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Uganda’s Great Gay Lie – Ready for an Honest Discussion about Homosexuality?

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Entebbe, Ju...
President Museveni, Uganda

Melanie Nathan, January 30, 2011.

Last week we reported extensively in real time, on the events surrounding the activism and ultimate last minute injunction by a Court in the United Kingdom, to halt the deportation of Brenda Namigadde, a Ugandan Lesbian, as she was about to board the Virgin Atlantic flight back to the Uganda.

While Brenda’s case was at the height of last minute advocacy, the danger of her return to Uganda was exacerbated by tragic and brutal murder of gay rights activist and leader,  David Kato. The topic of homosexuality is gaining momentum in Uganda as the time draws closer for the likely introduction of further anti-gay legislation.

Currently the  act of homosexual sex is considered a crime in Uganda as being against the “order of nature.”  Until US Christian Evangelical elements in Uganda began preaching against homosexuality, using derogatory images and terms, the Ugandan people were not at all focused on the issue.  Immediately following the Scott Lively tapes, Ugandan Christian Evangelical parliamentarian, David Bahati, drafted what became known as the “kill the gays bill.”  The idea of the Bill, which is still pending introduction into Uganda’s parliament, is to endorse homosexuality as a crime, taking it beyond the “against the order of nature” term which could be subject to interpretation, and making it clear and certain.

The Bill then seeks to include hefty punishments for homosexuals and lesbians including death for “repeat offenders” and life in prison.   It also seeks to force people, such as friends and family, to report gays and lesbians, failing which they shall be considered complicit in the crime.

The possibility of this legislation has gained a great deal of international consternation and with last week’s ‘s statements by President Barack Obama and Secretary of State, Hilary Rodham Clinton, condemning the death of David Kato, even more attention is being drawn to the danger of such a bill.

The Ugandan Daily Monitor today is suggesting a conversation about homosexuality in Uganda asserting:

“While such legislation (Referring to David Bahati’s  anti-homosexuality bill) might serve as a deterrent, it will not eliminate homosexuality and might cement the discrimination of sexual minorities.

Holding puritanical and extreme views on the matter, whether liberal or conservative, will divide us, rather than help us find a mutually acceptable compromise.

The homosexuality question in Uganda has two major flaws. First is that a lot of the debate is shouted down from extreme positions of moral self-righteousness; as a result there is little common understanding among those who oppose gay rights and those who advocate for them.

What we need is an honest national dialogue on homosexuality in order to forge a consensus on the rights of those Ugandans who choose to be gay and those who oppose homosexuality as a lifestyle.

Secondly, a lot of the debate is carried out or influenced by foreign actors – both in favour of and against homosexuality.”

I spoke to David Bahati in a series of conversations in the last few weeks.  Mr Bahati told me that “homosexuality is not a human right in Uganda.”  He told me that because Uganda is a sovereign country, that no other country has a right to interfere with its internal laws.

When I spoke to the US State department, a spokesperson told me that the US will continue to make it known that it objects to the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda and the anti-gay sentiment.

While today it was somewhat refreshing to note that the local news, is calling for discussion, after speaking to the author of the Bill, it would seem the legislation is imminent and that it relies on one lie which can only subvert any honest discussion.  It is the one big Ugandan gay lie that must be eradicated before there can be an honest discussion and this the article fails to address.

The lie perpetuated as the so called “reason” for the legislation is in David Bahati’s words to me: ” The homosexuals are recruiting our children in the schools. We must protect our children from them.  It is our duty to protect our children- Homosexual behavior is chosen and not inborn. I have evidence to prove this.” Bahati also told me that yes indeed he has based his Bill on his religious views.

It would seem that I am in good company when I say that Mr. Bahati owes me the evidence he promised to e-mail to me…. I believe Rachel Maddow is also waiting for the same evidence he promised her of so called recruitment – on her show when she interviewed Bahati.

The only way there can ever be an honest discussion about homosexuality in Uganda would be to discredit the rhetoric and lies perpetuated by David Bahati and the christian evangelical movement in Uganda and abroad.    It is my hope that other religions present in Uganda and abroad will step forward and speak out against the precursor to what could amount to a genocide in Africa.

By Melanie Nathan
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