HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsSexuality issues: where do we draw the line?

Sexuality issues: where do we draw the line?


Sexuality still remains culturally, religiously and legally a very sensitive subject among many African societies while some Western countries have legalised same sex marriages.

Many African countries have argued that certain sexual orientation, especially homosexuality, is un-African – an agenda that is being pushed by the Western countries though the ultimate benefits for such an agenda remain elusive.

On the other hand, the pro-homosexual have questioned how many ancient African societies had names and artefacts for such a sexual orientation if it were not African.

A debate still rages on whether homosexuals are born (biological) or bred (socially constructed).

Is a person born a homosexual, they choose to be one or they are oriented by the environment to be homosexual?

Frantz Fanon, a psycho-social analyst, argued that people are born with a body but without a “self” which is then acquired through social learning, a stage at which attitudes and feelings are acquired through interaction and exposure to the social environment.

Earlier studies suggest that sexual orientation is “an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions” primarily or exclusively to people of the same sex or other beings.

Recent studies in Sweden have shown that sexual orientation may be a biological trait determined before birth, but this suffers from lack of convincing biological explanation thereby pushing people to conclude that it may be a social construction or sometimes a personal choice.

Whether it’s biological, social construction or a personal choice, another question remains: Just where do we draw the lines?

A German man recently confessed his overwhelming sexual attraction to infants.

He has never raped a baby but the mere presence of a baby sexually unsettles him.

Sex with babies is culturally and legally unacceptable in many societies because a baby cannot consent, but it is this man’s human right to have sex.

There are so many other cases of boys sexually attracted to their mothers or sisters and girls attracted to their brothers or fathers which, in the eyes of the law, is considered incest.

Others are attracted to dogs, goats and other animals.

Sex as a physical need and human right, just how far can society accommodate the different sexual orientations and tastes?

Whichever way you take sexuality issues, the sexuality subject has escalated to the global development agenda.

The tone of the last International Aids Conference has suggested that more attention and money on HIV and Aids will be channelled towards Eastern Europe where HIV is believed to be on the increase among homosexuals.

But Sub-Saharan Africa still remains home to 60-70% of the world’s HIV and Aids population and but funds are being diverted to Eastern Europe.

In May this year, the United Nations Secretary General flew to Lilongwe to meet the Malawian President after a gay couple was sentenced to 14 years in prison for committing “a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws”.

As head of state, President Bingu wa Mutharika pardoned them and ordered their immediate release with no conditions. Malawi’s annual budget is approximately 70% donor-funded.

It later emerged that the marriage was probably stage-managed to push the government to legalise homosexuality in Malawi as the “couple” separated soon after their release.

One of the partners went on to settle with his female partner claiming that: “I was forced into the whole drama and I regret the whole episode.”

In February 2010, US President Barack Obama criticised as “odious” a proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda which called for long jail terms or the death penalty in some cases of homosexual intercourse.

It is “unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are”, Obama told politicians and religious leaders at a prayer breakfast in Washington. After a phone call from the US Secretary of State, the Ugandan government was suddenly willing to “amend some clauses”.

Sexuality has become part of the good governance and democracy agenda premised under human rights.

A country that observes human rights but doesn’t accept certain sexual orientations is rated low on the rankings and aid may be reduced based on that alone.

A good HIV and Aids intervention strategy which includes gays and lesbians is sure enough to get funding.

It is not my place to say whether different sexualities are acceptable or not, but how global leaders programmatically and financially prioritise certain issues over others sometimes boggles the mind.

News reports across Africa have shown that albinos are being massacred mercilessly across the continent but we are yet to see the UN Secretary General flying to Africa to stop this madness, let alone condemn these violent acts of albino-phobia.

The attack on homosexuals is an attack on human life, the same way it is on albinos.

We are still to hear that Obama or Hillary Clinton has made that special phone call or sent aid money to campaign against the killing of albinos.

Perhaps, it may be safe to suggest that sexuality is a priority issue for the global leaders than saving the lives of the albinos.

But albinos didn’t choose to be who they are, nature did, the same way some homosexuals didn’t chose to be who they are.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in SA.

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