Black Looks - Including an African LGBTIQ+ Archive

African History, Queer Politics, Same Sex Marriage

Same sex marriage in Igboland

An excellent article from the executive secretary of the Nigerian Humanist Movement, Leo Igwe, on the tradition of same sex marriage in Igboland which speaks to the untruth that same sex relationships are “unAfrican”.

One of the contentious issues in the debate over homosexuality and same sex marriage is whether a marriage between persons of the same gender is totally alien to African culture and tradition. Those opposing same sex marriage have continued to argue that same gender union is foreign to Africa. On the contrary, I have tried to draw their attention to the fact that there is a strain of the same gender marriage in African tradition particularly in Igboland.

And that we should not rush to deny this, or pretend it does not exist or just sweep it under the carpet in the quest to establish that same gender marriage is alien to the African continent, and must be banned.


  1. oh wow… This could definitely change the axis points of the argument…

  2. This just proves that Africans have always been close to nature. In the animal kingdom, it is not unknown in numerous species for individuals of the same sex to come together and cooperate as a heterosexual couple would, for the purpose of raising the young, which sometimes have been rejected by the biological parents. All the talk we hear in Africa about same-sex unions being unAfrican is a nonsense that has been sowed in our minds by 19th Century Europeans, who sadly it seems Africans are still trying to emulate in the 21st Century.
    .-= anengiyefa´s last blog ..Just checking =-.

  3. Thisgirl

    Anengiyefa, are you joking? Africans have always been close to nature???? Whatever sha, I don’t want to get into that. Did you guys read the article properly? First of all I will state I have nothing against gay marriage, I really do not care either way. But to compare what went/goes on in Igboland to the ‘modern’ concept of gay marriage is just wrong. Last time I checked lesbians were not clamoring to get married so they’d be babymaking machines, okay. And if you notice the article does not mention anything about men marrying each other. These two concepts are very very different from each other.

  4. Comment by post author


    Solomonsydelle@ Ife Amadiume wrote about this form of marriage in “Male Daughters and Female Husbands” though she was adamant that there was never a sexual element to the “marriages” – I believe people need to face up to the reality that same sex relationships between women have always been a part of our herstories and is universal.

    Thisgirl@ Neither the women mentioned in the article nor lesbians or heterosexual women necessarily enter into marriage to become “baby making machines” I find the term quite offensive and insulting to women whatever their sexual orientation. Being a lesbian does not mean a woman does not wish to have children whether biologically or through adoption and the same goes for gay men. No the author did not mention gay men but I am sure there are also traditional spaces where these relationships were also accepted. Nor does it mean such relationships did not exist. Just the mere fact that there are names given to such unions speaks to their existence!

    Two of the barriers to accepting same sex unions are people approach them with fear and ignorance- fear of their own feelings which they may not understand and fear of those who have come to terms with their sexual orientation because this is an act of liberation from the hetronormative world in which we live.

  5. @Sokari

    Thanks for that superb response Sokari.
    .-= anengiyefa´s last blog ..Just checking =-.

  6. I agree with This Girl, that you cannot compare what goes on in Igboland to the modern concept of gay marriages… What is going on there is a cultural thing, that most of us might immediately link with what we already know, which is homosexuality in the modern context. But these women were not homosexuals in the first place but ‘UBUNTU’ is what brings them together to take care of each other, once a woman’s husband dies she looks for a wife, maybe she is not even considered a wife but a sister, a helping hand and a comforter.
    I am certain that there are Gays and Lesbians who get pregnant by some way or other, adopt children, etc. having children is an act of love and a way to carry on your name.
    I believe that Africa has lost enough over the past few centuries, I am actually happy to hear that the Igbo are carrying on their tradition. The sad reality is that it might fade, as Africa changes, modernises and evolves…

  7. Comment by post author


    The point is not to focus on the word homosexual. How do we know they were not? These were same sex marriages between women who clearly loved each other – what more is there? What are women loving women about if not caring for each other and being a comforter. You cannot assume that no “sex” took place whatever one wants to constitute the sex act as being. For some sex is penile penetration – and touching rubbing etc is not named as sex but it is something you do with love. The aim of the article was not to “compare” but to acknowledge a tradition of same sex relationships and show that there is a history. Marriage in 15C Britain is quite different to marriage in 2010 but the former forms part of the history. We need to stop being one dimensional in how we read our cultures and histories. Nothing happens in a vacuum!