It’s time for a postcolonial policy

Colonialism and Development Policy

Artikel in deutscher Fassung

I deeply regret that such laws were introduced,” said British Prime Minister Theresa May in April 2018. This was her first public statement of regret for the suffering  Photo: Plaque at the site of the 1884-85 Congo Conference in Berlin’s Wilhelmstraßecaused by the anti-gay laws of British colonialism. The British exported their homophobic legal system into most their colonies, instilling a legacy that continues to this day. Same-sex relations are still illegal in 36 of the 53 countries that make up the Commonwealth. British NGOs are attempting to address this part of their colonial history. For years they have been urging their government to apologize.

Civil society in Germany is also increasingly calling for serious and critical assessment of German colonial history. Some groups are working on renaming streets, and others on installing memorial plaques such as in the government quarter of Berlin. German colonies were established for example in what are now the countries of Namibia, Cameroon, Togo, Tanzania, Ruanda, Burundi, New Guinea, and Samoa. After World War One Germany had to give them up, but other European colonial powers continued to exploit them. Calls for Germany to apologize for the crimes of its colonial period are becoming ever louder. Groups active in this context include Initiative Schwarze Menschen in Deutschland (ISD e.V.) and Berlin Postkolonial.

Development cooperation is another area where it is both logical and important to incorporate a postcolonial perspective. This approach needs to take explicit account of the history of persecution and penalization of sexual and gender minorities. It is crucial to realize that the laws that criminalize same-sex relations in the countries of the global South are of colonial origin. The colonial powers also shaped gender roles and limited the range of gender identities and expression, often by violent means. Young lesbians in Namibia today are still confronted with the effects of missionary history, reports Liz Frank from WLC Namibia.

This particular legacy of colonialism is hardly discussed. At the same time, missionary activities by some Western churches continue unabated. Backed by considerable funding and personnel from North America, evangelical churches stir up hatred against lesbians and gay men and work with governments to intensify laws in countries such as Uganda.

 Photo: Plaque at the site of the 1884-85 Congo Conference in Berlin’s Wilhelmstraße

The Hirschfeld-Eddy Foundation and the Yogyakarta Alliance call for addressing colonial history and crimes against LGBTI people. We explicitly include this in our 13-Point List of Requirements for the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). We call upon the Ministry to launch a special program on “Cultures and colonialism”. This program should gather, study and discuss the “regional homosexualities, sexualities and histories of gender”, with a special focus on the churches’ missionary history and Germany’s colonial responsibility. The Ministry should help advance efforts in these areas by supporting local researchers in studying their own traditions. Cultures of acceptance exist, and have existed, everywhere.

We need a postcolonial policy.

If you would like to become active in this area, please contact the Yogyakarta Alliance via sarah.kohrt(ett)hirschfeld-eddy-stiftung.de

Sarah Kohrt
LGBTI Platform for Human Rights

  • Website of the Yogyakarta Alliance
  • Equal footing? The Yogyakarta Alliance: A postcolonial course of action

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