Boko Haram: Nigeria’s new national crisis?

Published on Pambazuka News, by Sokari Ekine, June 23, 2011.

Nigeria’s Boko Haram bombings, militants in the Niger Delta, attitudes towards homosexuality in Ghana, the censorship of internet pornography in Tunisia and a Canadian couple’s decision not to gender their child all feature in this week’s review of African blogs, compiled by Sokari Ekine.

… Some weeks ago, a story emerged in Ghana claiming that 8,000 homosexuals were registered with health NGOs in two provinces, many of whom had HIV. In 2008 the numbered of registered gays and lesbians was only 2,900. The rise in HIV and other STDs was said to be due to the majority of the registered being bi-sexual. Following the usual sensationalist reporting that follows any mention of homosexuality, the Ghanaian Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) announced it would be investigating ‘the issue’. Ato Kwamena Dadzie – Atokd – is clearly irritated by what he considers a spurious exercise but more so by the ridiculous hellfire and brimstone type statements from some sectors: 

‘As the BNI launches its spurious investigation, I hear a doctor from Kumasi proclaiming that homosexuality should be checked otherwise it would destroy the moral fibre of our society. He says homosexuality could also lead to a decline in population because people will stop giving birth if men decide to have anal sex. Give me a break! The moral fibre of our society is constantly on the decline and it has nothing to do with men and women choosing to be gay.

‘I also don’t see the correlation between the increasing number of gay people and population decline. In any case, the national population is growing way too fast and so if the claim that gay men and women will contribute in any way to reducing our burgeoning population is true, shouldn’t we be thinking of conferring national honours on them?

‘We also hear all sorts of religious mumbo about how God will not bless us if we do not stop the homosexuals or discourage homosexuality. Really?

‘If that were the case, no Western country will be blessed and they would wake up every morning to face the wrath of God. Holland, America and Italy have large communities of gay men and women, yet if you asked me I’d say they seem more blessed than Ghana or any African country has ever been – or will ever be.

‘I don’t know how God chooses to bless nations but I don’t think he uses any gay index to determine where to pour his bounties. The Vatican is in Rome. Have the homophobes in Ghana ever wondered how many gay men and women there are in the so-called “Holy City”. Perhaps, we should send Reverend Monsignor Raphael Owusu of Kumasi to go and do a head count. After that, he might just shut up and stop urging our government to ignore human rights campaigners who say society should leave the gay people alone.

‘No doubt homosexuality is taboo subject in this country. But the rising tide of hatred for homosexuals must be stopped before it gets out of hand. The BNI’s decision to get involved in this matter doesn’t help matters in any way. They claim it’s even against the law because it amounts to “unnatural carnal knowledge”. Who decided that putting a penis in a vagina is more natural than penis-to-anus? If anal sex is taboo, what do we do about the men who have anal sex with women?’

Magharebia reports on the possible return to internet censorship in Tunisia. After Ben Ali was removed, internet controls were removed however following complaints and a lawsuit which found in their favour. However the Tunisian Internet Agency initially refused to implement the ruling but have now agreed to block pornography sites. Is this the beginning of a slide back into the censorship days of the Ben Ali regime?

Blocking the controversial web pages raised concern on the Tunisian street, with some saying that visiting such sites was a personal freedom and that shutting them down would do nothing to tackle corruption or other pressing issues.

“Frankly, such judicial lawsuits make me sick and make me laugh,” commented Mounir Belkacem, a young Tunisian. “Those who want access to such porn sites or to watch pornographic films have many solutions. These lawyers are promoting the theory of ‘everything prohibited is desirable,’ and Tunisian youth are intelligent and skilled in technology and will find many ways to access such sites.”

Media student Lobna Sassi told Magharebia, “Shutting down these sites may be the beginning of going backward and returning to the rejection of control of the internet proclaimed with the demise of the former regime.”

“It is better for those who decided to close these sites to educate young people about their danger and psychological and physiological impact,” Sassi added.

Mia Nikasimo of Black Looks comments on the decision by Canadian parents, in a ‘tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation’ not to gender their child.

‘The parental position is remarkable. Against all odds Storms parent are saying an emphatic, “fuck off” to the adversarial socialisation that is cis-supremacy. Touche to them both. Actually, by the time Storm comes of age in Canada bullying zir will be a punishable offence. The paranoia of the press is typical… They offer more scaremongering than substance and that’s a shame.

‘I commend Storm’s parents and the attention they have brought to this issue. How many transpeople do you know that are not in hiding? Why do some have to hide? And to what end? Passing is a form of hiding. We must all learn from what Storm’s parent are offering. We also need to accept that we cannot “fix” every aspect of nature using the tools of cultural construction… Nature will have its way whatever paranoid cranks like the press get up to. You do not know how long I have waited for someone to take this very stand. And Canada is the place for it. The spotlight is on how the rest of the world go forward. Waow!’ (full text).

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