine penis. I’m at a loss as to how he manages to get people to listen to him. The President is currently embroiled in a scandal of his own, just because he has a friend who happens to be gay. Since the LGBT have no voice in Ghana, it is easier to condemn them than to place the blame squarely where it lies.
In Nigeria, bills involving health reforms and other major changes have been on the back-burner for many years, yet one which seeks to punish a minority for the supreme crime of loving another consenting adult is making its way towards becoming a law in record time and with the kind of unanimous support that is only seen during upward reviews of legislator salaries. Nigeria ranks as the 2nd most corrupt country in West Africa and 35th in the world.
Uganda is another prime example: the Speaker of the House, Ms. Kadaga, promised to push through the infamous anti-gay bill as a way of increasing public interest and paving her way to the presidential palace. The people were rocked by two scandals involving corruption in high places at the end of 2012 which shifted attention away from the bill for a short time. As expected, it has been brought back into focus this year.
Cameroun, long considered one of the most literate countries in Africa, is currently battling huge levels of corruption. It is however been run by a government that has been conducting anal probes on suspected LGBT prisoners in order discover which ones are having anal sex. Recently a man was jailed for three years because of a text message he sent to another man.
I wonder if – in any of these cases – homosexuality would result in an improvement in the general living conditions of the average citizen. If just one person could prove to me that by punishing gay men and women, the economic fortunes of one country in Africa would improve, I would immediately join the homophobic crusade. But I know that this is impossible, just as it is impossible for any gay man to become straight, no matter how hard he may try.
It’s a shame that most people don’t seem to realize this government-sponsored homophobia is crippling their systems and by keeping quiet or promoting such activity, they are aiding this destruction. Hate is never the answer, certainly not when love and acceptance are very viable options. Should these governments ever ride homophobia to its final destination (wherever it may be), I wonder which groups they will target next.