bY Lyson Sibande
When President Peter Mutharika attended the Umthetho Cultural Festival in Mzimba, two days ago, on Saturday, August 08 2015, the Moderator of the Church of Central Africa Presbyterians (CCAP), Reverend Douglas Chipofya, urged the President to firmly stand against decriminalization of homosexuality in Malawi. Apart from calling it an evil, the Reverend referred to homosexuality as an “alien culture.”
The view that homosexuality is alien to Africans has been widely propagated by several traditional and faith leaders, and even great sons of Africa that topped or continue to top the echelons of African political leadership like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, and the late Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi, to mention only a few of them.
But while I totally agree with the Reverend and the rest of the African religious community that homosexuality is evil, I would like to differ with the view that it is alien to Africans. Homosexuality is not an alien culture to Africans because historically, Africans were the first human beings to practice homosexuality not Europeans or Americans. Therefore, homosexuality is not an importation from the West, if anything, what Africans imported from the West is the criminalization of homosexuality, which only began when Europeans colonized Africa between the 1880s and 1900 and enforced their political governments and legal systems on our continent.
As a matter of fact, Africans are historically rather tolerant towards homosexuality and they tolerated homosexuality until Europeans came with Christianity which introduced homophobia. Homophobia is rooted in the belief that homosexuality is sinful, because that is what the Bible teaches. But the Bible is not an African book; neither is Christianity a typical African Religion, but a Western one. Therefore, if Africans must blame the West for anything to do with Homosexuality, then we must blame them for criminalization of homosexuality and homophobia through teachings of the Bible because that is what they brought, not the culture of homosexuality.
Secular history shows that homosexuality was practiced in Ancient Egypt about 4500 years ago. The first human homosexual couples on earth lived in the Egyptian city of Saqqara in 2400 BCE. Their names were Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum. They were manicurists who served in the palace of the Pharaoh, and according to Egyptologist Greg Reeder, they were among the privileged few who could actually touch the Pharaoh. Given the years of the homosexuality between Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, these two gentlemen practiced homosexuality 500 years earlier than the famous Biblical homosexuals of the city of Sodom whom God burned in Genesis 19.
And the Bible too supports the reality of Egyptian homosexuality. The Bible reports Egyptian homosexuality, alongside the homosexuality of the people of Canaan in Leviticus 18:24-27. Given the year Leviticus was written, and the departure of Israelites from Egypt (1440 BCE) the homosexuality is reported in a period in Egyptian history referred to as the New Kingdom which existed between 1550 BCE to 1069 BCE. The Bible does not give a clue, as to when the homosexuality in Egypt begun, but it does clearly state that the behavior was rampant in Egypt even when the Israelites lived there as slaves for 430 years (Exod 12:40). It is clear therefore, that there was homosexuality in Egypt probably as early as 1900 BCE, which is the same year the people of Sodom were practicing homosexuality.
however, even going by Biblical history, the people of Egypt might still be the first to practice homosexuality, because despite practicing it at the same time with Canaanites of Sodom and Gomorrah, it is important to remember that Egypt was the political and military superpower of these ages, and did Colonize even territories of Canaan, in which case, much of the culture of Canaan was influenced by Egyptians. Therefore, Canaanites might have copied homosexuality from Egyptians.
Another oldest occurrence of African homosexuality is recorded to have occurred in Zimbabwe about 2000 years ago, and that is according to a 2013 report by the Amnesty International. The homosexuality in Zimbabwe was practiced by the Khoisan or Bushmen that were earlier inhabitants of Zimbabwe. If you seriously consider the year of Zimbabwean homosexuality, you will notice that there was homosexuality in Zimbabwe almost the very same years that Jesus Christ was on earth.
In South Sudan too, there was institutionalized homosexuality among the Zande people. The homosexuality was pederastic (between boys and men). It was practiced until around the 1850s and it was brought to the global spotlight by a renowned British Anthropologist E.E Evans Pritchard who visited the Zande community in person, and document the pederasty.
I have only given a few incidences just to show that even before Europeans began to get civilization, Africans had already discovered homosexuality, and they practiced it for thousands of years before the Europeans came to Africa. And throughout the thousands of years, there is no recorded evidence that the homosexuality was criminalized, or that there was homophobia.
My argument therefore, is that if Africans and of course the government of Malawi must fight against the gay rights revolution sweeping across the continent and mounting up within our very country, we must get our facts straight, and understand the truth about homosexuality, not promoting heresies. We must first stop living in denial that homosexuality is not African, and address it as a reality not a mere western concept or ideology, because like the Human Rights activist, now Prophet, or Apostle, Undule Mwakasungula challenged in his recent article on Nyasatimes “pro-gay rights movements and supporters are very strong, vibrant, solid and well connected. They have an agenda and purpose to achieve.”