By Ariel Rubin
A recent car accident has not quieted opposition leader Morris Latigo, who sat down recently with The Independent’s Ariel Rubin for a discussion about problems inherent in the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009’ and his own anxieties and hopes for 2011.
What were your thoughts when you first heard about the ‘Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009’ being tabled in Parliament?
Hon. Bahati had mentioned he had prepared something like that. I was wondering, what are we fundamentally trying to address? Is it homosexuality perse? If this was the question, do we just plunge into a legislative process or do we first go and look at why it is happening, what the trends are, and what are the projections. Once we know the elements of what is going on, then we can talk in terms of programmes we can put in place to address the challenge. Therefore knowing that that kind of study has not formed the basis of this legislation, I have a broad objection.
With the social transformation that Uganda is undergoing, so many Ugandans live in the Diaspora, so many foreigners now living here, the economy is liberalising, social attitudes are liberalising; is homosexuality an issue that you can stop with legislation?
This bill is something Dr Sylvia Tamale already talked about. We have adequate laws that will deal with homosexuality in such a way that it doesn’t become a ‘public menace’ if you want to call it that. Knowing what has been happening, you would be hard-pressed to point out an individual in the streets of Kampala to say ‘that is a homosexual’, because they don’t portray it. They know the law will get them. Now if they don’t portray it, then what is your new law going to do, that the existing law doesn’t cover already? Then some of the proposed penalties are absolutely outrageous. Death penalty! Bahati is supposed to be a religious man and Jesus says do not judge, so that you will not be judged. And you declare homosexuality a mortal sin, and that a human life deserves to be taken. It is absurd.Those behind this law do not understand anything about homosexuality.
Then of course there is the element that Andrew Mwenda wrote about. What is the science of homosexuality? Is it a biological phenomenon? And if it is the dormant gene, which is the matter in sexually reproducing organisms, you get homosexuality in cattle, in chickens, in everything. If it is the genetic phenomenon arising from the genetic or social constitution of a person, do you address it with death? Or do you address it by addressing the root cause?
Pastor Martin Ssempa, Bahati and Nsaba Buturo all talk about how homosexuality almost as a form of neo-imperialism. They claim it is a decadent thing that comes from the West and thus cannot be tolerated in African society.
That is not true. I knew about homosexuality long before this moral decadence that has followed the NRM. If you agree to steal, to an extent that you allow corruption, open theft of public goods and money to be the norm, then who are you to condemn those who are not even harming society? You have not condemned and acted on those who are actually physically harming society. Just think about how many people have been punished because the government funds were stolen. Think about how much health funds could have done to our people! How much the education funds could have done to our people! Compare that to those who by genetic inclination, and I believe because I am a scientist, engage in homosexuality.
How do you think this bill, if it is passed, will become a tool for intimidation especially before the 2011 elections?
It is a very good bill in terms of opening up possibilities for mischief in Ugandan politics. It is just wrong to pass legislation that is not founded on solid facts and clear objectives. That is the problem with this bill. I think that this debate that has come out in the media must be expanded so that the anxiety and excitement about this bill is killed and the rationale becomes stronger.
Right now in Parliament, are things being dealt with rationally or it is it more hyper and emotionally-charged?
Bills like this go to a committee, and I plan to go before the committee and present my case to them and to tell them that this is something that is not right. The country doesn’t need it at this stage. For example you cannot legislate that there will be no smoking in this country. But you can say you cannot smoke in public and by pushing those away where you cannot smoke. You confine smoking to an area where society is not harmed to allow those who are smokers to enjoy their right to smoke. It is a free choice.
Bahati said that if homosexuality were legalised and gay marriage were allowed, then ‘œour moral fiber will be torn down’ and ‘œsociety would be in chaos’. But this happens in countries like Canada and Denmark, and society has not broken down, quite to the contrary. Given the fears of an unsustainable population increase in Uganda, with estimates that in 21 years the population of this country will double, why is the fear so pervasive that society will break down and people won’t have any more children?
I give this example of the Land Amendment Act, it’s just inflatable that President Museveni only relies on the economy. This bill is to protect bona fide occupants, to show economic problems that mean a person who has a quarter of an acre around Kampala can no longer survive on it. And that those who have money will look for land to invest. You cannot stop that.
So it is just absurd that you know the objective of this Land Act is about making it look like there’s a new agenda that the president can rally the Buganda around him. Because he tried poverty and it didn’t work. Then he says okay, I know the majority of the Baganda are bona fide occupants, and so if I create a war about land and I’m on their side, they will be on my side on election day. We really need to tell this country that this is a deceit, there is no war.
How does this fit into the broader ways in which government has handled other social difficulties?
Well you know I could say that the challenges that we are faced with since the NRM came to power comes from the contradiction that follows the development path that they have chosen. If you liberalise, know that you are not just liberalising the economy, you are liberalising everything and there are consequences. So if you pursue a free market system, people will begin to believe they have a right to their freedom and your challenge therefore is to proactively map out what the consequences of that freedom for our society will be. A proactive government would then put in place a campaign program, an action program, and a policy framework to address the potential consequences. Now when you do that, the benefit of liberalization can then be maximally used to start development and change society. But when you take on one aspect of it and damn the consequences, then the consequences will come to damn you.