But is homosexuality really a European phenomenon? Let's start with a look at President Mugabe's own country, Zimbabwe. In traditional Zimbabwean law, homosexuality was not mentioned at all. Which does of course not mean that it didn't exist, rather that it was not considered a threat to society, and thus largely accepted and tolerated. Only under colonist rule, and the man whose name the country had to adopt, Cecil Rhodes and Rhodesia, were laws against homosexual practices introduced, which already supports the notion of homosexuality being imported by the colonizers. The situation in the country today is that this law still exists, but "offenders" are never prosecuted, unless they have been apprehended on other charges, in which case homosexual activity can be used to induce a harder sentence. As mentioned previously, both black and white gays in modern Zimbabwe band together to form a united gay rights front, with the aim of obtaining western-style gay rights and recognition (Coutinho 1993).
But let's stay focused on the traditional attitude in Africa. In the Hausa tribes of present day Nigeria and Niger, the word "'yan daudu" was used to describe men who acted like women. They would for instance perform traditional female chores, such as cooking and selling food, use female names for themselves and eachother, speak in high pitch female voices, and indeed engage in sexual and romantic relationships with "real" men. They build extensive networks among themselves within the Hausa people, extending as far as into Sudan. They consider eachother as "girlfriends", and would never engage in sexual activity with eachother. These men do however not make a conscious effort to look like women; many of them wear a moustache and short hair. Marriage and procreation are considered normal goals in life, regardless of sexual orientation, and so these 'yan daudu typically marry and conceive offspring. However, they may still choose to live away from their "families", and only visit occasionally, bringing gifts, money, or food. In their daily lives, they earn their keep through selling food on the streets, prostitution, or procuring. The latter two may sound harsh, but often translate into a close, committed relationship with the "customers", and often a 'yan daudu will have a steady client, to whom he will refer as a "boyfriend", and also live in a relationship-like situation with. inclusive of sex, friendship, and exchange of money and gifts. The 'yan daudu are very popular as entertainers at parties, since they are very good at singing, dancing, and performing (Geschiere 1994).
In today's West Africa, sex between men, even same-sex relationships, are widely known of and accepted. It is however never referred to as "homosexuality", since the word has connotations of passivity, transvestism, and deviance. Since it is considered normal in Africa to marry and procreate, even young gay men assume that they will do the same. Failure to marry by a certain age is considered failure in life. As long as the family is not neglected, the man can continue his relationships with other men. Although religion is very important, people tend to take a pragmatic approach to the rules it imposes, and national laws often don't dictate people's private lives (Potman 1993).
Interestingly, a Tanzanian magazine dedicated an entire issue to the question of homosexuality. All the contributing writers were very negative, but instead of blaming it on western society, they claimed that it was imported to Tanzania by the Arabs (Geschiere 1994)! Understandably so, that country has been subjected to more Arab influences than European. For instance, African slaves were shipped to Arab countries, where even Islam permitted the owners to sexually exploit the slaves, men and women alike. Islamic law further permitted the slave owners also ownership of the slaves' sexual organs (Van Gelder 1993)! To make a natural transition to the next continent discussed, Asia, I will relate the attitudes of the Moroccan population, Arabs living in Africa.
The European image of the Arab world is full of sex, sin, fairy tales, mysticism, and many other things that Christian values have curbed in Europe. Also Islam, being anything but more permissive than Christianity, has had a major impact on the attitudes and behavior of people. The general attitude towards homosexual activity in Morocco is that it is simply done, not talked about. Identifying as a homosexual is shameful, as is taking the passive role during anal intercourse. Such people are no longer considered men, nut something weak, inferior, sick. Younger boys are often penetrated by older boys to manifest the difference in power and strength. Male children playing sexual games are tolerated as going through a phase, but same-sex sex beyond adolescence is severely punished by the father of the family. The young man is then considered to bring shame on the entire family. To maintain their maleness while engaging in same-sex sex, a man has to always be the active partner, and preferably also receive some money or small gift from the other partner, even if only of symbolic value. This removes the stigma of having had pleasure from the encounter, and implies that the other party was the exploited one, and exploitation is considered manly. Transvestites do exist in Morocco. They dress like women, keep their male names but refer to themselves as women, remain passive in sex, but many of them eventually marry (Van Gelder 1993).