by: Cathryn Lynch

Treatment of the African LGBT community has become increasingly hostile (picture source).

Gay rights continue to progress in much of the world. Albeit, with the exception of South Africa, which to some extent is more progressive on gay rights than many Western countries, the subjugation of sexual minorities appears to be increasing throughout the rest of Africa. In 2013, Amnesty International published an in depth report detailing what it describes as a worsening and dangerous spread of homophobia throughout much of Africa. Academic research has identified several common traits among every African society that work to perpetuate homophobia in Africa.

The origins of homophobia in Africa appear to have originated in the colonial era; prior to European colonization several African societies seem to have accepted homosexuality. During the 19th and 20th centuries the conservative social ideals, including the disdain for homosexuality, of the Victorian era were taking hold throughout Europe. As colonial powers of Europe began to take their claim to various African colonies, they imposed sodomy laws across the continent. Most of the colonial-era constitutions remained in effect in Africa even after Europe began to give up its colonies after the end of World War II. In fact, Human Rights Watch conducted a study that found that half of the world’s sodomy laws are a direct result from British, French, and Portuguese colonial rule.

Colonialism still influences modern-day African views on homosexuality. Many African countries continue to uphold, and sometimes strengthen, anti-gay laws because sexual orientation has become a political and religious platform upon which leaders can easily score points on. Homosexuality is still widely unpopular among Africans, and the habit of criticizing the LGBT population has allowed African leaders to divert attention away from more pressing matters, such as food shortages or draughts. Furthermore, negative statements about homosexuality have a tendency to increase during close political races; sexuality has become a justification for both personal violence and political persecution throughout various social and political contexts in Africa.

Thirty-eight of the fifty-four countries in Africa have criminalized homosexuality. LGTB Africans have been tortured, detained, and killed, and it is fueled by intolerant governments that refuse to let go of ideals instilled during Europe’s colonization of Africa.

Reference list:

  • Fisher, Max. “From Colonialism to “Kill the Gays”” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 27 June 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.