This evening, Channel 4 Television on its Dispatches programme screened a very interesting and in-depth report on homosexuality in Africa, presented by award winning Sierra Leonean journalist Sorious Samura. The film is not available to be embedded, but the whole 50 minutes of it is available on the Channel 4 Dispatches website for the next four weeks from today's date. Please click on this link to watch the film Africa's last taboo. For those not in the United Kingdom or for whom 4oD is not available, the film is available on YouTube. Click here to see it.
On the whole, the film reaffirms what people like me have been saying all along, that in the minds of most people, the terms "sodomy" and "homosexuality" are interchangeable. Oh, I have had innumerable arguments with those who will insist that sodomy cannot be separated from homosexuality, so I'm quite familiar with that argument. But being gay myself, I do know that homosexuality is not just about a sex act.
Prison inmates who prior to being imprisoned are red-blooded heterosexual males, find themselves engaging in sexual acts with other male inmates whilst in prison. But these men have not become homosexuals just because they have engaged in sexual acts with other men. They are heterosexual and will revert to their heterosexual ways as soon as the opportunity for sex with the opposite sex becomes available. On the counter side, there are many gay men who do not engage in penetrative anal sexual intercourse. A man who is physically and emotionally attracted to other men, even if he did not act on these feelings, even if he is celibate, is still a gay man. Homosexuality is a sexual orientation, it is a state of being. And try as he does in the film to come across as being modern, enlightened and sophisticated, even Sorious Samura the reporter makes the grave error of sometimes referring to homosexuality as a "practice".
The Ugandan bishop's arguments are all entirely either in relation to the anus, or to the importation of homosexuality to Africa from the West. He even goes so low as to argue from his pulpit that gay Africans become gay because they have received monetary gifts from their western friends. This makes me wonder what qualifications one needs to become a bishop in Uganda, or whether one needs qualifications at all. Also I think it's rather interesting that in the film, the Mbale district police commander in Uganda is not only the arresting officer, he seems to be the prosecutor too, as well as the judge, since he condemns, convicts and sentences the alleged gay men, all this while still in his police uniform. And of course the almighty anus, (and its muscles), feature prominently and play the leading role in the police commander's description of the "crime" of homosexuality and in his description of the events leading up to the arrest of the two gay men..
All in all, the film offers a very realistic representation of the situation for gay people in Africa, since the views of the homophobic majority are aired side by side the stories that gay Africans have to tell about their predicament. Also the very real threat faced by gay people in Africa is starkly enunciated. I have much sympathy for those gay Africans who lived during the colonial years, when self expression as a gay person would have been quite impossible. It is encouraging to see that in our time more and more gay African people are able to speak up for themselves.
Traditional African societies had evolved various means of dealing with homosexuality in their communities, and I will venture to add that most traditional societies were perfectly familiar with homosexuality. The arrival of the Europeans however, meant that those African traditions and practices that were incompatible with European doctrine were abolished, (by the Europeans). It is significant that much of the homophobia that we see in Africa today is of the kind that is championed by the Bible waving bishop in this film. So then, I ask, is the Bible from Africa? Well, we all know the answer to that one..