Calling for a more calculated course to curb Africa’s anti-gay human rights path while admonishments seem to cause backlash
By Melanie Nathan, April 07, 2012
Educated people know that being gay is not a lifestyle it is simply a state of being. It is a concomitant of one’s makeup, a birth right, if you will. Born gay supersedes all the nonsensical dicta and rhetoric out there and science is very clear.
Many are able to suppress their desire for same sex companionship and physicality, but most are not. Environment and social circumstances may bring some LGBT people “out” sooner than later. We know the drill!
Being gay is just that – it is “being” – a state of existence. It is our norm just as heterosexuality is the norm for others who happen to comprise the majority of people living in the world. This has all been simply stated and I certainly do not profess to be expert enough to account for the varying spectrum’s of sexuality.
The risk in being gay in most African countries is just that – it is a risk of existence and it is taken to greater heights in a milieu of ignorance, fear and misinformation.
Recently Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke in Zambia about human rights and the right to be Gay, Kamalesh Sharma, the Secretary General of the Commonwealth of Nations who reiterated in Geneva that homophobia is incompatible with Commonwealth values, U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and others around the world have recently lent strong voices to homosexuality (LGBT) – as a basic human right.
Yet, Africa is stuck in colonial draconian ways which have been fueled by the rhetoric of exported Evangelical Christian hate and it would seem that somehow the speaking out by leaders often does little more than cause backlash and agitation.
This mat result in reprisal as can be seen from the interpretation of the events that caused a dear friend in Zambia to be beaten so badly that he spent 3 days in hospital and had it not been for a stranger’s rescue, he may well have been killed.
My friend, whose pen name is Charles Zambia (for his protection since he started writing for me) contributes to O-BLOG-DEE-O-BLOG-DA. He is a law student in Zambia who has provided papers he has written to post here on subjects important to LGBTI people around the world.
He is a young man of great courage who was beaten up for “being “ – perceived as gay. Here is his account of what happened:-
“Well it all begun last week Friday, my 3 friends and I went out to celebrate our victory – we had just succeeded in moot court student sessions. Later that night , we where minding our own business and got a little tipsy and started dancing.
I don’t know since the time Ban Ki Moon came to Zambia n made his speech on gay rights and equality people became to have become more sensitive and agitated on the issues than now there some Christian sects have now come forward to try and purge this so called ”unafrican gay sickness.”
It is like a backlash that seems to be happening.
There were a group of men there while we were having our dance. It seemed for some reason they identified me as being gay even though I really go all out to act straight.
They started passing comments, and my friends and I ignored them. That did not seem to work. It seemed the only way for them to get their message loud n clear was through provocation and so one of the men claimed that my friend stepped on his shoe.
We decided to leave an on our way out, My priority was to protect my female lesbian friends since I was the only male there. I was more afraid for them getting hurt by the men, so I told them to leave ahead of me and I separated myself from them.
At which point one of the men claimed I touched him indecently which of course was a lie.
Then the beating began. They called me all sorts of names ‘hells child,” “diseased ,” “devil” and much more.
It seemed like a long time when some passersby come to my rescue. My friends came back and took me to the hospital.
We all made a statement to the the police.
I know the matter will never see the light of a court room, since the police are the biggest blackmailers and extortionist here;
So today, Mel, I feel a little bit better. I came out of hospital last week after spending 3 days in hospital. I am a bit better today though my ribs and lips still hurt.
Well as for the injuries though the nurses at the hospitals are obligated by law to attend to patient as medical personal and also the fact that the Zambian Constitution guarantees the right to Health. In reality its very hard to have access to medication or treatment as gay man or woman and hence when I was talking to the hospital with bruises, broken rib, a cut lip n bleeding nose we had to say I robbed otherwise I may not have been properly treated if they thought I was gay.
My stitches helped with the healing and I am much better now. Ican’t do any strenuous work or exercises but was told I should be back in full health in a month’s time. I fear was that I may have permanent damage to my organs. So when being beaten I just tried to protect myself as much as I could.
This is my 3rd time I have been beaten since I was 19 and I am now nearly 27. I have also been a victim of blackmail when I was 20 years of age, Someone said I was gay and wanted me to pay them for their silence, I paid once and then when I stopped he lied about me trying to kiss him. So friends of his came after me with stones. I had to run for my life. They will eventually kill us and burn us many of us will have to leave this country to survive.”
While we all applaud leaders speaking out for LGBT human rights internationally, we become caught in the perceived interference of the Westerners; a great irony as it is that very interference, but from the other side of the issue, that has caused the extreme fear and reprisal. It is like a double edged sword.
So one may ask should we have left the issue alone? Should the West remain quiet and not say anything about gay acceptance? I certainly do not profess to have the answers. It is very easy for me and you to admonish in our writings – to grab our respective pieces of the sword and charge in demanding decriminalization, boycotts. Yes, I have done all that- but now I am getting a different picture.
I am realizing that what is so desperately needed in Africa is a form of countering the rhetoric, the misinformation and misunderstanding and it is going to have to happen on a very large well funded scale and it is going to be long and slow process. Perhaps counter missionary Churches such as those with affirming principals could step in on a larger scale. Where are the real Christians? What is he UN doing on this subject in terms of countering misinformation?
There is a great need for deeper conversations, planning and positioning. It is time to consult with local Africans on all sides of this issue in unprecedented fashion. To involve the South African administration which has an all inclusive constitution, to take a leadership role. Funding NGO’s to assist LGBT people in countries is simply not enough. What is the global plan?
There needs to be a plan – one that will start and foster a different conversation in a non-admonishing fashion. Until then we can expect a rise in incidents such as this and an influx of asylum seekers, as young diligent, intellectual, educated talented, beautiful people like my friend Charles are beaten for being!
Note from Editor: -I would love to hear from those of you who can report on direct action in Zambia and Africa generally to counter homophobia. I wish I had more time to research myself, but alas this BLOG is a labor of love! Please feel free to add to the conversation via your comments…. Not interested in receiving the usual scripture quotes – or hate comments those will be moderated and not approved! Thanks, Mel.
The Article by Law Student Charles Zambia
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