Ugandan homophobia and those “mercenary” gays

Three years ago, Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo observed that “killing them [gay people] might not be helpful“. The death sentence was indeed dropped from the bill that now awaits President Yoweri Museveni’s signature, after having been passed by their lawmakers in December.

hangthemprotectedBut that’s cold comfort to those persecuted for their sexuality – a sentence of life imprisonment can be imposed not only for gay sex, but also for “all behaviour, including touching, that might lead to or show an intention to have homosexual sex”. It gets worse, though – at least in terms of how much prejudice the Ugandan Members of Parliament are willing to flaunt: the ministerial task team advising the President on the bill “falsified the information contained in the report given by medical and psychological experts, twisting it to show that homosexuality should indeed be further criminalised“.

A concern for truth has never been a hallmark of this sort of bigotry, as you no doubt know. From claiming that homosexuality isn’t “African” (even though there’s plenty of evidence for pre-colonial same-sex sex) to Museveni’s own recent statements that people might become gay for “‘mercenary reasons’ or, in the case of lesbians, a lack of sex with men.”

In part, the blame for these fabrications and the attendant persecution can be laid at the door of American evangelical Christians, in particular Scott Lively, president of “Defend The Family International”, who thinks that homosexuality caused the Holocaust. But he’s also tapping into a rich wellspring of hatred and confusion – from David Bahati’s contempt for homosexuality (he’s the first-term MP who drafted the death-penalty version of the bill), to the current “Ethics and Integrity” Minister, who talks about “the right kind of child rape” (the heterosexual kind, of course – watch the interview starting at 35m40s in the video embedded below).

It’s laws and lawmakers like these that remind one of how far we still have to go as a species, before being remotely respectable.

By Jacques Rousseau

Jacques Rousseau teaches critical thinking and ethics at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and is the founder and director of the Free Society Institute, a non-profit organisation promoting secular humanism and scientific reasoning.