Mind the gap: Imagining new ways of struggling towards the emancipation of sexual minorities in Africa

Pierre de Vos
2015 Agenda: Empowering Women For Gender Equity  
The dignity of individuals who experience same-sex sexual desire or act upon such desire is seldom fully respected by the law and by other citizens. Although human rights are often invoked as part of an emancipatory strategy aimed at restoring the enjoyment of full citizenship for all sexual minorities, the potential success of such a strategy remains in doubt in many parts of the worldalso in most parts of the African continent. In this article the author argues that there are at least three
more » ... werful reasons why invoking a human rights discourse as an emancipatory tool for those who experience same-sex desire is particularly difficult on the African continent. First, as members of sexual minorities become more visible and as individuals who experience same-sex desire and engage in same-sex sexual acts increasingly become associated with the notion of 'homosexuality' (as an identity)as a fixed, universally applicable Western creationsame-sex desire is increasingly being characterisedespecially by politicians and African elitesas being 'un-African', a Western imposition, something that did not exist on the continent before the colonial (or neocolonial) encounter. The human rights framework can then be depicted as attempting to impose acceptance of these 'un-African' tendencies on a vulnerable community whose traditional values and practices have already been decimated by colonialism. Second, this dynamic is exacerbated by the fact that the human rights discourse is often invoked by Western governments and the media in terms of a discourse of modernity and progress: those countries that recognise the rights of sexual minorities are considered modern, which by implication casts those countries that do not as un-modern or pre-modern. Lastly, individuals who experience same-sex desire are often stigmatised as only half human, as 'pigs and dogs', as creatures who cannot ever be full citizens and are therefore not entitled to the protections offered by human rights. In the light of these difficulties, the author proposes tentative strategies to engage in the struggle for the emancipation of sexual minorities centred around the notion of human dignity. keywords human dignity, human rights, colonialism, sexual minorities, South Africa, Uganda Agenda 2015 ISSN 1013-0950 print/ISSN 2158-978X online # 2015 Pierre de Vos http://dx.
doi:10.1080/10130950.2015.1015240 fatcat:yc6lvxednvcpxdc4fy2oi2e5u4