Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Senegal: Arrests made in connection to homosexual marriage

From the BBC:

Police in Senegal have arrested several men following the publication of pictures claiming to depict a wedding ceremony between two men.

The pictures were published in Icone magazine, whose editor, Mansour Dieng, has since received death threats.

Mr Dieng has also been questioned by police over the issue.

Homosexuality is illegal in Senegal but it is not clear whether the arrests were in connection with the ceremony or the death threats.

The ceremony is believed to have involved a Senegalese man and another from Ghana or the Ivory Coast, who has not yet been found.

Mr Dieng told Africa Global News that he published the pictures to dismiss accusations that an earlier article on homosexuality in Senegal was untrue.

A few points here. The BBC story points out – “Senegal is a predominantly Muslim country and gay men and women remain socially marginalized” – yet both statements are not mutually exclusive, and I’d argue Islam has no effect on the anti-homosexual beliefs of Senagalese or any other West Africans. From what I know about West Africa (admittedly not much), most people either don’t believe homosexuality exists in their countries or if it does, they feel it’s a transgression.

Here are a few theories for this. One could look at the fact that West Africa is made up of predominately rural, agrarian societies with very strict interpretations of gender roles. For many, homosexuality upsets that balance. Of course, that’s a bit shallow, isn’t it? We could also envisage that historically high infant mortality rates (and other factors: male virility, etc.) have instilled high social value to procreating and raising as many children as possible. Once again, homosexuality upsets that apple cart. And, to be fair, high birth rates are starting to fall as a number of people living in the cities are holding off on having kids until they can become better financially established.

When the topic of AIDS comes up in discussions, more than a few West Africans will blame either the Americans or Europeans for the disease’s spread. I’ve had people point out that U.S. morals are generally very sloppy, and allowing people to live as open homosexuals is one of their main arguments. (I’d also say that a relatively small ethnic group in southern Burkina Faso allows widows to cohabitate together. But this isn’t considered homosexuality.)

In the end, we tend to forget that gay marriage is controversial issue in the United States. We can’t forget about the sordid history of sodomy laws, either.

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