Is gay 'anti-African'?

Is homosexuality really ‘un-African’?

Whenever homosexuality is discussed, the argument that it is ‘un-African’ often comes up – that homosexuality was brought to Africa by traders and Western immigrants. But is this actually true? Well, no. It isn’t.

Many cultures in contemporary Africa believe that homosexuality was brought to the continent by Westerners or Muslim slave-traders. It’s true that very little is known about sexuality in Africa before the first foreign settlers arrived. But there are clear indications that homosexuality was a normal part of life all across the continent throughout the centuries. Some societies were very accepting, while others only tolerated homosexual practices. In many African cultures, homo- or bisexual relationships were seen as innocent aspects of growing up, and not to be taken too seriously.

Lesbian love was rather unusual, but male homosexuality was quite common. Especially among boys and men who weren’t married yet. But some of these relationships ended up lasting a lifetime.

And it were particularly young men who engaged in bisexual love, or what is now called ‘homosexuality of convenience‘: when no women were available, men made do with ‘what they had’ and slept with men instead.

For example, in the Zande culture from Central Africa, it was considered very smart of men to sleep with other men if women were considered taboo or were simply not available. Even when women were available, it wasn’t unheard of for men to have sex with other men, if they were attracted to them.

Or take the Maale, from the southern parts of Ethiopia. They introduced a ‘third gender’, men dressing up as women and doing jobs that were typically left for women. And, it appears they also had sex with men. And among the Nandi in Kenya, it seems that two women marrying wasn’t unusual.

Many other cultures in Africa have similar examples as those mentioned above – from boy-wives, to transgender prostitutes, to rock paintings depicting group anal sex…

Homosexuality isn’t ‘un-African’ after all. But homophobia is. And it’s about time we start working on eliminating another piece of leftover colonialism.

So it wasn’t the Europeans who brought homosexuality to Africa. They brought something else to Africa: homophobia. The colonialists were the ones who started introducing harsh laws against the customary homo- and bisexual practices.

As it turns out, homosexuality isn’t ‘un-African’ after all. But homophobia is. And it’s about time we start working on eliminating another piece of leftover colonialism.

In the words of Desmond Tutu, the former archbishop of Cape Town: ‘We struggled against apartheid […] because black people were being blamed and made to suffer for something we could do nothing about; our very skins. It is the same with sexual orientation. […] We treat them [gays and lesbians] as pariahs and push them outside our communities. We make them doubt that they too are children of God – and this must be nearly the ultimate blasphemy. We blame them for what they are.’


What would you rate as ‘un-African’? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Facebook.

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Recent Comments (16)

  1. Hi, about the nandi marriage
    Hi, about the nandi marriage part, did you actually do a research about it? The ‘marriage’ to another woman was so that the otherwoman (oftenly younger) would bear children for the older woman who could not concieve. The younger woman would sleep with the husband and bear children brought up as the older woman’s kids. Some kids grew up knowing ever that their biological mother was the older one whom had seen them grow up. A case of the younger woman, so named the woman’s ‘wife’ being a surrogate mom, but since the culture could not put a name to ehat all that act was, she was reffered to as the older woman’s wife.

    About the other country’s culture, that I know none about though, but kindly check and do a thorough research first before ‘mislabeling’ and tainting a culture, and a past people actually do respect, love and call their own.

    Kindly provide sources too for research purposes of your readers. Quotable sources that is.


    1. Jap,

      We do provide sources. Please check the links, in blue.

  2. No matter how many sightings
    No matter how many sightings u bring forth to potray the existence of homosexuality in Africa,then ask your why was it not practised widely in Africa? please homosexuality is unkoth,satanic and it contradicts Gods creation,God wasnt stupid to create a man and a woman

    1. Thank you for sharing your
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us Abdallah.

      But we give out factual information. One has the right to believe what they feel is right or wrong for them.

    2. U are right it’s satanic
      U are right it’s satanic

      1. Hi there, 

        Thank you for…

        Hi there, 

        Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. Nowhere in the article did we term homosexuality as satanic, you must have misread it. Love Matters respects your right to believe that which you feel is right or wrong for you, however, we encourage tolerance and respect for people who are different from us in terms of sexual identity, or in any other way.  

  3. According to our curriculum,…
    According to our curriculum, African traditional society, marriage was for the continuety of the clan. Homo can not get children and was concidered to be an outcast. Therefore if our forefathers rejected homosexuality, we reject it. It is unafrican

    1. Hi Evans, thank you for…

      Hi Evans, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. However, we give out factual information. We respect your right to believe that which you feel is right or wrong for you.

  4. Iam a gay from nairobi westb…
    Iam a gay from nairobi kenya. I reall discovered my gto be a gay once i new by first boy friend who told me so but i came to know it myself aftre two years in i was in long street cape town in 2017 its better you what you are i really appreciate him to make what i didnot know that iam i

    1. Hello Zig, we are glad that…

      Hello Zig, we are glad that you came into self-realisation and acceptance.

  5. Was homosexuality practiced…
    Was homosexuality practiced in some of the parts in Africa or widely in Africa before the colonists came?

    1. Hello Arnold, this is a…

      Hello Arnold, this is a really great question. Homosexuality was in fact documented in many indigenous communities prior to contact with the colonizers.

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  7. Hello huncho, thank you for…

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  8. Its really hard to either…
    Its really hard to either choose to do the right thing or do what makes a person happy. id rather choose my happiness before considering peoples opinions

    1. I love that Samm! You should…

      I love that Samm! You should always choose yourself first. Your happiness comes first. 

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