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24.07.2017 Opinion

LGBT Rights Activism In Africa And What The West Must Know

By King David Dzirasah
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Africa is a continent made up of conservative social institutions whose moderateism can be ascribe to its cultural dynamics. Africa’s traditional social norms shape the social structure of its societies. In our contemporary world, the west has undergone some social transitions which have made it possible for Lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender to be accepted in western societies. This social transformation is gradually creeping into African societies as LGBT rights activists and western nations are pushing African governments to take steps to ensure that LGBT rights are protected in their respective countries. Out of 54 countries in Africa, South Africa is the only African country that has constitutionally legalized same-sex marriage. This development can be attributed to their cultural variations and socioeconomic and political status of South Africa. However this is not the case for the rest of the countries on the continent.

The de-accelerated rate of imposition of punitive legal repercussions on Africans who practice LGBT on the continent can to a large extent be associated to the external influences being exerted by western nations. Few countries on the continent have made LGBT practice punishable by death or life imprisonment. Majority of the countries however have been to some extent lenient on LGBT Africans as far as legal repercussions are concerned. This is largely due to threats by western nations to retaliate by having aids and grants removed from countries that take such harsh initiatives. That has somehow created an inertia whereby most African countries are seen as neither criminalizing nor decriminalizing LGBT.

In as much as human right is important, there is the need to recognize that human right must be within a sociocultural context. In western societies, polygamy is frowned upon. Many western and developed nations have criminalized polygamy. Polygamy is culturally accepted in African societies. Looking at this context, it can rationally be concluded that the western societies that have criminalized polygamy are infringing on the human rights of individuals who want to practice polygamy in western nations. It is necessary for the west to understand that the social perception they have regarding polygamy that is the reciprocal feeling Africans have concerning LGBT. If western countries cannot legalize polygamy then morally they cannot expect African countries to legalize homosexuality. Just as there are LGBT minorities in Africa so are there people within the western societies who want to practice polygamy and see it legalized.

Western nations must not coerce African countries with threats of withdrawing aids, grants and other supports if Africans refuse to accept LGBT rights in their respective countries. Human and natural resources of Africa have been pillaged by colonial imperialists from the west during the period of colonization. It therefore behooves on the west as a moral responsibility to help Africa to recover its place in the global race without any conditionality and equivocation. It is important for western nations to be circumspect in trying to run away from their responsibility all in the name of protecting the rights of LGBT in Africa.

Conclusively, the west must respect the right of Africans as far as deciding whether they would accept a LGBT or not. Aggressive activism must be done with due respect to the people who matter the most. If the citizens of the west have the right to say no to polygamy because it is not part of their culture, then Africans also have the equal right to say no LGBT because it is not part of their culture.

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