Africa is still a long way to go before it unanimously accepts transgender and gay unions as part of its culture if it ever will.
It comes as no surprise that Multichoice's DSTV decided to pull down a reality show about Caitlyn Jenner’s journey in becoming a transgender woman.
According to the Pan-African broadcaster, the decision was reached following complaints from viewers. ‘I am Cait” would be dropped out of E Entertainment channel following complaints by Nigerians, the company said last week.
Some parents in Nigeria had complained that the show was not good for their children to watch, forcing the top television company to remove the docu-series from DSTV channel 124 and GOtv channel 24. The company assured viewers that it would continue reviewing client’s complaints and ensure that their interests were given priority.
“MultiChoice recognizes the importance of respecting the views of its customers and all regulatory environments within which its service operates,” the company said in a statement. The show was removed from the DStv and GOtv channels with immediate effect. The move could mean the conservative views of one country, albeit the most populous, dictate what everybody else watches on TV across the continent.
Formerly known as Bruce Jenner, Caitlyn Jenner revealed in 2015 that she is transgender and has become a woman. Caitlyn is a gold medal-winning track star in the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics. As Bruce, he was a reality TV star in ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ before the big announcement about his woman-side of life.
Although she is yet to complete the transition process, Caitlyn has been taking people through her transition journey in the TV show. She is yet to undergo a surgery that will see her male sexual organ changed to a female’s.
In South Africa, where people are more liberal about gay and LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender), the cancellation of the show has caused an uproar. In 1998 South Africa abrogated laws criminalizing homosexual conduct, including the common-law crime of sodomy, and legalized same-sex sexual.
South Africans took to social media to react to the cancellation arguing that they should not be subjected to laws of other countries.
This is the second time the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has forced the broadcaster to pull down a show that propagates transgender-related material.
Last October, the NBC asked Multichoice to stop broadcasting ‘I am Jazz’ a show about the journey of a transgender woman.
“After careful consideration and wide consultation with various stakeholders, MultiChoice informs its esteemed subscribers that the mini-series, ‘I am Jazz’ has been pulled off the schedule”, the company said last year.
A society yet to grapple with LGBT matters
Critics fear that the decisions taken by the broadcaster could set a precedence where a single country can effectively decide what other TV viewers across the continent can watch. This new development could also plunge the LGBT community deeper into the shadows.
In many African states, LGBT community is unrecognized by some laws and criminal in others. Many African societies are yet to start struggling with transgender rights and as such, these issues do not form part of public discourse.
Most of the African social norms are derived from religious values from Christianity and Islamic teachings.
Recently, Desmond Tutu’s daughter married a woman, and while this was acceptable in the South African law, she had another issue to deal with- the Christian laws. According to the canon (law) of the South African church, “marriage is between one man and one woman.” That being the case, she was forced to leave her priestly duties as she would no longer be allowed to preside at holy communion, baptisms, weddings or funerals.
Laws in some countries might and will in future revoke laws criminalizing homosexual activities. But it will take even a longer time for Africans to accept these acts as normal.
Even as the company pulled down the show, they reminded their subscribers that DStv and GOtv decoders are encrypted with the parental control feature that empowers parents with ultimate control over what young viewers can watch. “The company also encourages parents to make use of this feature as much as possible to ensure that their children only watch what their parents deem appropriate.”
Image credit: E Entertainment