Gays find courage to come out in Kinshasa

2014-05-17 15:48
(Ben Curtis, AP)

(Ben Curtis, AP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kinshasa - Free of the harsh anti-gay laws found in much of Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo may seem a haven for same-sex couples, but it still takes courage to come out in Kinshasa.

Dida, a hairdresser in the capital, said he had no qualms being openly gay - although he, like others, asked for his name to be changed for the interview.

"My own parents accepted me as I am and as for others, I don't give a damn what they think," he told AFP, confidently.

But Arthur, a basketball player in his 30s, struggles with the social stigma in a country where many see homosexuality as sinful, or unnatural.

"I'm afraid of what my family will say, my friends, others around me. I don't feel at ease with myself."

Far from outlawing homosexuality like Uganda, where draconian legislation has sparked a global outcry, the Kinshasa government has included measures to help HIV/Aids prevention for the gay community.

But as the country marks the International Day against Homophobia on Saturday, Congolese NGOs say gays still face being cast out by their families, or forced into prostitution to survive.

Gays and lesbians face "verbal and moral violence and isolated cases of blackmail as well as threats", which drive them "under cover" or even into exile, said a gay rights activist who calls himself "Justice Walu".

'Incompatible with the Bible'

Gays in the DRC meet online, or in gay-friendly bars and nightclubs.

But women have to be more discreet than men, with lesbians - as elsewhere in Africa - facing the terrifying prospect of "punitive" rapes.

Sirius, a 31-year-old lesbian journalist, spoke from bitter experience. "Almost every day in the district, you get looks and insults and stigmatisation."

"One day, in 2007, I was surrounded by boys who told me they were going to rape me to give me a taste for men, that whatever I did I was still a woman," she added.

"They beat me to weaken me and then rape me, but I was able to defend myself and run."

Attitudes towards gays range from the openly hostile, to the mildly suspicious.

"Those people, they were created by God, I don't see a big problem," said Kinshasa taxi driver Michel, in his 40s. But when it comes to his own family? He would disavow his own son if he were to come out as gay.

Resident Jean Muke called homosexuality "a serious defect". "If Europeans are fine with this, then good for them, but we should be true to our own culture."

In a nation where Christian sects have a strong following, many look on gays and lesbians as "demons" or even "witches" - beliefs echoed by some gays themselves.

Gays who believe themselves possessed hold long prayer sessions, and wrestle with guilt over their sexuality.

"I tell myself that it isn't my fault, but it's incompatible with the Bible," said Arthur.

Kinshasa resident Pierre said Congo still had a long way to go before homosexuality was fully accepted.

"We should try to change the young people's way of thinking, we should show them that it has nothing to do with witchcraft and it's not a flaw," he said.

"We don't become homosexuals, we were born that way."

Curious 'to be a father'

In November, a bill to make homosexuality a punishable offence was brought before parliament, raising concern among activists and intense social debate. The bill has yet to be debated. The last bid to introduce such legislation failed in 2010.

"People must not vote for a law that could lead to more violent aggression," warned Justice Walu.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) have reported a brutal "surge in human rights violations" in Uganda, five months after the country's tough anti-gay laws were passed.

Robert, a 46-year-old human rights activist, does not consider gay and lesbian rights part of his brief.

"Homosexuality is a crime because those who made this choice have decided to stop procreation," he argued. "This is a threat to humanity."

Social hostility drives some Congolese gays to marry a straight partner, and live their sexuality in secret.

But others are determined to be open about who they are - and look enviously to the rights enjoyed by gays in a growing number of countries in Europe or the Americas, to marry or adopt children.

Unemployed Pierre lives with his partner, and has no wish to marry. But he would give a great deal to have children. "I want to know what it would be like to be a father."

Dida has been in a relationship with a Dutch man for seven years.

"We plan to get married in France in July, at Saint-Tropez," he said. "We would like to adopt. That is a matter I'd like to take up quickly after the wedding."

Read more on:    amnesty international  |  hrw  |  drc  |  central africa  |  gay rights
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
12 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
SPONSORED CONTENT
When is a mountain more than just a mountain? 2014-12-18 07:26

When it’s an adventure! A group of Old Mutual employees found out how much is enough courage, endurance and camaraderie to take on Africa's highest peak.

/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!
Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Jobs in Western Cape region

In bound Supervisor

Western Cape
Peoplefinder Career Placements

Analyst Developer

Western Cape
Progressive IT Resourcing (Pty) Ltd

Engineering Manager

Western Cape
Pro-Tech Recruitment
R850 000 - R1 100 000 Per Year

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The energy today is serious, materialistic and hardworking. You may find you get a new outlook on things and you may want to spend...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.