The event’s core message was that “strong families create strong nations”, and that Africa’s traditional values are under threat from outside forces. Speakers even blamed corruption and political mismanagement in Africa on family structures that deviate from ‘the natural order’ of God with two-parent households of married men and women and their many children.
For their part, the women of the WCF summit chose a decidedly anti-feminist stance to support families led by men as the only possibility. Abena Asomaning Antwi, a supposed “gender advocate” made bold yet convoluted arguments that overcrowded prisons lead to homosexual activity with inmates “practically sleeping on top of each other”.
Another speaker, Akech Aimba, spoke about the shame, regret and hatred towards God she said that women face after having abortions. A Nigerian activist, Theresa Okafor, warned us not to be manipulated by the UN language promoting “women’s empowerment” which she claimed risks turning women into heads of their families, at the expense of men.
In the conference’s final session, we heard again from Reverend Onwioduokit who presented a laundry list of bold and expansive actions to focus on over the next year – including establishing new organising structures for this movement across the continent, with competent and efficient legal teams to focus on court cases and constitutional challenges.
Other actions included testing “holistic sexual therapy systems to bring healing and comfort to Africans and other persons with LGBTQI disorders”. We must use all of our “spiritual weapons” to block the “LGBTQI propagandist onslaught” across the continent, she said, including via lobbying at the African Union. Each item was met with a chorus of “yeses” from her audience.
One comment from the floor drove home the convening’s core message: a woman stood up to criticise the summit’s flyer, which depicted a woman, man and three children. Future promotional materials should show at least five children, she argued, to avoid giving the “wrong impression” that this movement “supports family planning”. Her comment was met with a mix of laughter and applause, and her suggestion was recorded and accepted.
Over the course of the summit, I felt outrage, bewilderment and utter disbelief at its absurdity. While claiming to be invested in families, the WCF rejects any family that includes LGBTIQ parents and children. As we prepare for the holiday season, many queer and trans* youth across Africa are bracing themselves to meet relatives who continue to reject them.
Such rejections are often because of, or emboldened by, the rhetoric of conservative movements like the WCF. What we really need is for our young people to find healing, safety and new definitions of family that don’t require the erasure of their humanity and basic rights.