Last edited: February 27, 2005

Uganda Should Notify Visiting Homos About Impending Arrest

New Vision, October 24, 1999

By Anja Hogel

KAMPALAWhat is going on Uganda? What is this homophobia all about? Uganda, the country renowned as one of the most promising countries on the continent. A country US Secretary of State of Foreign Affairs Madeleine Albright during her visit named 'Africa's' beacon of hope', a country which is supposed to be one of the most progressive African countries in securing democracy and human rights for its citizens.

It is beyond comprehension that this 'promising country' which leads the continent in many areas, such as a liberalised economy, can be so archaic in its treatment of homosexuals as we experience in the present debate in the press. Although it may be argued that I, as a temporary resident and a foreigner, have views diametrically opposed to those of the average Ugandan, this public attack, reportedly by even the president, appears to be the very beginning of a persecution of a minority.

This minority consists of people that most of the democratic societies in the west are doing their best to integrate and protect at the moment despite the majority's disapproval of homosexuals. It has been reported that His Excellency has directed that homosexuals in Uganda be arrested an interesting instruction! Imagine, Mr. President, that your request was fulfilled.

What is then step two? Where would you keep all these people? Possibly in the space in the prisons that should be occupied by those involved in corruption? I believe that Uganda – in the light of the increasing problems with corruption – has a lot of other serious criminals to deal with before it should waste manpower and money on checking people's bedroom antics. And what would your accusation be?

"Accused for exercising your Human and Constitutional right to live in freedom and dignity irrespective of race, colour, sex, language, sexual orientation religion, political or other opinion."

Isn't it a human right to choose the sexual relations and the way to have sex that he or she prefers as long at does not concern children? Another question: What do you intend to do, Mr. President, if your command in this matter is ignored? Will Uganda publish an international warning to any homosexual coming to the country (careful, it may be an important potential investor or politician) of the risk of being arrested? And doesn't this intolerant approach to a minority contradict not only the constitutional set-up, but the whole idea behind a Uganda busy reconciling and uniting groups (or tribes) who did not initially share national interests.

A Uganda that tries to 'gender balance' and 'age balance' its entire political system, a Uganda that includes the handicapped, a minority who were likewise left in the cold for too long. Isn't 'the promising future of Uganda' that the western world (not to mention the donors) hails, all about important economic growth going hand in hand with democratisation and protection of human rights? This praise of Uganda is linked to the politically enabling environment which has provided better opportunities for all minority groups to enjoy space, place and influence on their society.

Why can't Ugandan homosexuals enjoy the same tolerance and privileges as any other ethnic minority or 'interest group'. Doesn't this present homophonic outcry and the law that forbids homosexuality smell totalitarian? Doesn't such an approach provide risk for a similar prosecution to that of Hitler's prosecution of the Jews? Laws are not forever green.

It is well known that homosexual practice is illegal by Ugandan law, which somehow explains the president's stand. However, rules, regulations and practices, wherever we are in the world, should be subject to continuous scrutiny, critique and amendment as the citizens and the judiciary discover their inabilities and inappropriateness.

Laws are not stationary entities, they should develop along with the needs of the society. It is not the rules in themselves that make a society.

It is the people that make the rules they consider right to guide their society. Laws pass their rules by date and new ones must be produced! Maybe it is time for Uganda to revise the laws affecting homosexuals?

Mr. Robert Kabushenga argued in Sunday Vision October 3 that homosexuality is 'unnatural.' His academic attempt to argue why homosexuality is 'unnatural' its taking point of departure in the medical science of anatomy.

As any social scientists will point out it is totally inappropriate to try to explain social phenomena and social behaviour using the natural sciences like maths, molecules and as in this case, biology. It is not scientific to argue that love between two persons of the same sex is unnatural because the digestive system is not made for sex.

Many homosexuals do not even desire or practice penetration . . . and what about the lesbians, how will you explain their 'unnatural' desire for each other?

Secondly, Kabushenga states that 'this whole sense of perversion may affect one's intellectual disposition and creativity and as such arrest your personal development.' It is a statement I think he will find very hard to substantiate if asked for evidence. On the contrary, history shows that some of the world's most creative and highly intellectual people were in fact homosexuals or bisexual.

Homo and bisexuality from the middle ages to post Victorian times (apr. 1200- 1900) were treated exactly the way Uganda is treating it today.

As a result, one must assume that many never openly displayed their sexual preferences in order to secure their lives. However, fortunately, many of the worlds geniuses' left us traces of their sexual preference.

In the light of how many personalities have had to hide their love throughout history, we are most likely in for a surprise. Imagine this scenario Mr. President, Mr. Kabushenga and those who think like you: You manage to hunt down all the homosexuals in this country and lock them up in Luzira although you most likely will have to build a substantial annex to house the lot.

What will you do when you recognise the faces of people from your own rank and file. Prominent people you respect.

Prominent people from the business community, from the world of arts, from the universities, from the parliament, from the donor community? What will you do if you discover that one of them is your brother, your son, your daughter. Your spouse? Please, Uganda, rather spend your energy on protecting innocent children from sexual abuse.

Prosecute the uncles, fathers, school teachers, reverends and other authorities that use their position to defile young girls and boys. When two adults freely choose to have sex together – whether same sex or not – it should not be an affair for the Ugandan State to deal with.

Isn't time for Uganda to revise the "Homosexual Act"?

The writer is a Danish Development worker

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