"The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it." The theory promoted by Ifa Kamau Cash that "nothing is African about homosexuality" is not new. It has been promoted by numerous intellectuals and politicians for decades, nay centuries.
Edward Gibbon, in an extensive work describing the decline and fall of the Roman empire, wrote about this 300 years ago. He said: "I believe and hope that the negroes in their own country were exempt from this moral pestilence."
A century later, another influential European scholar, Burton, helped to reinforce the myth of African sexual exceptionalism by drawing boundaries where "homosexuality was widely practised and accepted to exclude sub-Saharan Africa". He helped to establish the myth that Africans were not sophisticated enough to have the "vices" of Arabs, Europeans, Indians or the Chinese.
These racist ideas have made their way into modern-day Africa., where many countries, especially former British colonies, have happily kept Victorian colonial laws punishing sex between people of the same sex. India for example has only just woken up to these colonial relics, and repealed its infamous Section 377 last year.
The idea that African sexuality is only designed for procreation is ludicrous. It reinforces the myth about African cultural inferiority, and assumes that important components of sexuality such as the art of eroticism--celebrated in the ancient Kama Sutra--are only good for the rest of the world, but not us (Africans).
The resulting danger of these ideologies is that many African intellectuals and politicians are happily turning a blind eye to the possibility of sexual diversity, or blaming foreign NGOs, instead of questioning the glaring human rights abuses against homosexuals on the continent.
Dr Cheikh Traore
New York City, USA