The need for relationship counselling services for those in African LGBTI community

By Kylie Kiunguyu

Premarital counselling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counselling can help ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship, giving couples a better chance for a stable and satisfying marriage. It helps partners improve their ability to communicate, set realistic expectations for marriage and develop conflict-resolution skills as early intervention is important because the risk of divorce is highest early in marriage.

What programs exist for gay and lesbian couples?

The sensitive nature of the  Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community in Africa means that a quick search doesn’t produce viable results on the availability of LGBT specific services and programs. This helps protect the community but at the same time leaves out individuals who aren’t in “the know” and need them.

South Africa, however which in this matter is the most progressive on the continent has open availability of such services and programs countrywide. One such organization is Families South Africa (FAMSA) Western Cape, which offer various counselling and community outreach programs. They assist with issues such as coming out, sexual orientation and gender identity, isolation, discrimination, relationship issues, parenting and transitioning.  “We recognize the diversity that exists within the community of people who identify as LGBT.”

Why is important

The LGBT experience is unique in its daily plight and dynamics. This is especially true in the African context where most countries consider gay and lesbian relationships either taboo or plainly illegal. “Pre-marital” or in this case commitment guidance would be different in that it would highlight the importance of asking questions, exploring viewpoints, and helping couples discover a few surprises about their future lifelong partner. It would explore common issues faced by all couples as well as some issues which are unique to gay and lesbian couples.

Additionally because of the state of affairs for the LGBT community on the continent other more complex factors would be addressed. For example “Degree of out-ness” is a term that speaks to the level of ownership individuals claim in public towards their sexuality. Some are open but not brazen while others keep their love lives behind closed doors. In commitment guidance couples with different levels would receive counselling on how to approach the issue moving forward and the overarching implications of increasing or decreasing this degree.

The outward scarcity of such programs aside from marginalizing an entire community is leaving the nurturing of lifelong relationships, commitments and future generations in the hands of unassisted couples who would otherwise thrive given the tools and information necessary.

This was first published on This Is Africa.

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