Human Rights,  International,  Your View

Ugandan activist: fight the anti-gay bill

Guest post by Michael Senyonjo, Ugandan human rights activist and political analyst

Ugandan MP David Bahati of Ndorwa West and Minister for Integrity Nsamba Buturo have over the past four weeks misled Ugandans and the international community about the state of homosexuality in Uganda.

Bahati, author of an anti-gay bill in parliament, believes family life in Uganda is so threatened by homosexuality that those practicing it should face death. Bahati also proposes up to life in prison and extra-judicial powers to prosecute any Ugandan involved in homosexuality even if they’re from abroad. The bill has been condemned worldwide by all reasonably minded people including the Pope.

Such universal opposition cannot happen without reason. The argument that family life is under threat by homosexuality is baseless. Uganda has strong family foundations based on heterosexuality. Last year alone, 1.3 million Ugandans were born as a result of man-woman relations. The current population of 31 million will double by 2030 and hit 90 million by 2050, according to the government’s own statistics.

The average Ugandan woman is having on average 7 children and in most cases with the same man. Record numbers of couples are getting married each year.

Based on the above statistics gays and lesbians are nowhere near to
taking control of the country. In fact heterosexuals should be
challenging gays with the ‘Catch us if you can’ attitude. Besides, we have not imported gays and lesbians as Buturo seems to suggest. They are members of our families so how can they threaten us?

Buturo and Bahati continue to argue that homosexuality is un-African and unnatural. Wrong. Here is how one American scholar, King Ademakiwa, links the origins of homosexuality to Africa.

We know that Africa is the oldest place on Earth. We know that the
first human being walked on the continent of Africa. We know that the first language was developed in the continent of Africa. We know that art, architecture, astronomy, mathematics, and other sciences began in the continent of Africa. We know that the first clothes were worn in Africa by Black African people. The concept of 99.9999% of all things that we can touch and/or see today first began in Africa. And so did homosexuality (whether we want to believe in it or not). Now, why in the world would a person assume that it was the White Caucasian man (who has existed for approximately 10,000 years) who INTRODUCED Africans to homosexuality? Such a statement can only be the result of a very shallow thinking.

African slaves practiced homosexuality on sugar plantations in
America. In Uganda, the colonialists found homosexuality as “okulya
ebisiyagi”, according to scholar S. Kasule who has done extensive
research on this topic. Colonialists did not like the act so they
introduced the first homosexuality laws. So how can someone tell us
that homosexuality was imported from Europe?

One thing you have to admire about some of these politicians is the
smoothness with which counter-factual inaccuracies fly out their
mouths. They have perfected the art of political obscurantism to an
extend of believing in their own untruths.

Their other argument is that homosexuality is unnatural sex. But this notion has been disproved by scientists many times. The arguments are still in the air and I will not go into the ‘kimeza’ about the origins of homosexuality. What I can advise every concerned Ugandan is that instead of following the hate-driven agenda of Buturo and Bahati, read research on this topic by Prof. Julie Harren. You will then discover that Buturo and Bahati are prescribing the wrong medicine to what they perceive to be a social problem.

Surprising to radio and TV reporters around the world is the number of Ugandans ordinary and high profile who seem to support this bill. The answer to this one is always simple and the same. Let’s not forget that Idi Amin’s coup in 1971 was popular, so was his decision to expel 72,000 Ugandan Asians a year later. Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Iran and Kuwait in 1981 and 1990 respectively were popular moves, as was Slobodan Milosevic’s decision to massacre 8000 Kosovars and cleanse Kosovo of its Albanian population. Hitler’s policy to exterminate Jews was popular at that time. Such radical, extremist and discriminatory decisions have had devastating consequences for the countries concerned. Every country has demons that are best left asleep. The leadership in Uganda is trying to rally the country on an issue that is best left asleep because there are already enough laws against it.

Furthermore, Buturo and Bahati argue that homosexuality is anti-Christian and against the rules of the Bible. Are we a Taliban country now ruled by religion? What if I’m a Ugandan and not Christian? Uganda has over 50 religions and as many tribes. Therefore, laws based on religion can only divide the country. Wasn’t Christianity brought to Africa from Europe anyway? So Bahati wants to outlaw what he perceives to be an “un-African” behavior with reasoning based on an “un-African” religion! Have the proponents of this bill listened to their arguments?

Then there’s this outrageous argument that Uganda should cut off
diplomatic relations with countries that don’t support this bill.
Really? How did turning into an isolationist pariah state help Cuba,
North Korea, Libya, apartheid South Africa, Sudan or Iraq? These
countries had more resources than Uganda yet crumbled in
isolation. Cheer on Bahati and we’ll see whether you’ll get a visa to
Europe or America. Uganda needs the world more than the world needs Uganda. Ugandans may want this bill passed into law, but Uganda the country cannot afford such an act of fascism. No country has ever benefited from radicalism. On the contrary, tolerance has success stories in Norway, Sweden, Canada, USA, Australia, United Kingdom and most of the developed world. For politicians following in the footsteps of Buturo and Bahati, beware; human rights campaigners are lobbying for a swift and total travel ban against you and close members of your families. You will face targeted sanctions.

In addition, Bahati’s and Buturo’s reckless assertion that “gays and
lesbians should forget about human rights” is outrageous, dangerous, discriminatory, fascist and consistent with other gross human rights abuses, including torture, that have affected so many Ugandans in the last 40 years since independence. We must NOT accept it.

Now let’s focus on the author of the bill, MP David Bahati and his
constituency of Ndorwa West. Ndorwa West hasn’t a single gay or
lesbian person that David can point at. But it has under-the-tree
classrooms, health centers without doctors, nurses and medicines. The majority or women have their babies in bushes. Poverty is 60% among the population. Many have migrated to neighboring Bunyoro. Once called the Switzerland of Africa, southwest Uganda is warming up fast and becoming arid because of overpopulation and poor farming conditions.

The desperation of people in this part of Uganda drove people into the hands of a fanatical religious sect. Nine hundred met their deaths in an inferno in a church in Kanungu back in 2000. Efforts to confirm whether David Bahati was a survivor or lost relatives in this inferno were fruitless.

Surprisingly the desperation of poor people in Ndorwa West doesn’t
count to an MP who was elected by 90% of the population in his
constituency so he can solve their problems. Having got into
parliament, he instead decided to follow the fanatical and hate agenda of rightwing religious extremists in America, a trend matching an assessment of MPs performance by the Africa Leadership Institute.

While Bahati scored A and C in the plenary and committee assignments respectively, he only managed an E when it came to work in his own constituency. This rating (2007/08) was just a level before the worst (F) despite having a locality office with an assistant paid for by the taxpayer. MP Bahati failed to account for how he spent his Constituency Development Fund altogether!

If we let Bahati get his way, then we will have turned a scripture of
hate into a rope of laws around our necks. We would be the only
country where bills that are not backed by any factual, scientific or
social trends are tabled in the national parliament. The anti-gay bill
in Uganda is simply driven by homophobia, lies and religious
fanaticism: a devil’s cocktail for disaster not only for Uganda but
the rest of the world. It must be withdrawn completely.