We all learn lots from media. And, in most of Africa, it means newspapers.....
And that means depending on reporters.
Not sure how much we depend on these sources? Remember #FakeNews and the effect on the 2016 US elections? We have many analogue equivalents...., except that much of the fake news is main line.......
Imagine this irresponsible headline.
An old article, Dec 2016. But, it serves well to illustrate the point.
Of course the expert could have been talking about something totally different, like HIV is spread by sex..., and for parents to acknowledge that children can have sex with one another...., consensual sex (hell, 'children' is defined by under 18, which would mean most of us actually first had sex as children! Fact. Not to underplay the very real occurrence of child sexual abuse.)
Yep, I dare to say, that, as teens, when our sexual hormones first flood our bloodstreams, we begin to have very normal sexual thoughts, and act out our dreams....., of sex and sexuality.
That may label me a pervert (especially in Uganda..., with our hypocritical attitude to sex and sexuality). But it is a truth that I had to verify till I understood its normality.
But, back to the story. It was supposedly a press briefing from the National AIDS Council of Zimbabwe on the 'hotspots'
NAC provincial Aids coordinator Mrs Sinatra Nyathi said all boys’ schools were a hotspot as the environment made it easy for boys to engage in risky behaviour. She said same sex relationships in boys’ schools could be fuelling HIV.
Not very nice at all. And the big 'h' word has been dropped. That serves to blind to everything else. One of those words which cause our brains to switch off into stereotypes.... Use it responsibly...., or not.
We have reports of boys who abuse drugs, engage in risky sexual behaviour during Vuzu parties and we cannot rule out the issue of same sex relationships which is slowlycreeping into our schools,” said Mrs Nyathi.
Hmmmm, more and more red meat to those who are triggered bloody by it....
“Unfortunately due to policy, we do not have evidence neither can we conduct studies related to such as we know that our society does not readily accept the existence of same sex relationships. The same situation is likely to be obtaining at girls only schools though these arenot part of our hotspots.”
Uh....., So, all this...., from no evidence? Only rumors????!!!
Of course am the first to concede that in schools, horny teenagers will do all they can to experience the pleasure of sex. Of course it happens. And no amount of denial will take it away. But, taking a nice big brush to casually flick it on this wall is not the way to go around informing a homophobic public of the possibility of gay sex in schools...., and of course in the same breath string along HIV. People, stigma is a surprisingly cruel, living entity..., malignant beyond belief! HIV stigma, homophobia, they are real!
And. Why is their no evidence?
The problem of conservative Africa. Children are below 18. Sex is for adults. So, children below 18 need not know about sex. Simple logic...., stupid. You dont believe it? Well, in Uganda..., here is a recent article in the government daily reiterating 'Abstinence only' as the policy for education in Ugandan schools. And, remember that just last year, 18,000 kids were thrown out of school, because they were being taught something about human sexuality....! Better for them to stay illiterate..., than to be taught anything about how our wonderful body function with regards to sex.
More red meat. Of course, in a conservative society, blame HIV on homosexuals and sex workers.
“You will notice that besides all boys’ schools, we have a growing trend of teenage sex workers in our suburbs. These sex workers, who include boys, then fail to access health care and important HIV preventioninterventions because of their age. For example we are now rolling out Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in some districts but those teenagesex workers cannot access it or get tested because of their age,” she said.
And, worst of all, the paper puts a pic of two guys on the article. At least online. Are they gay? Or just models? Have they given consent to have their images associated with such an article? We are not informed of any of this....., all that we see is the headline, the ill constructed story, the innuendos and a devastating picture painting the two as guilty without any word to that effect.
Pity the guys...., and anyone that might resemble them, in Zimbabwe.
And in case you think am exaggerating, here is the story of a man who was beaten to death in Nigeria, because he was mistaken for his brother who had been chased from the parents home because he was suspected to be gay. And, the ones who did the chasing and the beating, a group of youths. Vigilantes to keep the village clean of homosexuality.
Words matter. Their effects can be devastating to a vulnerable, stigmatised population like Queer Africans in Africa.