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The Your Stories section is all about you! Please take a minute to tell visitors of the ILGA website about what LGBTI life is like in reality. Please submit your personal story and share your experience!

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Readers Experiences

This is what people are saying about life for LGBTI people in BENIN...
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I would like to point out the contradictory statements found in the ILGA 2008 and 2010 reports entitled "State-Sponsored Homophobia: A world survey of laws prohibiting same sex activity between consenting adults."

In their 2008 report the ILGA states on page 10: "Penal Code of 1996: Article 88: 'Anyone who commits an indecent act or an act against nature with an individual of the same sex will be punished with 1 to 3 years prison and a fine of 100,000 to 500,000 francs.'"

Whereas in the 2010 ILGA report we find on page 44: "Note that same-sex activities never have been criminalised in Benin...."

I am a currently serving US Peace Corps Volunteer in Benin and my supervisors go by the same information found in the ILGA's 2008 report. However, an acquaintance at the US Embassy in Benin seems to believe the law against homosexuality has been repealed as is evidenced by Benin's approval of his and his husband's visas to serve at the US Embassy here as diplomats; their visas were denied by the Cameroonian government when they applied as a married couple to work at the US embassy there. Additionally, an American lesbian diplomat couple's visas were recently approved by the Beninese government and the women will be arriving in the coming weeks. This is progress and indicative of a change in an official change in stance on homosexuality on the part of Benin (and the US State Dept. who fought for these two couples).

Regardless of what is codified, homosexuality here is very unacceptable. The respect for the rule of law in Benin is weak (and weaker the more rural you endeavor) and people cling to traditional customs and often fear strong changes like an acceptance of homosexuality, even though such changes are towards a recognition of basic human rights. Just as in most African countries, Beninese find homosexuality to be a Western phenomenon that might be infiltrating the country but is nonetheless un-African, un-Beninese. However, most Beninese are extremely undereducated and do not know what critical thinking is--let alone how to implement it in their daily lives. Thus, there is hope for homosexuality in Benin, but not until the institution of secular education is strengthened and made free and made as mandatory as for children in the West.

I might add that here in Africa in general but Benin in particular (and Zambia, as my experience there allows me to comment) some men will engage in same sex acts but will not define their acts or themselves as homosexuals. I have even heard of some men seeing only anal penetration as characteristic of homosexuality, but actions less "invasive" are not. Furthermore, Westerners like to attach labels to what they observe. An American who just stepped off the Brussels Air flight will look around and might see a bunch of queer men: men here hold hands as a sign of friendship and will even be quick to call another man beautiful/handsome. The continuum on which an American perceives a person's actions as heterosexual, questionably homosexual, or blatantly homosexual will be different from that of a Beninese continuum with respect to the area in between the two extremes (heteronormative behavior and blatantly homosexual activity).

Regardless of being able to hold hands with another man, hold his waste, and embrace him (here, assuming he is my boyfriend), openly expressing that we are a gay couple would put his and my personal safety at risk; violent reprisal is a real danger.

Benin is in high need of strong willed, well educated, tactful citizens to form an organization without Western leadership (so as to be viewed as more organic) that will conduct outreach to raise awareness about the existence of homosexuals--and their right to exist--and how such a change in cultural views will not entail an eroding of personal values or morals. As I like to say: homophobia exists in Benin, but homophobia does not make a Beninese a Beninese.
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