’The Secret Life’: Homosexuality in Uganda
Being an openly gay man living in the U.S., I am able to walk upon the streets without the fear of being considered a "criminal" or undergo convictions due to the sole fact that I am gay. Homosexual men and women in Uganda, on the other hand, don’t have this freedom; gay men and women are being oppressed in Uganda.
I, as well as many other gay men and women in America, take our freedom for granted. I want to take an in depth look at the major crisis that is occurring in Uganda in regard to its gay population and the conflict that they are having with the government and laws established in the African country. By taking a look at scholarly articles as well as published journals I want to be able to encompass not only the history of the issue occurring in Uganda but other key questions that need to be answered about this urgent problem that is taking place.
Uganda is " long associated with a bloody decades-of long conflict plagued by child abductions, rape, and murder". (Ewins) During the fall of 2009 a huge new wave of law was going to be implemented in the country. The Minister of Parliament (MP) David Bahati introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009. Prior to the bill that was introduced by Bahati, homosexuality was already considered illegal in Uganda. However this bill was set up in order to make the punishment as well as the definition of the crime a much greater offense.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 creates a new crime termed "aggravated homosexuality." The bill states the following: "engaging in homosexual sex while living with HIV, or repeatedly engaging in homosexual activity, is a crime punishable by death." (Ewins) This law also states that it would imprison anyone that does not report any known sexual activity that is taking place to the police within a twenty-four hour time frame from the time the act occurred. It is also stated "anybody who does not believe that homosexuality is a crime is a sympathizer."(Ewins) In the U.S. , there are almost 1.2 million gay people living with a same sex partner, and out of the 105.5 million households only 595,000 consist of same sex partners, according to a census that was conducted in 2000. The homosexual community in the U.S. would join together and bring an end to a law titled "aggravated homosexuality" if one was ever conducted by the U.S. government. I want to try to grasp and understand why the homosexual community in Uganda can’t do the same thing. I need to understand how and why this developed. Is the British Colonial religion that was imposed upon the people of Uganda the main causing factor of this bill?
The number of homosexuals in Uganda is very small in regard to the total population in Uganda. It was recorded that there are 32 million people living in Uganda and only 500,000 are considered to be homosexuals (HRO). The laws that were set up prior to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 allowed imprisonment of homosexuals for up to fourteen years. The British colonists in Africa ingrained the view onto Africans that homosexuality was tied close to "unnatural sex". Those people who were to not follow the Christian doctrines and to have "unnatural sex" were doomed for an eternity in Hell. As previously stated, Uganda is a nation with many religious Christian people. With the church and state being so tightly knitted with one another, the views on homosexuality have always been negative on the homosexuality community.
According to the Global Notebook, "Uganda’s homophobia is a result of deep-rooted domestic cultural issues and foreign evangelist pressure, both of which the government has been unable to address properly." (Xie) As a result homosexuals can be sentenced to death or life in prison solely of personal preference. Today not only in Uganda but as well as other countries including Nigeria and Malawi, homosexuals are beaten, stoned, and arrested immediately after being identified. Each country enacts its own laws with regard to treatment of homosexuality. Uganda, by far is very strict when it comes to laws that are implemented for homosexuals, "life imprisonment would be the minimum sentence for homosexual behavior." (Xie) Gays who have repeated homosexual "offenses", have sex with a minor, or are found to be HIV positive are automatically sentenced to the death penalty.
With Uganda’s lack of information or resources for education on homosexuality, common thought is that homosexuality is a condition that can be treated through therapy. Many Ugandans are under the impression that homosexuality is in fact a mental, or even a physical disease, which we are all aware, is not the case. Current science is now looking at genetics as a factor, which determines sexual prejudice. Global Notebook indicates that there have been many petitions that are being signed in the efforts to end the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. "On March 1, 2010, Ugandan gay right’s
activists delivered a petition signed by more than 500,000 people". Today in Uganda there is a global movement, which unites homosexuals and non-homosexuals in an effort to end the suffering of homosexuals in Uganda and throughout the world
The people of Uganda have limited access to resources that outside of the country’s borders. In March 2009, many locals attended a seminar on "Exposing the Homosexuals Agenda" that was headed by Stephen Langa. From the document titled "How US clergy brought hate to Uganda" one states that "the seminars very title revealed its claim: Gay, lesbian, bisexual, & transgender (GLBT) people and activists are engaged in a well thought-out plan to take over the world." (Kaoma) The people of Uganda, government leaders, parliamentarians, police officers, and religious leaders are taking actions as though they were Nazi soldiers in Germany during the War. In a sense, the people of Uganda are naive to the subject that is being presented to them. For anyone to believe that "legalizing homosexuality is on a par with accepting "molestation of children or having sex with animals" is absurd. (Kaoma) Yet another upsetting and disappointing aspect of current contemporary problems is that the people of Uganda are being warned that homosexuals in The United States are out to recruit other young people in order to be a part of the homosexual community and live a homosexual lifestyle. The information that is being provided to this country is corrupt.
Another example of contemporary problems is the one sided views that the lawmakers in Uganda voice. A very important example to look at in order to understand the basic views of lawmakers and government officials can be seen in the following statement that was used as a draft in legislation.
"Research indicates that the homosexuality has a variety of negative consequences including higher incidences of violence, sexually transmitted diseases, and use of drugs. The higher incidence of separation and break-up in homosexual relationships also creates a highly unstable environment for children raised by homosexuals through adoption or otherwise, and can have profound psychological consequences on those children. In addition, the promotion of homosexual behavior undermines our traditional family values." (Kaoma)
Uganda needs a change. The Ugandan citizens need to realize that they are obtaining a biased view on homosexuality. There is a whole other spectrum on the issue that has yet to been looked at yet.
The government that is run under Museveni’s rule has been in power since 1986. The government is accused of "harassing gay organizations, promoting discrimination through state media and raiding home of activists." (Cawthorne) President Museveni and his government have denied the basic rights of LGBT for his own political gains. The Ugandan government is suppressing the homosexual community and has been doing so for many years. It is stated "homosexual acts are criminalized in Uganda under a sodomy law inherited from British colonial times, although punishments were substantially strengthened". (Cawthorne)
The government of Uganda holds very strong homophobic views and does cast the homosexual community to one that needs to be eliminated and done out with. It is quite shocking to see how a government can form and alter the way its citizens view a certain type of people. Further more it is horrid that the government has the power to alter and shift the way its citizens think and view what is to be considered right and what is deemed morally incorrect.
Religious views of Uganda
"Religious leaders have publicly condemned homosexuality as an intolerable sin." (Xie) The religious make up of Uganda is a tripartite, three religions, Christianity, Islam, and the indigenous religion of Uganda form the religious complexion of the country. With roughly sixty six percent of the population considered to be Christians stemming from Roman Catholics or Anglicans. (Nation) Today pastors are preaching sermons that are filled with claims as to why the anti-homosexuality bill is needed to stay in place in order to not only to protect children, but families as well.
Many western missionaries from the United States of America are moving into Uganda in order to help preach and enforce their beliefs amongst the poorly educated, mostly illiterate population of Uganda. The beliefs that are being taught and shared to the people are fully extreme views. Spreading hate & disgust against the homosexual community is never preached about in the Bible, however these missionaries are imbedding these thoughts and beliefs into the people of Uganda’s mind.
Missionaries are preaching that homosexuality is a sin and that it is black and white in the Bible. This is why the people in Uganda have such a strong feeling as to why homosexuals should be punished by their sins. It is stated in black and white in the Bible that it is wrong; therefore the wrong should be punished and called out for their wrongdoings. However it is highly doubtable that the missionaries are preaching that it is also a sin to have round haircuts, wear garments of mixed fabrics, eat pork or shellfish, get your fortune told, and even to play with the skin of a pig. If this were the
case many more people would be sentenced to death and a lot of new acts and bills would be made in order to punish those people for sinning in other ways other than being a homosexual. To answer one of the questions I posed in the introduction I feel strongly that Western and American International groups are only intensifying the homophobic outlooks in Uganda.
The views of the Muslim population as well as the Christian population are both similar when it comes to homosexuality. The Homosexuality-Bill is not only followed by the religious Christian population but also by the population of Uganda as a whole because the country is stating that it is the "morally correct" thing to do. With the people of Uganda having such strong devotion to his or her religion as well as religious leaders preaching biased one-sided views on homosexuality the country is united with their belief in regards to the fact that homosexuals need to be eliminated as a whole.
So what do we do in order to help put an end to this inhumanly treatment of homosexuals in Uganda? Does the government need to change, do the people of Uganda need to be more accepting, and do outsider countries need to start enforcing change? Since there has been such an intense international reaction to the bill President Yowerie Museveni of Uganda needed to form a commission in order to investigate what is keeping the bill from being passed. In May 2010, the committee recommended withdrawing it, but it is still under discussion in the parliament as of February 2011. The government is still mostly standing firm behind the Anti-Homosexual Bill. Forms of homophobia are taking place on a daily base throughout the government, the work place, as well as the community.
Western Missionaries are still taking charge in trying to conform the people of Uganda to believe in Christianity. With sermons and preachers embedding very one-sided views upon the minds of the majority undereducated people of Uganda; conflict and hatred is occurring on a daily basis. Repugnance, revulsion, and disgust are the views that majority of Ugandans have towards the homosexual community. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill is just enforcing these strong feelings toward homosexuals.
The impact that colonialism had on the country has also negatively affected the views of homosexuals living in Uganda. By the looks of things it would be shocking if the people as well as the government of Uganda would totally changed their outlook on the homosexual community overnight. It is vital that neighboring countries, foreign non profit groups, human rights activists start acting diligently in order to put an end to the hatred on homosexuals in Uganda as well as and end to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. The change that needs to occur simply can not just happen overnight, but with time change can happen and a unified Uganda can blossom. If nothing is done in order to change the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, Uganda is looking like it’s heading on a path that Nazi Germany went down over 78 years ago.
Benjamin McKey is currently studying Geography with an emphasis in Gender Studies at Florida International University. His research interests consist of Queer Theory, Gender & Sexuality Studies, as well as Cultural and Critical Geography.
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