Somali Culture and Homosexuality

Somali culture is unique and distinctive compared to the rest of the world. The ties and bonds found in Somali families, which even extend to the whole town or city, is very strong and robust. Despite the current situation, Somalis consider themselves to be one homogenous people, and not a nation of multiple cultures or faiths. Therefore having almost the same belief, ideas and way of life.

Somali culture is influenced by a range of factors. However, religion but more specifically Islam, plays a key role in the Somalian way of life. Religion is the starting point of Somali family structure and organisation, thus homosexuality is considered by many fruitless and a mortal sin. However, we do not consider love and respect between two individuals, whether straight or gay, as fruitless.It’s also important to note that some might mistake local customs for religious beliefs, for example women being treated as subservient to men.

Homosexuality in Somalian communities is as extensive as in any other ethnic community, the only difference is that it’s done in private and secrecy thus not openly visible. Arab and Muslim governments turn a blind eye to homosexual practices as long as it stays in the dark. But conspicuous punishments await those who dare to test the limits of the law. In several occasions when gays came to the open and in case a gay marriage was conducted, they had to face the shame of the community and the hand of law. (Bashir Goth)

Homosexuality in Somalia and Africa predates European colonisation, as sexual relations were said to be common in many cultures especially among young boys. Boys sleeping in the same bed and holding hands in public was a familiar (and beautiful) sight. However when adulthood knocks, they are expected to be married and have families. Wherever you are being gay does not stop anyone from having children or a family. Someone is valued for what they have achieved and done rather than who they are having sex with.

Gay and Lesbian Somalians who are in Somalia have no official recognition and live under a constant cloud of fear, as homosexuality is often punished with lashing, being ostracised from families and communities and even death! This is not an exaggeration as many of our brothers and sisters have been made to suffer inhumane reprimands or killed.
Therefore, being Somali and gay can be difficult. Living secret lives and not sharing your ideas and feelings with those you have close contact with in life is not an easy thing. Many flee their homes to escape possible torture or “honour killings”. Some become accustomed with living double lives. Some are out to their families, not necessary by choice. Homosexuality is discussed in Somali households mainly in a negative way. Families tend to know or suspect their children but the problem arises when the son or daughter admits to his/her sexuality.

We would like to see homosexuals in Somalia accepted as equal to anyone one else under the law. It is important for all peoples Human Rights to be acknowledged with dignity and respect. However, it will not realistically take place in the near future. As it was illegal to be gay in the UK only 40 years ago and law repealing section 28 came into effect in 2003

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