This is the second article from our comrades at the Revolutionary Socialist League in Kenya. Also being published on their website, the piece discusses LGBTQI+ liberation in Kenya and Africa as a whole. To learn more about the work RSL does, you can check out their website and follow them on Twitter @RSLafrica.
Now that Pride Month is over and the ubiquitous rainbow flags and platitudinous #pride hashtags have disappeared from our timelines, it is time to discuss freedom and liberation for Gender and Sexual Non-Confirming (GSNC) also referred to as LGBTQI+ Africans beyond Pride Month.
We’ve witnessed a wave of homophobia and trans phobia sweep our continent this past month. From arbitrary arrests, brazen harassment and discrimination (both offline and online) of Gender and Sexual Non-Confirming Africans. This hate and oppression has reached fever pitch and as revolutionary socialists, it is our duty to demonstrate solidarity with LGBTQI+ Africans who face persecution under this vicious capitalist hells cape we live in.
It will not be done with empty platitudes and shallow ally ship that often involves perpetuating unhelpful stereotypes. It will be done through political education, mobilization and organization.
To understand the roots of Horizontal violence against Gender and Sexual Non-Confirming Africans, we must study the archaic, British colonialists anti-homosexuality laws that were imposed upon us in 1897. Article 162 of the oppressive penal code punishes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” with up to 14 years in prison, while article 165 makes “indecent practices between males” liable to up to five years in prison.
These ‘crimes’ are punishable with up to 14 years imprisonment. While it is not illegal to identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Queer (LGBTQ) in Kenya, laws like this criminalize anyone who identifies under this umbrella and provides a caveat for gay people to be harassed and arrested.
Last year, right around Pride month, The National Gay and Lesbian Human rights Commission filed a suit to declare section 162 and 165 of the penal code unconstitutional.
The petitioners appealed to the High Court to declare sections of the Penal Code that discriminate against members of the LGBTQI community as unconstitutional. If a law violates the inherent human rights of a person then it is said to be unconstitutional and cannot be applied. This process of removing criminal laws which violate the constitution is called decriminalization.
The High Court dismissed the petition. In their decision, the three judge bench -Lady Justice Roselyn Aburili, Justice Chacha Mwita and Justice J. Mativo-found that the petitioners failed to convince the court that the clauses were used to discriminate against the sexual and gender minorities.
This ruling, shocking as it is, is hardly surprising. For as long as we live under settler colonialism and capitalism, Gender and Sexual Non-Confirming Africans will continue to be persecuted. Not just here in Kenya but all over the continent.
The status quo will not allow Africans to decolonize their education that has taught them to hate themselves and others different from them. Homophobia and Transphobia on the continent are foreign practices and those that claim otherwise are insincere and ahistorical.
“The mistaken claim that anything is un-African is based on the essentialist assumption that Africa is a homogeneous entity. In reality, however, Africa is made up of thousands of ethnic groups with rich and diverse cultures and sexualities.
As appealing as the notion of African culture may be to some people, no such thing exists. Moreover, even if we wanted to imagine an authentic African culture, like all others, it would not be static.
African history is replete with examples of both erotic and nonerotic same-sex relationships. For example, the ancient cave paintings of the San people near Guruve in Zimbabwe depict two men engaged in some form of ritual sex. During precolonial times, the “mudoko dako,” or effeminate males among the Langi of northern Uganda were treated as women and could marry men. In Buganda, one of the largest traditional kingdoms in Uganda, it was an open secret that Kabaka (king) Mwanga II, who ruled in the latter half of the 19th century, was gay”.
She further adds tha the vocabulary used to describe same-sex relations in traditional language predates colonialism and is further proof of the existence of such relations in precolonial Africa. “To name but a few, the Shangaan of southern Africa referred to same-sex relations as “inkotshane” (male-wife); Basotho women in present-day Lesotho engage in socially sanctioned erotic relationships called “motsoalle” (special friend) and in the Wolof language, spoken in Senegal, homosexual men are known as “gor-digen” (men-women).
But to be sure, the context and experiences of such relationships did not necessarily mirror homosexual relations as understood in the West, nor were they necessarily consistent with what we now describe as a gay or queer identity”.
It is imperative that our people understand that horizontal violence against Gender and Sexual Non-Confirming Africans is the manifestation of colonialism and must be combated. Many of them are struggling to survive in dire material conditions that philosophizing about why gender as we know it today is a construct and imagining freedom and a socialist future is usually, unfortunately, beyond their rationale.
Thus, we call upon our cadreship to intensify their political education and community building brigades in order to bring in our people to the revolution. We are up against the capitalist superstructure and neo-liberal ‘nonprofits’ preying on the vulnerability of the masses. We must not be distracted. No amount of rainbow coloured merchandise purchased will protect our people. Only through revolutionary organization led by our socialist vanguard party can liberation come for Gender and Sexual Non-Confirming Africans.
Beyond Pride Month, we must provide material support to GSNC Africans and litigation assistance. Not just lip service. Most importantly, we must work towards preparing them as cadres for the socialist revolution that guarantees them a future free of bigotry.