Wednesday, 6 January 2010
INTERROGATING THE HOMOPHOBIA BARRIER IN AFRICA: THE MEDIA EQUATION
To the African society it spells abomination. To the couple it is just another example of love conquering all. Can cupid's arrow pierce through cultural prejudices sustaining homophobia?
The two Malawian men, who dared the system, are staring at possible incarceration because of defying not only societal taboos but the laws of the country as well. All in the name of love.
Their union follows that of the Kenyan couple, who wedded in London, thousands of kilometres from their home country, where the law does not frown upon same-sex relationships.
But, as reported in the online edition of Daily Nation, they too have to keep pleading to be left alone by the disapproving Kenyan public and a frenzied media attention.
Whereas to people in the First World this might appear like an inconsequential public debate or even spectacle, in many Africa countries, the very thought of same-sex marriages is not only repulsive but the kind of stuff that earns instant multi-generational curses.
In the west, the media features gay people stories as a matter of routine. Moreover, quite a sizeable number of television presenters have publicly declared their homosexuality.
According to a story carried by the Mail Online, openly gay presenter Graham Norton even got reprimanded by BBC officials for making a homophobic joke.
The role of the media in countering homophobia
But in, Kenya what followed the story of the gay couple union in London was a barrage of scornful diatribes and anti-gay FM radio discussions.
Some programme hosts had no qualms about expressing their negative perception towards homosexuality.
And not surprisingly, going by what has been captured by some Kenyan bloggers, there was a backlash from radio listeners, who felt dismayed by radio presenters advocating for homophobic attacks.
So what is a journalist supposed to do in such a situation? In this instance, personal biases against same sex marriages should not be suppressed but should indeed be allowed to exist, much the same way those in support should be tolerated. Bias here does not include hating or inciting against the other side.
That's how I reasoned. I had the option of going to cover the Kenyan gay couple civil partnership for NTV, because it happened two trains away from where I live. But after much soul searching, I was just not comfortable with the idea.
Was I unprofessional? Maybe. Was I true to my own convictions? Certainly yes. Should the two co-exist? Not necessarily.