Myths and Misconceptions about Homosexuality

01 Feb, 2019
Africa’s strong anti-gay sex sentiments, active discrimination, violence, and harsh laws against our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community continues to warrant exploration.

A recent study by the Academy of Science of South Africa reviewed the current science about human sexuality, sexual orientation, and obstacles that are commonly faced by LGBT people in Africa. The study also gives explanation about the harsh laws and attitudes that are prevalent in Africa.

The report further outlined how the global science has steadily demonstrated that homosexuals are neither “sick” nor do they have life threatening “conditions” that requires treatment.

Also, the current scientific studies does not support the belief that sexuality has a binary opposition but rather supports the thinking that human sexuality has a wide range of variations.

The studies found that: variation in sexual identities and sexual orientations has always been part of a normal society, and also that there is no justification for attempting to end homosexuality in the society.

The effect of colonialism

A number of studies show that same-sex activities in the pre-colonial African society were not generally considered taboo in the way that colonialists later came to codify them. Most of the traditional societies had developed ways of ordering and tolerating same-sex behavior and attractions.

Most of the societies tolerated some same-sex activities and relations among men, particularly of same age group or military units. A number of men practiced some same-sex activities while at the same time asserting their heterosexuality in other spheres of life.

Among the women, several societies recorded marriages and other kinds of recognized relationships between women, and also different forms of cross-dressing and role-swapping. These include Kenya, Cameroon, Sudan, Nigeria, South Africa, Lesotho and may others.

It was until after the colonization that the precise definitions of sexual orientations were developed and the same-sex activities punished.


The attitudes and laws about homosexuality are not all purely a colonial import. There are other factors which include political populism, have heightened the anti-gay attitudes.

Over the last few years, another factor – the Christian right, which is mainly composed of right wing Churches from the US, has become actively involved in driving anti-gay sentiments in the East African countries such as Kenya and Uganda.

Attempts in these countries to impose new, tougher laws drew global attention.
Most of these groups also supplied people with myths and discredited junk science to bolster what is ultimately a narrow, imported set of ultra-conservative values. The myths and misconceptions were however proven wrong by science.

Myths and Misconceptions

The medical team involved in the study concluded that:

1. Homosexuality is not an “abnormality”;

2. Homosexuality existed in Africa way “before the coming colorization”.

3. Homosexuality “is not a disease”; and

4. Specifically that “homosexual behavior has existed throughout human history, including in Africa”;

The report from the study is aimed at making recent science to be accessible to African lawmakers so that policy can be based on good evidence, not myths and social prejudices. Homosexuality is neither “abnormal”, “un-African”, “disease” nor a colonial import.

Therefore, it is time to transform the laws in African countries and its societies based on more convincing scientific evidence.