Academic journal article African Studies Review

Some Reflections on Postcolonial Homophobia, Local Interventions, and LGBTI Solidarity Online: The Politics of Global Petitions

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Some Reflections on Postcolonial Homophobia, Local Interventions, and LGBTI Solidarity Online: The Politics of Global Petitions

Article excerpt


In the last two decades we have witnessed an increase in online petitions and campaigns emerging from Europe and North America against homophobia in various African countries, creating a particular form of visibility with some remarkable global success. Based on these online petitions and postings as well as the responses of African activists, this article reflects on the politics of this global queer solidarity. By suggesting a restrategizing of antihomophobia politics, it contributes to the ongoing debate about LGBTI politics in a transnational and global framework, pointing to the challenges but also the possibilities for the future.

Résumé: Dans les dernières décennies nous avons été témoins d'une augmentation sur internet de pétitions et de campagnes provenant d'Europe et d'Amérique du Nord contre l'homophobie dans plusieurs pays d'Afrique, créant une forme particulière de visibilité avec un succès mondial remarquable. En se basant sur ces pétitions et messages Internet ainsi que les réponses des activistes africains, cet article offre une réflexion sur ce mouvement gay international. En suggérant une réorientation des stratégies politiques anti-homophobes, il contribue aux débats présents concernant la politique LGBTI dans un contexte mondial et transnational, indiquant les difficultés mais aussi les possibilités pour son avenir.

Key Words: postcolonial; homophobia; homonormativity; online


In the last two decades we increasingly have witnessed vigorous debate on the subject of sexual identities on the African continent. The founding of local and transnational LGBTI organizations and organizing throughout the continent have been accompanied by new academic scholarship on nonheteronormative sexualities and socialities, as well as rich cultural texts created by African activists, artists, filmmakers, and writers.^ This archive has been extended into virtual space, including new Web sites, blogs, YouTube videos, and social network sites; we now have the possibility of accessing documents and artifacts from anywhere in the world and of witnessing political, social, and cultural actions and events, sometimes in real time. Local discussions, activities, organizing, and socializing are documented online, and the material and information are easily accessible, shareable, repeatable, recordable, and multipliable. These growing archives and activities celebrate LGBTI cultures and activities and assert the rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation. But they also document the local politics-including the violence, harassment, arrests, and persecutions-that deprive citizens of those rights, and reflect on the spurious populist notion that views homosexuality as "un-African" (see Gunkel 2010).

In Europe and in the U.S. most representations about the complexity of sexual politics on the African continent seem to center on homophobia only-on national legislation, on the possible persecution of LGBTI people, and on hate crimes, particularly against black lesbians. In the last few years we have also witnessed increased global interventions in local LGBTI politics. The case of Uganda in particular highlights the emergent international mobilization and the numerous worldwide responses-from online petitions to demonstrations in front of Ugandan embassies, to the threats by European politicians and the European Parliament in December 2009 to cut financial aid if the Ugandan Parliament passed the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. This bill, from September 2009, builds on the British colonial legacy of antisodomy laws and proposes to extend the criminalization and punishment of same-sex relationships to include the death penalty for HIV-positive "active homosexuals" and harsh prison terms for people who fail to turn their gay relatives over to the authorities. Online campaigns against homophobia have also been extended to other African countries, including Cameroon, Nigeria, Malawi, and Senegal, even if not on the same scale. …

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