Is Homosexuality un-African?

Is Homosexuality un-African?

The new legislation outlawing homosexuality in Nigeria has spawned much controversy between majority of Nigerians of different calibre, all of whom are in support of the law, and a handful of Nigerians acting as gay (rights) advocates, most of whom have become westernized. In the course of the argy-bargy, one is bound to come across familiar lines of argument used by the two sides – pro-gays and anti-gays.

The pro-gays will, in response to the anti-gays, say:

  1. Homosexuality is not un-African.
  2. How does what two consenting adults do in their privacy, affect anyone?
  3. How is homosexuality a crime when there are no injured parties or victims?
  4. Homosexuality is natural; it occurs among animals.
  5. Why should the Nigerian government be making laws on people’s sexual orientation when there are other important issues (e.g. corruption, unemployment, insecurity, etc) to tackle?
  6. Etc

From the first line of argument, the pro-gays claim that homosexuality is African, and that it wasn’t a foreign import, based on (inconclusive) facts that it existed in Africa even before the coming of European colonialism. They cite documents written by western writers on topics like “Yan dauda”, “Sango”, and “Female Husbands” as instances of homosexuality in Hausaland, Yorubaland and Igboland respectively, prior to the coming of European colonialism. These western narratives of African sexuality are wholeheartedly accepted as truths with disregard and distrust for our own indigenous narratives. The same European colonial invaders who painted bad pictures, said terrible things and did cruel things to black Africans just to further justify slavery and their superiority are being given attention that their interpretations of African culture and sexuality are truths, even when our indigenous interpretations say otherwise.

As Taiwo Oloruntobe-Ojo puts it, “Western discourses on African sexuality are often complicated as much by historical incertitude as by incongruous representations and interpretations of strands of African history, linguistic expressions and other ethnographic data. Inflexible focus on post-contact phenomena and colonial continuities in contemporary African sexualities also leads to the exclusion of indigenous perspectives on sexualities in a number of western narratives and tends to trample on the African continent’s sense of history, identity and self-definition.” He continued, “Many ‘outsider’ narratives of African sexual bodies and sexualities appear to bear little resemblance to the realities perceived and expressed by those living close to the narrated situations.” [1] As Oyeronke Oyewumi puts it, “Whatever the realities of Africa and African bodies, they are liable to be exhibited to soothe the western mind…” [2]

The pro-gays claim that Yan dauda is a Hausa term for homosexuality, yet according to indigenous reports, Yan dauda had nothing to do with homosexuality. The term is used to refer to the weak or ‘feminine’ men who, along with defenceless women, sought the protection of the Bori spirit or lord (dauda). [1] According to Maarit Sinikangas, he said, “When I first got interested in Yan dauda my main focus was to study them as homosexuals since that is how they have been categorised in most of the cases. I found few texts on Yan daudu. Most of the authors mentioned Yan daudu in margins or footnotes naming them as homosexual, transvestites or deviants. The more I learned about Yan daudu the more I felt it was wrong to call them homosexuals…” [3] Even according to American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is distinct from gender identity. They both are not the same. [4][5] So, if Yan dauda was originally a term for effeminate men does not automatically mean homosexuality.

The pro-gays also claim that Sango, the Yoruba god of thunder, was often described as a beautiful man who dressed like a woman, thus a homosexual. Unfortunately, being a cross-dresser does not indicate or mean a homosexual. [4] Sango was the 3rd king of Oyo kingdom. He was married to 3 wives – Osun, Ogun and Oya. [6] According to Oyeronke Olajubu, “Yoruba religion is against being homosexual. Ifa, which is the embodiment of Yoruba Traditional Religion, does not sanction same-sex marriage.” [7]

The existence of ‘female husbands’ in Igboland during the pre-colonial era is used by pro-gays as a fact that homosexuality existed and was tolerated in Igboland. The pro-gays cite western interpretations of the nature of ‘female husbands’ in Igboland, yet, indigenous scholars have rejected such claim as a hegemonic orientation of western narratives on African queer sexuality. [1] According to Chukwuemeka K. Nwoko, the practice of female husband did not involve sexual relationship between the couple. [8] Amadiume, Ekejiuba, Oyewumi and many others have also protested that the relation of ‘female husband’ to the ‘female wife’ has only social but no sexual content. [1]

So, with these indigenous narratives that dissociated homosexuality from “Yan dauda”, “Sango” and “Female Husbands” and also mentioned the intolerance of homosexuality in African (Nigerian) culture, are we now to say that homosexuality is African based on western dubious narratives, or, homosexuality is un-African based on our own indigenous narratives who are well-informed of our own culture? How do we even say something is African? The mere existence of something in Africa does it mean it is African? Is Mercedes Benz, English language, rape, etc African or un-African? From my analysis, for something to be concluded as African, it has to meet at least two of the premises (A, B & C) below:

  1. It must originally exist in Africa.
  2. It must be widely accepted in the pre-colonial/colonial era by Africans.
  3. It must be widely accepted in the post-colonial era by Africans.
  4. Then, it is African.

Based on the above syllogism, homosexuality is un-African. Its original existence in Africa before the colonial era is still moot, and on top of that, it was widely rejected before/during the colonial era and still widely rejected even now, thus, it is un-African. The syllogism also helps to answer if Mercedes Benz, English language, rape, etc is African.

“How does what two consenting adults do in their privacy affect anyone?” the pro-gays would couch in western paradigm, not knowing that the perspective, ‘two consenting adults’ was a western invention to accommodate homosexual relationships while rejecting polygamous relationships – a double standard. Relationships/marriages used to be defined as between a man and a woman, but now, due to western hegemonic schemes, the paradigm of relationships & marriages have shifted to give room for western hypocrisy.

“How is homosexuality a crime when there are no injured parties or victims?” the Nigerian pro-gays would also say. Yet, there are cases or actions that are still considered a crime even when there are no victims. For example, in the United States, current victimless crimes include prostitution, gambling, illicit drug use, etc. [9] In all western countries, despite the fact that humans are naturally polygamous, [10] polygamy – between consenting adults – is fully outlawed/abolished and the practice fully criminalized, [11] yet there are no injured persons. So, if these acts – especially polygamy – can be crimes in western countries to chime with their culture, ipso facto, homosexuality (i.e. homosexual acts) can as well be a crime in Nigeria to chime with our own culture. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. What causes homosexuality is still a moot question. [5][12] Besides, following the no. 2 and 3 lines of argument of the pro-gays, incest should then be made legal like it is in France, Spain, etc, [13] since it’s basically between two consenting adults and there are no victims.

“Homosexuality is natural; it occurs among animals,” the pro-gays would say. Do you know what else are natural based on their occurrence among animals? Polygamy, promiscuity, cross species sex (zoophilia), pedophilia, necrophilia, sexual arousal from objects, rape and many others, are all natural. [14] So, are we also to justify these acts just because they also occur among animals since we are now seeking morality from animals? Besides, the pro-gays tend to rule out zoophilia based on the rationale that animals don’t consent. Animals are being killed for food (which is cruelier than zoophilia), yet they don’t consent and still, it isn’t a crime. So, are we also to legalized zoophilia like it is in Denmark, Finland, Portugal and some states in US, etc? [15]

Finally, as they say, “Why should the Nigerian government be making laws on people’s sexual orientation when there are other important issues to tackle?” Nothing stops the Nigerian government from tackling other important issues even after making this law on homosexuality; after all, the Nigerian government has moved beyond this into more pressing issues. Besides, don’t we all do trivial things even when we have more pressing or important issues to attend to? Does it mean we aren’t going to attend to those important issues? After all, you gave out time to read through this article even when you have other important things to do, yet it doesn’t mean you’re still not going to be able to attend to those other things.

So, with all these feeble lines of argument used by the pro-gays, the Nigerian government has every right as a sovereign state to make laws that are in agreement with the culture and tradition of Her citizens and as well as, with the majority of Nigerians while the West can continue in their blatant hypocrisy and hegemonic contrivance.

Emmanuel Aghado

A post graduate at Federal University of Technology, Owerri.


[1] Oloruntoba-Oju, T. “A name my mother did not call me: Queer contestations in African Sexualities.”

[2] Oyewumi, Oyeronke. 2001b. “Alice in Motherland: Reading Alice Walker on Africa and Screening the Colour Black.” Jenda: A Journal of African Studies, 1.2.

[3] Sininkangas, M. “Yan Daudu – A Study of Transgendering Men in Hausaland in West Africa.” M.A. thesis in Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology, Uppsala University, May 2004.

[4] American Psychological Association. (2006). Answers to your questions about individuals with intersex conditions. Washington, DC: Author. [Retrieved from ]

[5] American Psychological Association. (2008). Answers to your questions: For a better understanding of sexual orientation and homosexuality. Washington, DC: Author. [Retrieved from ]

[6] Shango – Wikipedia.

[7] Olajubu, Oyeronke. “The Documentation and Propagation of the Ifa Corpus and the Challenge of Modern Information Technology: The Internet as a Focus.” Department of Religions, University of Ilorin, Nigeria.

[8] Nwoko, Chukwuemeka K. “Female Husbands in Igbo Land: Southeast Nigeria.” The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol.5, no.1, March 2012.

[9] Victimless crime – Wikipedia. http://en.m.wikipedia/wiki/Victimless_crime

[10] Are People “Naturally” Polygamous? – Psychology Today.

[11] Legal Status of Polygamy – Wikipedia.

[12] Are People Really “Born Gay”? – CitizenLink.

[13] Laws Regarding Incest – Wikipedia.

[14] Animal Sexual Behaviour – Wikipedia.

[15] Zoophilia and the Law – Wikipedia.