Geographies in Depth

Homosexuality is not un-African

Sylvia Tamale
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The sad, tired but widely accepted myth that homosexuality is un-African has been valorized and erected on the altar of falsehood time after time. It is a myth that has been played out in numerous contexts, most recently over the debate on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. However, historical facts demand that this fable be debunked once and for all.

The “homosexuality is un-African” myth is anchored on an old practice of selectively invoking African culture by those in power. African women are familiar with the mantra. “It is un-African” whenever they assert their rights, particularly those rights that involve reproductive autonomy and sexual sovereignty.

The mistaken claim that anything is un-African is based on the essentialist assumption that Africa is a homogeneous entity. In reality, however, Africa is made up of thousands of ethnic groups with rich and diverse cultures and sexualities. As appealing as the notion of African culture may be to some people, no such thing exists. Moreover, even if we wanted to imagine an authentic African culture, like all others, it would not be static.

This is an excerpt from an article published by Al Jazeera. Sylvia Tamale is a professor of law at Makerere University in Uganda.

Image: Participants from South Africa dance with the rainbow flag during the annual Gay Pride march in Paris, June 30, 2012. REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

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Related topics:
Geographies in DepthEquity, Diversity and Inclusion
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