01.02.2003 Feature Article

Kojo Besia: The taboo no one talks about

Kojo Besia: The taboo no one talks about
LISTEN FEB 1, 2003

IN our Ghanaian society, there are certain practices that are described as abominable because they are thought to be incompatible with traditional customs, contemporary civil society and normal human behaviour.One such abomination is homosexuality, sex among members of the same gender. This is a taboo subject area, let alone its practice. In Ghana, with shocking surprise, everyone would look at a supposed gay person with regret, disappointment and disgust.One banner headline in a local newspaper when our country attained nationhood read: “Ghana Goes Gay.” A host of gays misinterpreting the headline trooped to Ghana only to experience the exact opposite — rejection and repudiation. The bold gays who attempted to influence some youths were chased out of the country. That was some forty-five years ago.However, foreign cultural proliferation and sustained interactions with certain foreign workers, tourists, sailors, prisoners and other influences from the media and films, have sought to popularise gay practices among the youth, especially those in the continuation schools. These recalcitrant youths secretly practice this abominable act. Some organise late night parties at which they have their perverse orgies. Some reports doing the rounds in the Accra metropolis have it that some very prominent Ghanaians, including television presenters, musicians, actors and children of very wealthy Ghanaians are gay. Even a cosmopolitan international school has been pencilled as a breeding ground for homosexuals in the nation’s capital. The above notwithstanding, some families would not hesitate to ostracise members found to have indulged themselves in homosexuality. Some may even go further to deprive offending youth in such families from finding prospective spouses in future. Such stigmatisation could hang over a family for generations.Any man who tends to do things that woman are traditionally expected to do is considered effeminate and often tagged “Kojo Besia,” literally meaning “man-woman.” Things like hair-plaiting, wearing of ear-rings, making-up the face, wearing female dresses and headgear, and generally behaving like a woman, could subject one to public ridicule and negative criticism. No one takes such a person serious in life. As a result some male hair-stylists, restaurant waiters, hotel attendants with such habits are perceived to be gay. Also many male models and fashion designers have been rumoured to be gays. This may not always be true anyway. Inasmuchas people will quickly deny their involvement in homosexuality no one has ever boldly come out to confirm his status to the public as a gay. This goes to show the bad light in which people hold so-called gays in the Ghanaian society.The general contention is that even lower animals are not known to be homosexuals, why should humans known to be higher animals with reasoning minds debase themselves to that level? An avowed gay, or homosexual therefore, is considered an outcast in Ghana, and in fact in many African societies for very good reasons. As a taboo that could deprive someone of his royal status, it is indeed a reckless adventure in which no bonafide Ghanaian should ever countenance. It is considered alien to Ghanaian culture, and known to be a vehicle for the proliferation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. To be gay or homosexual is also considered risky, dirty and disgraceful. Gay is therefore taboo that must be avoided. A gay man was allegedly lynched in Cape Coast in 1965, while another gay faced the same fate at Bawku in the mid-1980s. However, as recent as last December 2002, at a village near Koforidua, a man found dead on a farm was said to have been lynched when caught trying to have sex with an eight-year-old boy.

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