Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Culture Shock Or Homophobia? Ghana’s Reaction to the Gay Thing

I have a feeling this thing is not going to go away, that it’s just going to get bigger and bigger and the stories in the news will keep coming out and people are going to continue discussing and being angry about it wherever they can. And the democracy and the freedoms that we have means that those underground gay groups will continue to gradually come out of their closets and a real Pandora's box is going to be opened. Because you see, this is all so new to us. All so very strange, weird. The idea of two people of the same sex getting together in a canal way is almost anathema to us Africans, more specifically us Ghanaians, religious and spiritual a society as we are. Not to mention the culture.

There’s laws against homosexuality all right, banning the act itself and not the idea, something like that. It’s all very vague. But like every other law known to man it is being broken by people who feel it is against their personal freedom to live by such law. And this people are becoming more prominent in their “defiance”, if I can call it that, now more than ever. It’s like a cat’s been let lose among pigeons with the gay community. They are becoming visible, drawing attention to themselves like they’ve never done before, and it’s scaring a lot of Ghanaians. Be it the lay man on the streets or the politician in the house of parliament.

Religious bodies haven’t been missing in action on the gay issue either. Last week the Muslim community came out with a statement strongly condemning the act, which follows an earlier statement from a moderator of one of the traditional churches condemning the act using all kinds of strong words. The Christian council’s stance is pretty clear too. Politicians have been up in arms also, stating categorically their opposition to homosexuality, which, to their credit is not an attempt to appear to be siding with the opinions of the public for political gain, but a genuine concern about the way things are headed in this country. In one breath this is not surprising, in a country like Ghana on a continent like Africa, issues that deal with morality, especially those that are viewed from the perspective of religion and culture, is often very sensitive and is dealt with as such. Sexual morality therefore, a touchy and all too often taboo subject in our part of this world, stirs up a lot of discomfort when an occasion births its discussion. When what goes on between a man and a woman behind closed doors is not something to talk about in the open, one can imagine what the idea of a man and his fellow man, or a woman and her fellow woman together, being discussed in public is doing to Ghanaians.

The opinions you hear on the radio follow a particular thread. The hatred of homosexuality is palpable. The consensus everywhere is the same: people who engage in such acts should be sought out, condemned and prosecuted. Parents fear for their children going to boarding school, which is where is generally believed to be breeding grounds for the behaviour. Now as long as the law prohibits the act of homosexuality, such calls by the public for the seeking out and prosecution of people who engage in it are justified. It’s like calling for the arrest of an armed robber or serial killer, the law frowns on what they do. If the expedition of one law is hampered for the sake of appearing to be politically correct to the outside world, then the same consideration could be used on other laws that prohibit the undertaking of one illegal action or another.

Here then is my point: As long as that is as far as the concern over homosexuals go, forget culture or religion, it’s okay. Culture is everyday being swept aside like dead leaves and religion is a personal journey, anyway. It’s when this concern and hatred, crosses boundaries and turns into an all out war on homosexuals, where anyone perceived to be engaging in the act is sought out and harmed outside the services of the law, that the danger of targeted persecution begins to turn as into that backward people we’ve always claimed, and rightly so, not to be. Not concluding that that is what is happening now, but it seems to me that as peaceful a people as we are, the levels of concern and sometimes hatred being expressed out there needs to be checked. There’s a thin line between having strong passions and turning a murderer.

Personally, I’m against homosexuality. I couldn’t understand it if my life depended on it. It’s disgusting, distasteful and more importantly, it’s against God’s law. But so is murder and theft and fraud. If it’s against the law, we call for the courts to deal with it, we don’t take it into our employ to go about harming people.

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