The Unintended Ugandan Promotion of Homosexuality
By Melanie Nathan, 03/08/2012
In October 2009, a Member of the Ugandan Parliament David Bahati, introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into Uganda’s parliament, which changed the dialogue around homosexuality in Africa forever! The politician, considered a rising star in the twenty five year Museveni dictatorial regime, had tuned his legislative ear to the tone of American Christian evangelicals Lou Engels and Scott lively in a way that mustered up all sides in a country where perhaps only homophobia can be used as a uniting force. Now it can be seen that the lawmaker may well have inadvertently accomplished the opposite of what he set out to do, in his quest to punish homosexuality in his country.
While successfully mustering local parliamentarians to all shout foul in unison against homosexuals, he has done nothing more than push the international community to the brink of boycott. While scape-goating gays locally through the unification of anti-homosexual sentiment, he may well be bringing the opposite fine tooth attention from the International community.
Prior to the introduction of what has become known as “The Kill the Gays Bill,” Bahati had met with the “C” Street Fellowship members and followed the beat that taps a Rhythm “Jesus Hates Gays via Leviticus.” The latter makes no sense and then neither did the accusation by Lively that Gays were the cause of the Holocaust, rhetoric that seemingly served as the impetus for the Bill that seeks to punish Homosexuality in Uganda by death. Yet the young “want-to- be President-one-day” political star found a brilliant mechanism to unite Ugandans to his way of politics and the social issue of gay rights, seen as anti-African and anti- African culture was delivered on a silver platter by the politician.
The Bill has come a long way, by going nowhere! For now that is. It has been introduced and then lost in the shuffle of the closing of an old parliamentary session, only to awaken to a recent reintroduction in this current session of the Ugandan Parliament, amidst concerns from the Laws Society of Uganda and members of the Ugandan Cabinet itself.
However speculation has it that after the first read this year, albeit to the rousing applause of fellow parliamentarians, international pressure has come down to bear on the Ugandan cabinet, which has signaled some back peddling, and it just may be that the Bill will languish, yet again, instead of being given the leeway to move forward with further readings. But Bahati needs his win!
There is no reason for activists to rest, as the Bill could see its way to a vote at anytime or possibly its terms could find a home in other less public legislation. After all it is a uniting force in a political climate that has managed to keep most Ugandans poor and one that is all but fair to all Ugandans in a long overdrawn dictatorship.
Yoweri Museveni has been President for over 25 years and masses have been on the verge of revolution with walks to work and other protests quickly squashed by repression through administration ordered violence, kidnapping and torture.
So while the law in Uganda already purports to criminalize homosexuality through an old colonial piece of legislation that speaks to “acts against the order of nature.” The purpose of the Bahati Bill is to take the inherent uncertainty of that legislation, and to pronounce on homosexuality in terms that cannot escape definition under the criminal law. Or maybe just to unite Ugandans to his political aspirations. Some in the Cabinet have proclaimed the Bill unnecessary. Yet politically on the domestic front it has worked for Bahati thus far. But now he has the wrath of the international community to contend with. While he may have bagged the locals he has alienated the foreigners; ironically, perhaps another perhaps unintended binding factor on the domestic level.
Now while we abroad are screaming foul on behalf of the local LGBTI coalitions and community, we may well be playing into Bahati’s hands on a local level, as he has so much internal support we may actually be serving to enhance the unity. Yet I do believe still this could backfire as the more intelligent and less ambitious start to realize that this is nothing but the political aspirations of one man using an entire community to meet his needs. Maybe just maybe some local brave hero will expose him! Someone who is not afraid to display intellect and speak truth.
While Bahati and others in Africa now seek to define homosexuality as an explicit crime, at the heart of the Ugandan Bill and its core excuse is one simple phrase that makes no sense “the Promotion of Homosexuality.”
Most of us in the LGBT community, who live our sexuality, cannot understand the term. We all know that same-sex attraction is not a choice, but simply a way of being. We also know that our love is not about the sex and more about the relationship; but in Uganda the ignorance is pervasive.
The Bill seeks to punish those who “promote homosexuality.” Yet it fails to provide definition for such that is indeed definitive or that makes any sense at all.
What could be construed as promotion of homosexuality? Here are some ideas which speak so succinctly to the incongruity of the law:-
Promotion of Homosexuality could be:-
- · A lawyer defending a client who has been charged under a criminal act of homosexuality
- · A doctor asking sexual orientation questions and nor reporting homosexual behavior
- · A NGO offering counseling to a teenager who is confused about his/her sexuality
- · A Civil society offering shelter to youth kicked out of home because of same-sex attraction
- · All advocacy for LGBTI equality and rights
- · A mother failing to report the fact that she caught her daughter in bed with a girlfriend
- · Clergy blessing a repentant “sinner”
- · Newspaper reporting international news about same-sex issues
- · Local and foreign Employers operating in Uganda who have diversity and acceptance programs in the hiring practices and who knowingly employ gays
- · Employers operating in Uganda who provide benefits to same-sex couples abroad
- · Charities from abroad which provide funding
- · Clergy who offer affirming communities
- · And the ridiculous list goes on…
If the Bahati Bill is passed it could indeed be a disaster for all Ugandan LGBTI people as it will legitimate persecution. It has already brought about a new harsh and cruel treatment of LGBT Ugandans as well as the spread of the idea of pumping up legislation in other countries in Africa. However when it passes maybe its impact will simply die and Bahati will have his silly political victory. Maybe there will be no persecution – maybe the purpose of the jolly jaunt will have been fulfilled. But can we take that risk?
One cannot but note that prior to the adventures of Scott Lively in Uganda, gays and lesbians in that country were largely left alone. The new tone of scape-goating gays has brought unwanted attention on the LGBT community because the Bill has become the subject of voracious protests against it by the West, resulting in a backlash against gays that may not otherwise have occurred.
The world is now focused in a new way on homosexuality as a human right and African countries which do not adhere to this prescript are going to become the subject of threats to restrict foreign AID, tourism and trade boycotts.
While this may result in more backlashes, there is an emerging fight against criminalization, even in its less defined form of “acts against the order of nature” with a zest and fervor unlike that experienced in Africa before. LGBT NGO’s and activist coalitions are forming and leaders from around the world are speaking clearly for the decriminalization of homosexuality.
The President of the United States, Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have spoken against persecution of LGBTI people in Africa. David Cameron from the UK has suggested withdrawing AID to Uganda. Just yesterday Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary General spoke out vehemently against violence and discrimination against LGBTI people:-
“The violence and discrimination directed at people just because they were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender was a monumental stain on the collective conscience, and a violation of international law to which the Human Rights Council must respond.” http://gayusathemovie.com/2012/03/un-secretary-general-on-lgbt-violence-and-discrimination-lives-are-at-stake/
What was hardly a dialogue has shaped into a quest – an imperative one to recognize LGBT human rights in a bid to decriminalize homosexuality; and this may be the ultimate and unintended result of the Ugandan “Kill the Gays Bill,” as it becomes increasingly clear that the world is not going to stand by and watch career politicians fatten their careers with hate.