Cutting Edge Research in Sensitive Sexuality Areas
The postgrad students, Ms Lindiwe Mkasi and Mr Kennedy Owino, were supervised by Professor Isabel Phiri and Professor Sarojini Nadar, winner of the UKZN 2013 Distinguished Teachers’ Award.
Nadar said she was very pleased with the cutting-edge research produced by both students.
Through a case study of female traditional healers who practice same sex relationships, Mkasi - a Masters student in the Gender and Religion Programme (and also a practising sangoma) - aimed to provide reasons for the opposition to same sex-relationships in Africa.
The questions her study wrestled with were: If traditional healers practice same sex relationships, why does the Zulu community (and African communities in general) insist that same sex relationships are “un-African”? And given that homosexuality has been labeled as “un-African” and “un-cultural”, how does one explain the existence of homosexual relationships among Zulu sangomas, who are considered the custodians of culture?
The study drew on the experiences of 10 female traditional healers from Kwa-Ngcolosi and Inanda. The study concluded that within the traditional belief systems of the ancestors, women do have authority and can choose alternative relationships. Furthermore, in the sphere of traditional healing, recognition is given to different sexualities.
In his PhD thesis, Owino analysed through a case study of the Mighty Men’s Conference, (MMC) how Evangelical faith discourses shape contemporary constructions of masculinities in post-apartheid South Africa.
The central finding was that the MMC through its call for men to return to “godly manhood”, re-inscribes patriarchal oppression yet the space can also be subverted and be used for promoting positive masculinities.
The examiners hailed the study as making an original contribution to the burgeoning disciplines of masculinities, gender and theology in Africa and praised the work for combining ‘theoretical sophistication with practical fieldwork to achieve a high level of scholarship’.
Nadar said that she was extremely proud of both students who had worked very hard and achieved excellent results.
She said the studies were significant, especially in the light of Uganda’s recent anti-homosexuality bill and because despite the fact that the South African Constitution and the Bill of Rights ranked among the most progressive in the world, the statistics of gender inequality in South Africa continue to manifest themselves in the killing of gays and lesbians. Nadar added that there had also been renewed calls for a return to traditional patriarchal forms of masculinity which were harmful to women.
‘This is because peoples’ world views on gender are not shaped by the Constitution – they are shaped by their religious and cultural worldviews, and this is why research such as that by Lindiwe and Kennedy is so significant,’ said Nadar.- Melissa Mungroo