P203 – Mobilizations Against Homosexuality in Africa: Actors, Origins, and Effects
10 July, 14:00-15:30

Broqua Christophe / UMI TransVIHMI
Bosia Michael / Saint Michael's College


For the last ten years, the media has focused increasingly on the diversity of hostilities directed at homosexuality in Africa. Effectively, the situation for sexual minorities there is presented as the worst in the world. Laws criminalizing homosexuality exist in about half the countries on the continent, having been instituted during the colonial period or soon following independence. Some countries have augmented these criminal penalties and new laws have been adopted. In addition, there have been numerous acts of violence, including murder, which have notably targeted activists. At the same time, in order to deconstruct the generalising narrative of a homophobic continent, it is necessary to interrogate case by case the opportunities and forms taken by the hostility to same gender sexuality within the specific contexts where it occurs. This panel presents research undertaken in the countries that have most notably exhibited these forms of homophobia in recent years. In these different contexts, who are the actors organizing against homosexuality? What concepts of homosexuality do they use to condemn sexual minorities? How do they impose their perspectives? What links do they have with other social actors, and what influence is wielded by foreign operatives beyond Africa? What reasoning guides the interactions between the opponents of homosexuality and the activists mobilized in favor of sexual minorities?

Mobilisations contre l’homosexualité en Afrique: Acteurs, origines et effets
Depuis la seconde moitié des années 2000, la médiatisation des diverses formes d’hostilité à l’homosexualité en Afrique ne cesse de croître. La situation des minorités sexuelles y est en effet la plus défavorable au monde. Des lois criminalisant l’homosexualité existent dans plus de la moitié des pays du continent depuis la période coloniale ou le début des indépendances, dont aucune n’a été abrogée depuis ; à l’inverse, certaines ont été aggravées et de nouvelles ont été adoptées ces dernières années. S’y ajoutent des actes de violence, y compris meurtrière, touchant notamment des militants associatifs. Pour autant, il importe de déconstruire l’idée d’un continent homophobe par essence, en analysant au cas par cas les conditions de possibilité et les formes prises par l’hostilité à l’homosexualité dans les contextes spécifiques où elles se manifestent. Ce panel vise ainsi à présenter des travaux réalisés dans des pays marqués au cours des dernières années par des faits de cette nature. Dans ces différents contextes, quels sont les acteurs mobilisés contre l’homosexualité ? Quelles conceptions de l’homosexualité font-ils valoir pour la condamner ? Comment parviennent-ils à imposer leur position ? Quels liens entretiennent-ils avec d’autres acteurs ? Quelle influence exercent les acteurs extérieurs au pays ou au continent ? Quelle est la logique des interactions conflictuelles entre les opposants à l’homosexualité et les militants mobilisés en faveur des minorités sexuelles ?

Paper 1

Bosia Michael / Saint Michael’s College

Empire’s Outpost? Crony Authoritarianism, US Evangelicals and LGBT Politics in Uganda

For more than a decade, the regime of President Yoweri Museveni has cultivated an increasingly organized hysteria – a moral panic – targeting a “gay menace” that threatens Ugandan society, especially its children. Carried by Museveni’s clientelist networks of economic cronies, political hacks, evangelicals and other Christians, and faith-based service providers, these efforts have interwoven US imperial pretensions in the region with the survival of the Museveni regime under the global imperatives of the War on Terror. This tide of state homophobia is a break with the past, not in the form of the “coming out” or “liberation” stories dominant in the US and other western LGBT communities; instead, it is a stark necessity for sexual minorities in accommodating to new socio-political realities. I look to both the structure of the regime locally and the threats to its continuity, as well as the challenges from international actors and the opportunities presented with the War on Terror. These help explain why Museveni and his allies move toward a politics and rhetorics of state homophobia. Once that move is made, however, it reconceptualizes the politics of sexual rights, so that sexual minority activists are compelled to combine LGBT identities imposed by the state with recourse to localized notions of faith and nationhood in providing content to their claims on and against the state.

Paper 2

Broqua Christophe / UMI TransVIHMI / LASCO-SOPHIAPOL

The Pros, the Cons, and the International: Mobilization Around Homosexuality in French-Speaking West Africa

Recently, some expressions of hostility against homosexuality in Africa have received considerable media coverage. In several countries, homosexual mobilization is the target of that hostility. At the same time, such expressions of hostility sometimes prompt homosexual mobilization. Thus, those opposing movements motivate each other. This paper will demonstrate this, based on the examples of Senegal and Ivory Coast.
In Senegal, recent decades have witnessed the emergence of political Islam and a failing state. In that context, the homosexual figure has been exploited in different ways in the public debate. This is often linked to power struggles in political and religious fields. In Ivory Coast, since the early 2000s, controversies around homosexuality have been linked to the country’s ambivalent relationship with France, especially since the latest post-electoral crisis.
In the two countries, mobilizations are not limited to “social movements” in the strict sense of the term, but involve a myriad of heterogeneous actors displaying various forms of commitment to the opposing sides of the issue. Equally diverse are actors’ positions on homosexuality. Furthermore, opposing movements are very interdependent.
More importantly, this paper intends to analyze the central role of the relationship to the “international” in that process. Controversies occur in specific national situations but their development is strongly linked to the “international” both as a context and as an actor.

Paper 3

Eveslage Benjamin / SOAS, University of London

Making Homosexuality Political in Africa: A Mixed-Methods Analysis

This paper asks, “How has homosexuality been made political within sub-Saharan African states?” Under the direction of this question, this paper re-situates the way we understand homosexuality’s politicisation in Africa by historicising and contextualising political discourse, offering theoretical, methodological and empirical contributions. Theoretically it offers a decolonising perspective for analysing the politicisation of homosexuality that seeks to attribute agency to actors in Africa, while also acknowledging the ways actors and discourse from Africa are globally influential. Methodologically, the elusiveness of the discourse on homosexuality in Africa is addressed by applying a novel set of methods that connects political discourse analysis to survey data findings to make sense of discursive strategies used by those in positions of political power. Empirically, the methods are applied to case studies of Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ghana. These case studies present specific social and political contexts to show how homosexuality is made political by demonstrating cross-country differences in such processes. The paper concludes by illustrating the implications of this research on the larger discursive contexts within which we now interpret or participate in conversations of homosexuality in Africa.

Paper 4

Søgaard Mathias / African Studies at the University of Copenhagen

The Linkage Between Patrimonialism and Homophobia

The link between corruption created by vertical power-structures and deep distrust to state institutions across Africa.
In relation to my fieldwork I did in Ghana between 2011 and 2013, several of my informants came with statements like this: “You see, a gay will never suffer because the big men are supporting him. A friend of mine living in this neighbourhood is gay, and because he did that he got a car, nice house. He will never miss anything.”
In the anthology “Sexual Diversity in Africa,” Dr. Nyeck argues that homosexuality has become a “figurative representation as the imperial West and state institutions themselves.”
These examples indicate that homosexuals have become scapegoats for the increased level of mistrust and the popular perception of increased corruption.
The implication is that when a local criticises homosexuality, he is in fact articulating critique of the big men, the elite. They are criticised for “eating alone,” meaning that they do not share their wealth. Homosexuality has become a practice linked to juju and spirits. To fight homosexuality is to fight corruption. The popular belief is that homosexuals share the wealth between themselves. This narrative provides a local with an explanation for his situation, and it allows him to create a space where he can articulate his frustrations. At the same time, there is a cause, so there is also a remedy: get rid of homosexuals. Here religious leaders come into play.

Paper 5

Viola Lia / Università degli Studi di Torino

From Gender Performativity to Homosexual Identity: a Fieldwork on the Kenyan Coast

Despite the traditional presence of same-sex behavior in Kenyan Swahili Coast, today this area is shaken by homophobic violence. During my PhD fieldwork I noticed that some of the reasons behind this growth of homophobia are connected to the difficult dialogue between Western LGBT categories or principles and local representations of same-sex sexuality.
The latter was traditionally framed within gender roles and hierarchies: despite the same sex, the two partners were used to perform different gender roles reproducing the typical heterosexual couple. This situation was destabilized by the arrival of global LGBT categories and principles which are based both on the idea of a “homosexual identity” and on the visibility of sexual orientation.
These “Western” principles are now considered in Kenya Coast as alien to local “tradition”. This paradoxical situation – one in which same-sex behavior became a “western illness” although it has always been present in Swahili towns – can be seen as a result of the use of different categories in the analysis of sexuality. The growth of homophobia is, in some way, the result of this situation, for homophobic violence has become something used by people who have same-sex sexual activity to protect themselves from the charge of being homosexual.

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