Dar es Salaam. Reported events of recent memory have left my head spinning in disbelief— same-sex so-called “marriage,” three women “marrying” in South America, and, yes, “chaste gay couples.”
With me, if you are an African who is faithful to authentic African traditions and mores, you may wonder how all this has emerged in a short few decades of the social globalising upheaval.
I may have an answer: Society has constructed an unreal cultural landscape in which things that are not sexuality are passed off as sexuality. Even a majority of Africans are, perhaps unwittingly, swallowing this unreality, hook, line, and sinker.
The argument in this article is this: Sexuality, by means of which man and woman give themselves to one another through the acts which are proper and exclusive to spouses (that is why spousal fidelity is highly honoured), is not something simply biological. It is more, as I will argue in the following lines.
To me as a sociolinguist, the fabric of this false landscape is language—language that frames everyone and everything in a way that fundamentally revitalises the truth about human nature and, as all Africans believe, God’s real plan for us and our sexuality. I would assert that this process all started with a single but compound word: homo-sexuality. The word homosexual is a Greek and Latin hybrid. On the one hand, the word sexuality means ‘the properties that distinguish organisms on the basis of their reproductive roles”. On the other hand, the word homo is derived from the Greek word ‘homos’ which means “same”. This word ‘homos’ is not related to, and should not be confused with, the Latin word “homo”, which means “man”. This is the meaning of ‘homo’ in the phrase Homo sapiens. Therefore, homosexuality connotes sexual acts and affections between members of the same sex, including lesbians and gays.
The word ‘homosexuality’ is historically associated with being gay. A gay woman was a prostitute, a gay man a womanizer, and a gay house a brothel. The use of gay to mean “homosexual” was in origin merely an extension of the word’s sexualized connotation of “carefree and uninhibited”, which implied a willingness to disregard conventional or respectable sexual mores. This is where the importance of the argument of this paper lies: we have allowed ourselves to sexually so ‘carefree and uninhibited’ that we think that homosexuality, be it lesbianism or gay-ism, is sexuality!
Just think about it: By all accounts, the word “homosexuality,” used in contrast to its also-coined counterpart “heterosexuality,” is just about 150 years old. Before this time in human history, there was no such thing as the conceptual construct of “orientation” in connection with sexuality. Sexual attractions did not define the human person, and people did not presume to assail God’s plan for human sexuality by categorizing attractions in a way that reduces God’s plan to one mere possibility among an ever-growing number of other “identities” and so-called “sexualities.”
Press the mental button and fast-forward to the present day! The 150-year-old crack in the dam has become a gaping fissure that allows modern globalized minds and hearts to be flooded with some muddied and foul waters. Now everything is up for grabs because both our behaviors and our identities have become as fluid as the floodwater. Liberal culture now grants us absolute permission to equivocate authentic sexuality with myriad counterfeits, identified by the abbreviation ‘LGBTQ’ which stands for ‘lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgenders, and queers’. What is more interesting is that even those who are questioning their gender identity or sexual orientation consider themselves as members of LGBTQ. This permissive liberal culture is safeguarded by coining even more terminology designed to protect the original insult to truth about sexuality, bringing about deeper and more deadly moral collapse.
This original either/or-being of human sexuality—“orientation”—has made a mess of things. Now the meaning of God’s original plan for us is obscured and, worse, viewed as pure bigotry if not ‘homo-phobia’. (mind you: here the word ‘homo’ does not stand for the English word ‘human being’ as explained before!). No wonder now it’s absolutely okay to be gay or straight or queer or genderfluid, or, or… Now we deal with sexual “minorities” who claim “erasure,” “homophobia,” and “othering” if you commit the cardinal sociological crime of heteronormativity!
Now men who “feel” like women, and women who feel like men, must be affirmed rather than healed. Now men who know they are men are merely “dis-gendered” out of relativistic respect for those who are “transgendered”—all because fluidity—not authentic sexuality—must be maintained at all costs. Now, even “gay sex” is treated as real sex rather than the unreal and aberrant mutual masturbation of deeply confused souls. I know, by saying all this, by the way, I’m exposing myself to be condemned, by the LGBTQ movement pushers, as the worst of “haters” (homophobists!) — worthy of condemnation and perhaps prosecution and imprisonment in some countries! Fortunately, in most African countries, including Tanzania, this ‘unreal sexual aberrant movement’ is not supported by law. It is therefore worth going through, albeit at length, the legal protection against false sexuality.
Laws regarding same-sex sexual activity and relationships
Throughout Tanzania, sexual activities between and among men are illegal and carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment; and though sex acts between women are not mentioned specifically in mainland Tanzanian law they are implied. In Zanzibar such same-sex sexual acts between women are outlawed with a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment or a 500,000 shilling fine. The Tanzania Penal Code of 1945 (as revised by the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, 1998) provides as follows:
Section 138A, Acts of gross indecency between persons: Any person who, in public or private commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person of, any act of gross indecency with another person, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than one year and not exceeding five years or to a fine not less than one hundred thousand and not exceeding three hundred thousand shillings. According to Part I(3) of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, 1998: “gross indecency” in Section 138A “means any sexual act that is more than ordinary but falls short of actual intercourse and may include masturbation and indecent physical contact or indecent behaviour without any physical contact”.
Section 154. Unnatural offences: (1) Any person who-(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence, and is liable to imprisonment for life and in any case to imprisonment for a term of not less than thirty years.(2) Where the offence under subsection (1) of this section is committed to a child under the age of ten years the offender shall be sentenced to life imprisonment.
Section 155. Attempt to commit unnatural offences.: Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified under section 154 commits an offence and shall on conviction be sentenced to imprisonment for a term not less than twenty years.
Section 157. Indecent practices between males: Any male person who, in public or private-(a) commits any act of gross indecency with another male, or (b) procures another male person to commit any act of gross indecency with him, or (c) attempts to procure a male to commit an indecent act to him, is guilty of an offence and may be sentenced to five years of imprisonment.
The Zanzibar Penal Code of 1934, as amended in 2004, provides as follows:
Section 132.(1) Any person who carnally knows any boy is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for life.(2) Any person who attempts to have carnal knowledge of any boy is guilty of an offence and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than twenty-five years.
Section 150.Any person who:(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; or (c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature; is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding fourteen years.
Section 151.Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in section 150 is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.
Section 152.Any person who unlawfully and indecently assaults a boy is guilty of a felony, and is liable to imprisonment for a term not less than twenty-five years.
Section 153.Any woman who commits an act of lesbianism with another woman whether taking an active or passive role shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings.
Section 154.Any person who, in public or private commits, or is a party to the commission of, or procures or attempts to procure the commission by any person of, any act of gross indecency with another person, is guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years or to a fine not exceeding two hundred thousand shillings; save that where the offence is committed by a person of eighteen years of age or more in respect of any person under eighteen years of age, the offender shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not less than ten years, with corporal punishment, and shall also be ordered to pay compensation of an amount determined by the court to the person in respect of whom the offence was committed for any injuries physical or psychological caused to that person.
Section 158.Any person who:(a) enter[s] or arrange[s] a union, whether amounting to marriage or not, of the person of the same sex;(b) celebrate[s] a union with another person of the same sex, whether amounting to marriage or not; [or](c) lives as husband and wife [with] another person of the same sex; shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years.
It is no wonder therefore that, according to the Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: The United Republic of Tanzania”, United Nations Human Rights Council, A/HRC/19/4, 8 December 2011, paragraph 87 on page 22, by the mouth of Mathias Meinrad Chikawe, the then Tanzanian Minister of State and Good Governance, Tanzania refused to succumb to the global pressure, when he said in Geneva,
“There was an issue raised on same-sex marriages, etc. It is true we do not have a law allowing same-sex marriages in our country, and that I say again, due to our own traditions and very cultural strong beliefs. Although activities involving same-sex do take place, they do take place under cover, so to say, and like I said … that if one were to exhibit such a behaviour in public, one could be, actually be stoned by the public itself. It is a cultural thing. It’s not yet acceptable. So … it would be very strange for the government to propose a law towards allowing that…”
Dr Kassala is a lecturer at the Eastern Africa Statistical Training Centre. Mobile Phone 0757722274