In lieu of Senator Larry Craig’s peculiar bathroom antics, I thought an appropriate article this week could address the issue of homosexuality in Ghana and Africa at large – a task easier said than done.
To gather material for this article, I went around asking Ghanaians and other African nationals of all walks of life their stance on homosexuality.
Overwhelmingly, the most common reaction was a contorted expression asking, “Why?”
“Because I am genuinely interested in human rights and liberties,” I would respond.
An even more perplexed look generally followed and then most people would reluctantly share their thoughts on the subject.
If that was not difficult enough, just imagine my dilemma in getting a statement from an actual homosexual person in a land where homosexuality is such a social taboo as to be criminalized.
It is an extraordinary reflection on Ghanaian culture that as I sit and write this article, I have yet to speak, let alone see, a homosexual person.
It is not difficult to understand why this might be the case in the backdrop of a society where religious creed reigns large and where, as Afrol News reports: “Unnatural carnal knowledge of any person,” which is interpreted as homosexuality by Ghanian judges, “is a sexual offense comparable with bestiality, assault and rape in the criminal code. a relic of repressive British sodomy laws from the colonial age.”
While homosexuality is officially banned under Ghanaian law, the right to organize and form groups has allowed for a gay rights organization to take root.
In an August 2007 Afrol News report, Prince MacDonald, the leader of one such group, commented on the plight of the homosexual in Ghana.
“The police beat and punish people who are found to be gays. in our communities when found, you are treated as an outcast or lowered to beatings from people who call themselves straight,” he said.
Moreover, many homosexuals are denied public service when they get STDs. In order to get treatment for AIDS, homosexuals may be required to reveal their partner, discouraging many from seeking professional medical attention.
Among African countries, Ghanaian attitudes and legislation regarding homosexuality is the norm, not the exception. Only South Africa distinguishes itself with progressive tolerance, going so far as guaranteeing homosexual rights in its constitution.
Reflecting the general consensus of most Africans I interviewed, Francis, a Ghanaian accounting student tells me, “[Homosexuality] just doesn’t make sense to me. It’s just not natural.” Then Francis argued that if everyone were to become homosexual, the human race would expire.
I agreed with Francis, adding that the “natural” purpose of the human sex organs is to procreate.
Francis nodded approvingly at this comment, but was then thrown into a whirlwind of shock when I deduced that, under this same logic, casual sex should also be banned.
“It’s just not natural to use the sexual organs for the purpose of pleasure because, as already established, the natural purpose of the sex organs is to procreate. So, whenever you engage in sexual relations, you should not use contraceptives. That’s just what the world needs: more starving children,” I said.
Francis, a Christian, also disapproved of granting homosexuals rights, stating that it was important to maintain Ghanaian values intact and not always borrow doctrines of belief from the western world where homosexuality tends to be more accepted.
Again, I agreed with him, but asked, “Why adopt Christianity then? Isn’t Christianity also a product of the western world which, if I am not mistaken, was brought to Africa in slave ships?
I doubt if I succeeded in changing Francis’s opinion, but that wasn’t really the point. I wanted him to question his justifications for the unjustifiable, to question why we so arbitrarily chastise others for being different – for having a different sexual orientation, gender, age, religion, nationality, ethnicity or skin color.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a senior political science and philosophy major. Her column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.