Gay Rights in Africa

Gay People and Gay Rights in Africa

In view of the rampant homophobia in Uganda, Malawi, Ghana, Zambia and many other African countries, I’d like to share my experiences and thoughts about gay people, gay rights and the fear or hate of gay people in Africa.

When my wife and I moved to Cape Town in 2008, we loved clubbing. One evening we saw a club we had never visited and decided to check it out. On entering the door the club scene looked “strange”. We spent a few minutes there and were shocked. We were in gay bar! We both had never been to a gay bar before and were shocked to see men who clearing were in relationships. We were too shocked and said almost at the same time that “Let’s go!” and we left.

We got into our car and prayed! We prayed that God should protect us from the evil we had exposed ourselves to and possible demons!

Coming from Zambia, this was the most shocking thing to see. I could not understand any society allowing or tolerating this kind of abomination. I had never seen anyone that was gay in Zambia and as far as I knew there were no gay people in Zambia.

Encounter with a Gay Zambian Man

One evening I went to a restaurant to meet a brother of mine who had come to town for a conference. He was sitting with a nicely dressed, soft spoken man from Zambia. As I sat with them, I saw this man’s mannerisms and thought like the Pharisee that “If my brother were a prophet he would know that the man he is sitting with is gay!” As if my thought were loud, the conversation drifted to gay people and this man had been a gay activist from Zambia. I was shocked that the gays were also in my country!

I was talking for the first time with a gay man. I was uncomfortable but I asked him a number of can-I-ask-you-a-question questions.

Chivuli had been gay all his life and had lived in Zambia all his life. He told us about the many gay people and the struggles they go through. After talking to a gay man from my country that had been gay all his life, I wanted to find out a number of things about homosexuality. I remember being afraid of frogs when I was young purely because my mum was scared of them. For fear of perpetuating the guarding of a concrete slab, I did some reading and asking people and examining my own fears regarding gay people.

What is homophobia?
Homophobia is a fear or hate of gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Why are gay people scary? I’ve asked many people to find out why they don’t like gay people. I’ve got answers like “they are sinners”, “they can make my kids gay”, “it’s unnatural,” and “it’s just wrong.”

Fear of Being Gay
I’ve noticed that straight men are actually more opposed to gay men than straight women are. Many of the men I’ve asked why they don’t like gay men have said “I just don’t like them. Why would a man act like a woman and like other men?” I think that a lot of men are scared of gay people because they fear that they themselves could be gay! Some are afraid of touching or hugging a gay person saying they “don’t want to get confused.” This could be the reason why one of the commonest questions gay people get asked as Chivuli told me is “How did you know you were gay?” Or “When did you find out you were gay?” From Google keywords, one common search phrases is “Am I gay?” (One friend of mine was concerned he could be gay because he enjoyed the prostate exam!)

The first question I asked Chivuli was, “How did you know you were gay?” In examining my own fears, I thought that trying to ask a woman out was hard enough but why would anybody be gay if you had to first figure out if the man you’re attracted to is gay and then figure out if he likes you making it twice as hard. The gay sample space is small; you get hatred from some people and governments and can get killed for just being gay so why would anybody just want to be gay deliberately?

Talking to gay men from Congo, Cameroon, Zambia and Zimbabwe, they have said that their partners are usually married men. I asked “White men?” and they said “No. Black men.” Eish! That could explain the fear further! Straight men that are sure of their sexual orientation are not afraid of gay men.

The Bible
Some people are opposed to gay people saying it is a sin according to the bible. They quote Leviticus 18:22 which says that “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” I think the bible cannot be interpreted literally. If that was the case then we should possess slaves as long as they are from a foreign country like Zimbabwe or Malawi according to Lev. 25:44; we should not shake hands with women during their monthly period (Lev.15:19- 24) (I wonder how it would be like to ask every woman before I shake hands with them); Women should not speak in church (Cor 14:33-36); rebellious children should be killed (Deut 21:18-21). There are many examples.

I think committing adultery and stealing are more sinful than being gay because they are even on the 10 commandments. Jesus talked about a lot of things but not a word about gay people. If Jesus was to come again now, do you think he would chase away and kill gay people? He surprised the then religious people – the Pharisees – when he welcoming everyone including sinners. Jesus taught unconditional love.

Even if we agreed that homosexuality was a sin it does not justify violence or human rights violation against gay people. If we hate sinners we should do that for all types of sinners. We should jail or kill liars, adulterers, fornicators and people who work on the Sabbath. “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7. See also Rom 2:1.

Some people say that if homosexuality is tolerated then everybody would be gay and it would destroy our society. The wrong assumption here is that straight people are looking forward to be gay but they are deterred by the law! Gay people are gay and straight people are straight whether the law allows or not. Africa and indeed the world has always had gay people. If allowing gay rights made people gay then half of South Africa should be gay!

I feel the talk about homosexuality and morality is self-righteous and hypocritical. A lot of married men and women have extra-marital affairs and that is a bigger issue that letting gay people have rights. Isn’t it sad that having multiple sexual partners is more condoned that being homosexual?

Are Gay People Dangerous?
In 2010 Chivuli stayed with my family for a few months. Some of my wife’s friends were worried. They were worried about me and my two young sons. They said “What if he goes after your husband? Are your kids safe? If you expose your kids to gay people won’t your kids be gay?” Lelemba’s answer was that “If my husband wants to have an affair with a gay guy then he would do it even if the gay person was not in my house. Being gay is not the same as being a rapist or paedophile.” I think paedophiles are paedophiles regardless of their sexual orientation. In Africa there are more straight paedophiles who rape girls due to the belief that sleeping with kids cures AIDS. Kids cannot become gay just because they lived with a gay person. Being gay is not a disease and so it is not contagious.

How do people become gay?
There are many theories about how people become gay. I have found the following 3 explanations to be plausible.
1. Prenatal causes: In the 7th week of pregnancy when a woman gets a high testosterone dose due to severe anger or fear it can change the foetus’ phenotype (physical expression). So the physical will show male when the genotype will be female. Both men and women have percentages of femininity and masculinity. Men are about 70% male and 30% female.

This type of gay people are the ones that look and act like very much like women and you would even think they are women. It is unfair to force them to pretend to be straight or even force them to marry women to be accepted.

Mwai, my 4 year old was calling Chivuli “Auntie” and kept being corrected by Mwenda (8) that “He’s not an auntie, he’s an uncle.” They would argue about this on several occasions. Even if Chivuli dresses like a man for a long time Mwai just saw an “auntie” in him.

2. Childhood causes: Some children (around 7) experience some psychological issues with a particular sex and grow up to be gay. These are usually the ones that can become straight with therapy or prayers etc. I have heard of people that were gay and stopped being gay after they resolved the traumatic experience. I still think it is still not right to treat gay people as if they were sick.

3. Adults’ experimentation or choice: Some people as adults want to experiment or choose to be gay or lesbian. These can choose to be and not be gay.

I think the mistake comes in when we attribute all gay people to one cause. I think we should live and let live.


People who are different and in the minority have been oppressed in history. We look down on cultures that killed or ostracised people that were different due to albinism, physical disability, race, coming from a foreign country, religion etc. and yet we do the same with gays, lesbians and bisexuals. Gay rights are human rights. It is heart breaking to see gay people trying so hard to pretend to be straight to just fit in. Homosexuals are normal people who deserve to be treated with dignity and enjoy the human rights and freedom we all are entitled to. Let us question our beliefs and move past our fears and prejudices.

…and last words – Let gay people get married, they have the right to be miserable too! And oh yeah…last last word – in case you didn’t know masturbation is gay because it is same sex sex! 🙂

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  1. very insightful and thought provoking my friend. I too hold similar views but have not actively sought to understand and protect gay rights. I have always said its ok for them to be gay as long as they do not invade my personal space, which i realise now is some form of homophobia. Coming from a country like Zimbabwe where laws are in place that make being gay illegal, it has been easy for me to avoid the gay space as it were, as they do not have the freedom to be what they are.

  2. Wow, I love this, Sandras, thanks for shedding the light on the homophobia issue and highlighting injustices that people in the minority face. Keep writing.

  3. Thanks Nyasha and Amina. It’s a difficult subject to talk about. Bu if at least we can share thoughts and opinions openly then it helps to address the issues.

    Since it’s a “taboo” topic I’m getting various comments in my inbox because people don’t want to be “seen” talking about homosexuality – that’s how bad the homophobia is.

    1. Hello Sandras,
      Am yet to write you officially to ‘crucify’ you for the long silence you have wittingly imposed on our friendship.Oooops does that sound gay ayi? Kindly tell your sweet wife she has nothing to worry about. What i really find repulsively ignorant is how some people stoop so low as to use the bible to condemn other people to death or plainly criminalise them using this book as justification. What if the one you choose to discuss this matter is not even christian,then what? Are they going to shove their standard of morality on someone from another faith or different religious persuasion? Let me now get to the crux of the matter here,yes, am taking off the gloves now! Let us slag it out with bare intellectual knuckles with those who please.What i would really like to know is this, and forgive me for being a bit crude here, i may not exactly boast of having a PhD under me belt from some prestigious university in Human Anatomy and Physiology.Hence, what i would really like to know is the main differences between the Male anal sphincter and the female anal sphincter. My reason for asking this is that most of these people who are vehemently opposed to gay sex have no qualms whatsoever with having penetrative anal sex with a female or watching this done. Why should people use sexual preference as a basis for judging and hating a group of people? Do humans realise that in a relationship of any form there is more involved other than poking your mate back and forth with a body protuberant? What is better,a faithful and loving gay couple or an abusive and unfaithful heterosexual couple? Do we also not have our own shortcomings maybe not even know to the public? Why then should we magnify those of other people?

      So,can we have some really smart answers trickling in folks, am ready for a 101 Medical School revision class on the differences on the human body between the sexes. This exam is not open ended we need to make progress here and fast….

      Some of us have long resolved never to perpetually live under the self-imposed slavish shackles of religious dogma.


      Namakando Nalikando-Sinyama
      Barotse Patriot
      Barotseland, Central Africa
      “I tell you a Truth, Liberty is the best of all things, my son, never live under a Slavish bond.” – Sir William Wallace’s Uncle

  4. Well balance approach. Remove the hatred, let the gay person live their life, and pray for us.

  5. Hi Sandras

    The issue depends on in whose opinion is being sought on the matter, if its God’s opinion, the matter is clear in the bible. If it’s individuals opinions outside the Bible that’s a different matter.
    According to the Bible it is both wrong to be gay as well as to hate gays.
    The warning to God from us on holding opinions on issues like this is:
    “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 50:20)

    Fortunately the Bible is clear on the topic
    1. That being gay is a sin; it is not God’s prescription Gen 2:3 “In the beginning God paired them male & female (Adam & Eve), so from God’s perspective marraige or sexual relationships should be between male & female. He created Adam first then created for him a companion ‘suitable’ for him – a female.

    2. That gay people should neither be hated or discriminated against. Just like anyone who sins should not be discriminated against because we are all sinners. So that stone could not be cast at the woman unless by a sinless person, and the sinless person who is God has declared that condemnation will only come on Judgement Day with God himself the only one qualified to judge – before then he gives opportunity for gays, and the rest of us who sin in other ways time to repent. Thus he told the woman ‘Neither do i condemn you GO AND SIN NO MORE’ – if she was a lesbian that would have meant go & practice lesbianism no more.

    a). The Bible is clear that that homosexuality is sin both old & new testament.
    Lev. 18: 22-23, 27. ” 22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable. [a detestable sin].

    b). The Bible is clear that sexuality is between male & female (as above).

    c). The Bible is clear that sinners which includes homosexuals are not to be hated or discriminated but to be helped to sin no more.

    And in case there’s any doubt as to the genders of the two parties;

    Mathew 19:4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made[a]them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’[b] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?

    …and I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality,[d] and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

    So the Bible clearly shows that the natural arrangement is Husband is male & wife is female.

    Romans 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. 27In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.

    What does God with a sinner ? He gives him the power to overcome the sin and be changed. As Jesus told the woman to go and sin no more, he gave her the power. For it is written; As many as receive Him he gave the power to become sons of God – John 1:12

    The sinner become a new person; old things have passed away all things are new 2 corinthians 5:17

  6. Hi Mpimpa. I like your comment. It is clear and well written. I agree that if we condemn and judge then we’re playing the role of God…which personally I’m uncomfortable playing 🙂

  7. Well presented Sandras. I always find using a book that was written over 1500 years ago, and older, as justification for anything is problematic. All one has to do when reading it is put it in context. If you are trying to grow your particular brand of religion as fast as possible, what do you do? You encourage your followers to have as many children as possible and one of the many ways mentioned in the bible to do that is to ensure that all men and women are in opposite sex relationships. There is some fabulous, timeless teaching in the bible, but the whole thing on homosexuality being a sin is about as relevant today as all the stuff about how to treat your slaves and not sitting on the same chair as a menstruating woman.

    Keep up the conversation Sandras. The world needs to come out of the darkness and see the light of true love for ALL humanity.

  8. So, Britain at the just ended Commonwealth Heads of State summit just attached a “conditionality” to their AID…they will cut AID to developing countries that will not recognise gays rights! What a BOMB!!! Well, at least in my country, Zambia, a proud Christian nation. QFM, a local radio station has carried a live phone-in programme for two days running seeking public opinion on the matter. The question is, does Zambia repeal its Statutory law which makes homosexual acts a penal code violation punishable with up to 10 years imprisonment or does the country tell Britain to “shove” its aid? What are the costs of either choice? It was interesting to listen to how so many Zambians are so homophobic! It was in fact, a campaign issue in the last general Election, Septemebr 20, which saw Michael Chilufya Sata, a standing Catholic, un-sit an incumbent President. Interestingly, Sata’s views on homosexuality are that of a true Catholic, like myself, which are that, “whilst we do not condemn homosexuality, we do not condemn it”!!! So, now Sata stands accused that somehow, because of his stance on homosexuality, somehow, he has connived with the British government to make the recognition of gay rights a condition for British aid!!! How preposterous…for after all, we do claim to be a Christian country, governed by Christian principles, and one of these principles which people tend to ignore is that, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” John 8:7!!! And by God, we are all sinners; we fornicate, we lie, we adulterate, we covert our neighbours cars, houses, wives and husbands, contrary to the Ten Commandments! Yet we stand so hypocritically to judge the next sinner who happens to be just a homosexual!!! How have we survived to live peacefully alongside adulterers and fornicators for ages yet we can not peacefully leave alongside homosexuals? For indeed, judgement is the Lords! Zambians are even scared of just talking about homosexuality, “as it makes the issue more real”…not talking about it will not change the fact that it is there!!!

  9. Thank you for your overview of homosexuality.I thought you raised
    some interesting thoughts concerning the subject.
    However,my primary concern is the serious undermining of Gods
    Holy Word.How do you so unashamedly dismiss what the Bible
    specifically say about a specific topic.Who gives you that right?
    Heaven and Earth will pass away…..but not one of Gods Words.
    I think it is alot more serious than you may be aware of.It is so
    serious to undermine and diminish Gods word that we are told
    our name can be removed from heavens registry.And then to teach
    that lie and perpetuate it?Rethink what you are saying ,please!
    And,one other important fact that you are omitting is that an entire
    city was obliteratated because of this error.Please do not take
    advantage of my intelligence by trying to trivalize what actually
    took place by trying to undermine the “why”.
    I can read, AND UNDERSTAND.
    In conclusion,please tell the truth.The truth will set you free.
    Always has ,always will.When we all stand in judgement ,I want to
    be sure that I have not led someone astray with my ignorance and
    have their blood on my hands.Please think about what you teach.
    You will be accountable.It is not worth the little bit of acceptance
    you will recieve here. I genuinely care for the gay community,
    and I care for the one who presented this story.

  10. Thanks, Sandras, for sharing your insightful perspective on this issue. It’s perplexing why so many people aren’t able to evolve beyond their own limiting beliefs about gay people and consider that perhaps homosexuality is simply yet one more expression of nature’s (or God’s, or the Universe’s, etc.) incredibly rich diversity.

    What’s equally perplexing is why it’s necessary to determine whether homosexuality is a choice or not, as though somehow that will dictate whether there is justification for one’s homophobia. The perception that something as complex as human sexuality exists as absolute qualities is an illusion that creates so much misunderstanding. I think one of the big misunderstanding about homosexuality is that someone either is or isn’t. Period.

    It’s not that black and white. There are degrees of attraction like there are degrees of feelings. Some gay people are exclusively attracted to people of the same gender. Some are more attracted to people of the same gender but also somewhat attracted to people of the opposite gender. There are various degrees of attraction. That’s why the business of determining choice versus non-choice is a slippery slope.

    It’s important to keep in mind that gay people are as diverse as non-gay people. They range from effeminate to masculine for both genders. Most people will likely know at least one gay person, but most people will not know it. Fortunately, that is changing; and as more people become aware of the gay people in their lives, more people will understand that gay people are like everyone else, with the same human qualities as everyone else.

    For those who think in religious terms, the only real sin worthy of concern is the sin of violating against another life. When you treat someone with contempt, whether that be against another or yourself, that is a sin. When you support a custom or law or government or religion that persecutes gay people, that is a violation against gay people.

    The Bible can be, and has often been, used to justify division. If you read it with this in mind, then you’re reading it for the wrong reason. But it can be read with the purpose of discovering the loving God within ourselves, the God that sees through our eyes and speaks through our mouths. We’re all created with the ability to choose which world we want to live in and have the freedom to accept the beliefs we want and reject the ones we don’t want. Every moment of our lives we’re presented with the question of which world we want to create; but choose wisely because the world we create will in turn create us.

    We are all human beings, connected in so many ways. We should all celebrate the expression of diversity that thunders through our nature. It’s yet one more reminder that God looks out through all our eyes, including the eyes of gay people.

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