Skip to main content

Centre of African Studies: Research


Sexuality, Politics And Religion In Africa

The Sexuality, Politics and Religion in Africa (SPRA) was a two-year research project funded by the Leverhulme Trust and based at the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh. The project started in August 2012 and concluded in July 2014.

The Project

The aim of the SPRA project was to examine how public discourses around sexuality and homosexuality are shaped in Uganda, analysing the influence of religious leaders and ideas in framing national policy and political elites’ action. There is an increasingly tense debate around issues of homosexuality in Africa and its centrality to contemporary politics. While African politicians and religious leaders present the issue in terms of a problem to be eradicated from society, liberal Western voices, from politicians and development agencies to human rights activists, react to these statements with uncompromising and accusatory responses, whilst African activists seek to campaign, and secure their personal safety. 

Dr Barbara Bompani

Upon closer reading it is clear that in Uganda those political discourses are often supported by Pentecostal Charismatic churches (PCCs). These churches maintain authority over a large and growing proportion of the population. Religious symbols, discourses and values are recurrently used in public debates and influence perceptions and understanding of morality and public behaviour. In this way, religion is affecting and framing the political discourse around health, reproduction, sexuality and homosexuality. 

The research team investigated four Pentecostal churches in Kampala in order to understand the way they debate and shape public discourses around sexuality and morality, and the way they regulate public and private churchgoers’ behaviour.

Sexuality, Politics And Religion In AfricaData collection for the SPRA project took place between November 2012 and June 2013. In total thirty-one weeks of fieldwork in Kampala have been conducted while weekly observing religious sites and participating in churches’ activities. Over this duration, thirty-seven in-depth interviews and three focus groups were carried out. Over 500 newspaper articles were collected and organised according to date and topic. At the beginning of November 2012 Barbara and Stephanie participated and presented at the workshop “African Sexualities” held at the University of Sheffield.  The article ‘“A religious revolution”? Print media, sexuality, and religious discourse in Uganda’ (Bompani and Terreni-Brown) has recently been submitted to an academic journal and other publications (journal articles, a book chapter and a manual) are on their way!

On the following pages you can find more information on the team and upcoming events. For other information, please contact Dr Barbara Bompani.

Edinburgh Students