Sex between people of the same gender has existed for millennia. But anthropologists in sub-Saharan Africa often ignored or distorted those relationships.
According to historian, Professor, Kenneth Chukwuemeka Nwoko, Ph.D., women marriage or female husbands was more pronounced than might be expected in Africa where it occurred in over 30 societies, including; the Igbo of southeastern Nigeria, the Zulu of Southern Africa, the Nuer of East Africa etc. There is also strong evidence of its existence in the Nandi tribe of Kenya.
In Sudan among the Nuba people, who inhabit the Nuba mountains, existed multiple examples of gender and sexual fluidity as well as non-monogamy. The Korongo and Mekasin ethnic groups practiced a custom of bisexuality.
This was able to exist because of the matrilineal nature of their society. Family lineage is passed through the mother, not father which means the duty of passing down the family name and kinship is not the mans responsibility.
Unfortunately, it does not seem to still exist anymore. This is largely because of British colonization criminalizing homosexuality in 1899 and urban migration.
A work that rethinks gender as a Western contruction, The Invention of Women offers a new way of understanding both Yoruban and Western cultures.
Author Oyeronke Oyewumi reveals an ideology of biological determinism at the heart of Western social categories-the idea that biology provides the rationale for organizing the social world. And yet, she writes, the concept of “woman,” central to this ideology and to Western gender discourses, simply did not exist in Yorubaland, where the body was not the basis of social roles.
Oyewumi traces the misapplication of Western, body-oriented concepts of gender through the history of gender discourses in Yoruba studies. Her analysis shows the paradoxical nature of two fundamental assumptions of feminist theory: that gender is socially constructed and that the subordination of women is universal. The Invention of Women demonstrates, to the contrary, that gender was not constructed in old Yoruba society, and that social organization was determined by relative age.
European travelers and anthropologists found that their gendered worldview didn’t easily map onto the societies they encountered.
In “pre-colonial times,” wrote the late feminist scholar Niara Sudarkasa, women in West Africa were “conspicuous in high places.” They led armies, often played important consultative roles in politics, and in the case of the Lovedu people (present-day South Africa), they were even supreme Rain Queens. What it meant to be a woman in many African pre-colonial societies was not rigid. “Among the Langi of northern Uganda,” writes Sylvia Tamale, dean of the faculty of Law at Makerere University Uganda, “the mudoko dako, or effeminate males, were treated as women and could marry men.” There were also the Chibados or Quimbanda of Angola, male diviners whom, some scholars have argued, were believed to carry female spirits through anal sex.
For centuries, woman-to-woman marriages in pre-colonial African societies seemed to indicate to Europeans that the strong correspondence between male to man and female to woman was not prevalent in Africa. This practice of same-sex marriage was documented in more than 40 precolonial African societies: a woman could marry one or more women if she could secure the bridewealth necessary or was expected to uphold and augment kinship ties. The idea that a female could be a husband perplexed Europeans, and often lead to fantastical conclusions.
Bias can prevent us from comprehending men as victims and women as perpetrators.
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