Sunday 14th of February 2016 05:27:42 PM

You buy the Truth, we pay the Price

The politics of the anti-gay bill

E-mail Print PDF

Why the anti homosexuality law is most likely going to be used for political rather than moral reasons

Finally President Yoweri Museveni has “yielded” to the advice of “our scientists” to sign the anti homosexual bill. Most Ugandan elites who were cheering him on social media missed the entire purpose of the circus in Kyankwazi. The NRM MPs, in exchange for Museveni’s acceptance to sign the bill, “urged” him to stand for yet another term – unopposed. This is the kind of bargaining that democratic politics is made of. However, the supporters of this law, who are the vast majority of Ugandans, do not appreciate the danger they are courting giving the state such powers.

Although the law is written to prosecute homosexuals, its actual application is most likely going to be persecution of political opponents. Sex is a very private activity – normally not done in public view.

The sexual activity that this law is meant to curb – sex among consenting adults – is one the prosecution cannot prove. This is because proving a crime requires evidence, often supported by an eyewitness. So one party must be willing to “spill the beans” for the prosecution to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that a sex act happened. Since such witnesses will be nonexistent, prosecutors will have to rely on “circumstance and opportunity” to prove the guilt of the offender.

I know there are websites of Ugandan youth in homosexual acts – so here police will have evidence. However, such acts have already been criminalised under the Anti-pornography law – another of those laws that shows that our politicians, having failed to serve the interests of the citizen are now relying on cultural bigotry to bolster their political fortunes. However, beyond this small circle of victims, it is almost impossible to enforce this law.

Hence the only cases where this law can actually work “as intended” is for defilement and rape. Yet such cases do not actually require a law specifically made for homosexuals – they cover heterosexuals as well. Consenting sexual partners have a double coincidence of benefit (both enjoy the act) and have equally a double coincidence of criminality (both are liable to life imprisonment). So none of them has an incentive to reveal the other.

Those who support homosexual rights have missed the real point of this law. They have spread alarm and fear that police will be visiting people’s bedrooms and opening their bed sheets to see which person is indulging in a homosexual act. Yet, as Ugandans, we know that our police does chase after criminals who harm others by stealing their property, assaulting them etc. Our traffic police officers watch indifferently as boda boda riders run through red lights causing accidents. And of course the state looks on as public officials loot pubic funds with reckless abandon. Therefore, I do not see the Uganda police enthusiastically running after people whose acts generally harm no one.

It seems to me the anti homosexual law was passed in order to serve our public’s prejudices or help our MPs score political points. The real danger is not the law per se but the opportunities it opens up for the state.

Once in place, the law will likely be used by the state to persecute and humiliate its critics – whether they are gay or straight.

Given the stigma very many Ugandans attach on homosexuals, it will become increasingly attractive for NRM handlers to accuse their enemies of being homosexual.

There has been unanimity of opinion among a broad cross section of Ugandan elites in favour of a law against homosexuals. They denounce gays for indulging in unchristian (or unislamic or ungodly), unnatural, unAfrican and immoral acts.

Yet these same Ugandan elites indulge in all manner of sin on a daily basis like fornication, adultery, lies, envy and greed. Should the state legislate life sentences for all these sins? Is Uganda a theocracy that should have a state, armed with a religious police as happens in Saudi Arabia, enforcing God’s will on earth?

Incidentally, those who argue that homosexuality is unAfrican do not produce any evidence from our traditions and culture that prohibited it and the punishment society meted out to offenders. Those who argue that homosexuality is unnatural claim this is because it does not lead to procreation. Yet men can sleep with men for pleasure and sleep with women to rear babies. Besides, even a stupid scientist knows that nature is not purposeful. Whatever physical and psychological functions we possess evolved randomly. So the idea that same gender sex is unnatural is scientifically a very stupid argument.

The most important argument against homosexuality is neither religious (should we subject non believers to religious views they do not subscribe to) nor scientific (as I have argued above) nor the defense of tradition. It is the issue of morality. One can legitimately criticize Western countries for trying to enforce a harmony of sexual morality. Our societies find homosexuality immoral, and morality is arbitrary like nature; many of its tenets cannot survive if subjected to the test of reason. However, it is not the role of the state to legislate morality. If homosexuality is immoral, it should be left to families, churches, mosques and the clans to handle.

Surprisingly, church and mosque leaders in Uganda want to use the repressive machinery of the state to enforce God’s will. Even if, just for argument’s sake, I accepted the “homosexuality-as-immoral” argument, it would still mean that our religious leaders and moral guardians of our clans have failed in their duty to promote good moral standing. In any case, many morals in our society have crumbled. Therefore, picking, choosing, and criminalising one while ignoring others is absurd.

The most important point however is that state has little interest in morality. And in the specific case of Uganda, our state has even much less interest in enforcing morality – even policing crime generally. The state in Uganda is most vigilant when the political fortunes of the NRM and Museveni are at risk.

One has only to witness how enthusiastically the police keep opposition activist Kizza Besigye under watch as criminals elsewhere go scot-free to see what I am talking about.

Therefore, the only role the anti homosexual law will serve is not as an instrument of enforcing morality but of persecuting critics.

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Comments (21)Add Comment
written by Benon, March 03, 2014
For the times I have listened to you for years now, the relevance of your argument on the Homosexuality bill may just be one of the most reasonable, unbiased and progressive discourses you have made.
thank you Andrew.

written by SIMUTI FUDIL, March 03, 2014
tumbaavu, u idiot bringing flimsy reasons to defend ur deeds. I wish the law starts on you and prove ur words. I dont know how much they pay you but you are really very stupidsmilies/grin.gif. and I wonder what police is waiting to arrest you, you deserve to be in prison for your life
written by SIMUTI FUDIL, March 03, 2014
i still continue to wonder why NTV,!!!! out of all the reasonable people in this country continues to give you that precious time to spoil the nation...... I really wonder!!!!!!
written by Rajab Kakyama, March 03, 2014
I will quote Orhan Pamuk "Will the West, which takes its great invention, democracy, more seriously than the word of God, come out against this coup that has brought an end to democracy in Kars? ... Or are we to conclude that democracy, freedom and human rights don't matter, that all the West wants is for the rest of the world to imitate like monkeys? Can the West endure any democracy achieved by enemies who in no way resemble them?
written by Denis, March 03, 2014
Andrew, I think all these arguments are diversionary, I have disagreed with Museveni & his policies many times but on this particular one, he's got some sense in him. I believe this is for the future of our children.
written by 4ABetterUganda, March 03, 2014
The police will of course not enforce Bahati's law. They will just connive with sinful pastors in some cases to persecute some people. They will also do the same things they have been doing to politicians: arrest them on Friday evening when they cannot secure bail, and arrest them before doing any investigation, to just keep them in cells knowing that a conviction is impossible. I agree that foolish NRM politicians have made this law for themselves: they will be forced to support Mr. Museveni for ever, lest they be accused of being homosexuals. This may, in fact, be why Museveni signed the law. What saddens me is that a few poor Ugandans will also be accidental victims.
written by joma, March 03, 2014
Some fellows here, because they can't reason, quickly resort to attacking Andrew personally, with insults! Think, think and think for yourself! Stop believing in fairy tales and lies politicians tell you!
written by byabazaire, March 04, 2014
Andrew on this one i agree with you. i know you are in support of no aid to Uganda because, according to you, aid leads to complacence. Still it is a fact that as the west cuts off aid or grants many Ugandans are going to suffer, and not only public servants who earn salaries partly through aid money given as budgetary support but even the traders who they buy commodities from. Every regime has its Achilles heel (may be apart from North Korean regime) and this one could be M7s. On the other hand it might be M7 propulsion to greater heights whereby when he starts selling 'his' oil from Lake Albert he won't be beholden to the west. we are in for very interesting times or should i say difficult times!
written by Semakula David, March 04, 2014
Andrew you are aging and sadly instead of accumulating wisdom, you are becoming a fool. It is an old adage that if you cannot be transformed by truth, you will be converted by trouble. I pity you Andrew.
written by OPIO, March 05, 2014
when president Amama 'Nsereko' Mbabazi takes over power in 2016, he's promised to repeal this crazy bill becoz its unnecesarry and already on the statute books anyway. Soon NEC will comfirm Amama as our NRM flagbearer and also dispel the amateurish plans by the kyankwanzi club 9 outfit of kids who were influenced by the out-going president 2 rape our constitution. The bill will then be dropped and much needed aid restored 2 our poor pple in villages who depend on it due 2 lack of gov't services. Contrary to M7-family campaign manager Mwenda 's rubbish claims, donor aid is still needed becoz even Malaysia, Indonesia S.Africa still get western aid when they'r even far developed than us.That's the promise of president Amama 'Nsereko' Mbabazi 2 pple of Uganda and our devt patners
written by ojfrog, March 05, 2014
Now more than before I have come to the painful conclusion that Uganda is a homophobic state. Just read the posts from your tweeter and Facebook pals, horrifying confessions of this illness. A conversation with colleagues in office won't last half a second before I am branded a gay activist. I keep asking those I have had this talk with: "Have you ever been approached by a gay person for sex?" Most except one said "NO". Then I ask "If you were, would you accept their advances?" Again a majority subconsciously reply "NO, never! Am not gay".
written by ojfrog, March 05, 2014
So my closing question is "So why the hatred for those of age who say yes?” And like a swarm of bees the replies swirl in unconvincingly..... "It's against the teaching of the bible...” “It’s against Ugandan cultures..”"It's unnatural....”
"How come other animals don't practice it?" "It is a tactic by the western world to control Africa's population growth in a bid to derail the continent's economic progress....” The last one I kind of like but just like most corridor talk, another conspiracy theory. Majority of colleagues I have put this last question to, simply laugh, say nothing or call me some sort of name(s).
written by ojfrog, March 05, 2014
Then there is the homophobic group who attempt to sound critical, often raising issues they consider socially immoral. These are but not limited to the recruitment and molestation of young humans (by Ugandan law 17 and below). The common accusations refer to groups promoting, recruiting and bribing young males and females into the practice.....I have no evidence against this except that I attended a single boys’ secondary school for my o-level and I never not even once experienced this rather tempting offer. No doubt there were talks about gay students then. Mine is simple; it is illegal to molest, defile or rape anyone - be they same sex or not and I support that such criminals should be brought to book.
written by ojfrog, March 05, 2014
However, to insinuate that such crimes committed against opposite sex are less criminal than when committed against same sex is pretentious and unjustifiable.
Men who molest, defile and rape females should face the same punishment had they committed these crimes against fellow men. The same applies to women.
About two consenting adults, I pose the question again; "So why the hatred for those of age who say yes?”
written by Winnie, March 05, 2014
The next war government has to wage is to force etiquette and behavior among all Ugandans.those whose parents were Teachers,Reverends,Civil Servants,Pilots,Doctors Lawyers,Ambassadors have manners.what do you expect of Sumuti and Semakula who could have been a result of cross marriage between a chapati seller and a boboda guy? Andrew's CV is so rich companies just fight to have him some of these achievements Andrew has made is beyond his control. the Katikiro is a shaming us lawyers the guy can beg for money who would pay to visit the tombs just see spears in this day and age.
written by Marvin ya Kuku, March 06, 2014
ojfrog you have a point but you cannot force a society to accept big change very fast especially if they have been conditioned to think a certain way for generations and are, in this modern age, under poor governance structures. The west, until recently, had dubious ideas about race and gays too. The west was forced by democracy to honor all its citizens. Until we get somewhere close to democratic africa, we shall always have scapegoats like homos and "unafrican people" to blame - even if it is done subconciously or with flawed logic marketed as noble intentions.
written by Enoq, March 06, 2014
Well, for starters, Uganda’s penal code has a full chapter (Chapter 14) in which government regulates morality – ranging from incest, bestiality, brothels, prostitution, elopement, adultery etc. This has been the case for many years and I doubt this is the time to raise the argument or protest against government regulating morality….
written by Jimmy, March 06, 2014
" Besides, even a stupid scientist knows that nature is not purposeful... So the idea that same gender sex is unnatural is scientifically a very stupid argument."

Andrew Mwenda, you still have a lot to learn about science. Even if you take a casual observation, you will notice that nature has a purpose, which is to perpetuate and multiply life through male-female intercourse. Homosexuals are products of nurture. They cannot multiply on their own, without recruitment. Neither can they prove that they and their biological parents are carriers of homosexual genes. This is the reason why happen to be many in "democratic" countries that tolerate or encourage homosexuality.
written by Don, March 06, 2014
Conservatives have a habit of throwing a tantrum whenever something that challenges their held beliefs props up. But the liberals always win! In the end, homosexuality will be an acceptable and respectable sexual preference and all this kicking and screaming will die down slowly but sure.

I must say it is a well reasoned and lucid piece. Thank you for the bold stand. I don't know if it's our education system, religion, or poverty or lack of imagination or self hate. But I know that one thing is for sure, there is an insane lack of reasoning in this country Uganda.
written by Achilleskim, March 06, 2014
Andrew you would not be holding such rich attention of many if you did not commit to
advance such intelligent and free of emotions argents. You are one among the very few Ugandans who have managed to apply reason and sobriety towards this homophobic law. Many others including yours truly have intimidated by the majority that before we raise our low voices, we are forced to begin with a disclaimer that we are not homosexual. Courage and bravo.
written by Semakula David, March 18, 2014
Winnie, I warn you a second time. You need a strong tamer; that is who you lack. No wonder you are disoriented. For your information, my parents were God-fearing and I was born in a God-worshipping family and least until the country became crowded and we started liaising with the likes of you... who were corrupt from conception t adulthood and have seen no profit in reforming. It is people like who have made this country poor because the cost of Public Administration is shooting through the roof.... you are liabilites who should be sold if buyer there is.

Write comment


NTV Newsnight