Evils of colonialism still wrecking lives
By Peter Tatchell – Human rights campaigner
The Independent – London – 19 May 2010
The conviction by a Malawian court of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge
Chimbalanga on charges of homosexuality is the latest example of how,
more than four decades after most African nations won their
independence, the evils of colonialism continue to wreck lives.
The two men face up to 14 years jail under laws that were imposed on
the people of Malawi by the British colonisers in the nineteenth
century. Before the British came and conquered Malawi, there were no
laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They
are not African at all. Despite independence, these alien
criminalisations were never repealed.
Today, the minds of many Malawians – and other Africans – remain
colonised by the homophobic beliefs that were drummed into their
forebears by the western missionaries who invaded their lands alongside
the conquering imperial armies. The missionaries preached a
harsh, intolerant Christianity, which has been so successfully
internalised by many Africans that they now claim homophobia as their
own culture and tradition.
While many African leaders decry homosexuality as a “western disease”
or a “white man’s import,” the truth is very different. Prior to
colonisation, many tribal societies and kingdoms had a more relaxed
attitude to same-sex relations than the subsequent colonial occupiers.
As Rudi C Bleys documented in his book, The Geography of Perversion,
the existence and, sometimes toleration, of same-sex acts was used by
the colonising European nations to justify what they saw as their
“civilising” mission. To them, homosexuality among indigenous peoples
was proof of their “barbarity” and confirmation of western theories of
Homophobia in Africa is mostly a colonial imposition. But this is no
excuse for these now independent nations to perpetuate colonial-era
anti-gay laws and attitudes. It is time to finish the African
liberation struggle by ending the persecution of gay Africans.