By Dr. Ian Clarke.
The few members of Parliament who were present to pass the anti-Gay bill looked pleased with themselves, and no doubt the Speaker is happy that she has finally delivered her ‘present to Ugandans’, but the consequences of this bill will be bad for us all
While I understand the wish of parents to protect their children from what is perceived as a ‘western evil’, this is not the way to go about it.
I have children and grandchildren whom I wish to protect from any evil, but I am totally against a bill which victimises other human beings, just because of their sexual orientation.
The proponents of the bill have sold it on the basis that Uganda must defend traditional and family values against the western gay lobby, who are seeking to recruit our young people.
They have made the argument that being gay is against the natural order, and we as Ugandans must make a strong stand against this ‘western’ evil.
The arguments have been laced with colourful homophobic descriptions and illustrations of ‘depravity’, which has been eagerly taken up by the tabloid press, and gained a populist following.
Most Ugandans don’t understand two important factors behind this debate.
The first is that the anti-gay lobby is being heavily influenced by the American evangelical lobby, through such pastors as Martin Sempa, certain bishops in the Church of Uganda, and parliamentarians such as David Bahati.
The second is that the moral outrage being voiced against Uganda in the west is primarily about human rights, it is not a gay lobby.
The two foremost Christians who have commented are Pope Francis, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Pope Francis did not condemn gays, but rather said ‘If a homosexual person is of goodwill and is in search of God, I am no one to judge’ – like Jesus who said about the prostitute ‘let him who is without sin cast the first stone’.
Archbishop Tutu commented that ‘to persecute people because of their sexual orientation is every bit as unjust as that crime against humanity – apartheid’.
In other words, the world has moved on to see gays as human beings, who have the same rights as the rest of us.
The most recent figure to come forward to advocate sanctions against Uganda is Sir Richard Branston.
This man is not gay, but is appalled that any country could pass draconian laws against their citizens, because of their sexual preference.
Uganda and the rest of the world seem to be having two different conversations.
Ugandans claim to be worried about the influence of gays on their children, while western leaders see the anti-gay bill as a major infraction of basic human rights.
Opinions have been skillfully manipulated within Uganda by a well meaning and vocal Christian lobby, while the speaker Honourable Rebecca Kadaga, has recognised this is a populist issue and jumped on the bandwagon.
Other saner politicians have sounded a note of caution, because they are concerned for the overall effect on the country.
Internationally, Uganda has struggled with a poor image for decades, first because of Idi Amin, then civil war, and most recently Joseph Kony and the LRA.
We are just getting our head above water now, do we wish to have another self-inflicted injury by branding ourselves as the homophobic capital of the world?
The gay bashing, that many are indulging in so gleefully, shows a darker side of Ugandans leaving us wide open to international scorn and criticism.
The bill is ill thought through, almost impossible to implement and will achieve nothing, apart from giving Ugandans a reputation as homophobic.
Is this what Uganda needs right now?
Is gay bashing so important to the national agenda? There are other questions we also need to raise?
Was there a quorum in Parliament? Is this bill in line with individual rights under our constitution?
And was this just another example of more populist ‘politics’, which in the end will hurt us all?
We can only hope that the President will show statesmanship when he deals with this bill – which is defined as impartial concern for the public good.