By Ogenga Latigo
The law could not be a “Christmas gift” because it lacks the compassion and love of Jesus Christ for sinners
When Ndorwa MP David Bahati introduced the ‘Anti Homosexuality Bill’ in Parliament in 2009, the country was abuzz with excitement and loud support of the bill. Then, I, Andrew Mwenda and few other Ugandans urged understanding and caution and counselled against legislating with emotion, prejudice and blunt insensitivity. Given the violent hostility shown towards homosexuals as a result of the Bill, we had hoped that, with sobriety, the Bill would be left to die in the 8th Parliament. This unfortunately was not to be!
When the Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, defended Uganda’s right to legislate on homosexuality at the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) meeting in Canada this October, passion for the Bill erupted as never before. Ugandans told off the western world how homosexuality was alien to our culture and how we are ready to forego their foreign aid and even die defending our cultural and religious purity.
On her return, Speaker Kadaga was welcomed as a national heroine. In an unprecedented prayer in Parliament, MPs joined hands with Christian fundamentalists such as Pastor Martin Ssempa- an avid campaigner for the Bill- and Moslem sheiks in praise of God for the gift of Kadaga. On her part, the Speaker promised that Parliament would enact the anti-homosexuality law “as a Christmas gift” to Ugandans.
Of course, in defending Uganda’s position on the Bill in Canada, Speaker Kadaga was absolutely right and her stand was that of a true Ugandan patriot. However, taking the prayer to Parliament by religious proponents of the Bill and her promise to them raised obvious disquiet. Also, looking at the vitriolic response of some Ugandans to the compassionate appeal by Archbishop Desmond Tutu (“Tutu Urges Uganda to Drop Bid to Jail Homosexuals” The Red Pepper, 9th December 2012), one must worry for our country.
Rather than this Bill being an objective and considered response to a national challenge, the process is now one of blind emotion and prejudice driven by fundamentalist Christians- with their Pharisaic claims of unblemished religious goodness and ‘holier than thou’ attitude. More importantly, it has become a real national tragedy- of denial and hiding of our moral guilt; of hate campaign against unfortunate members of our society; of exposure of Parliament; and of delusion and our swimming against the tide of world change.
Firstly, the excessive zeal of religious fundamentalists and other Ugandans against homosexuality is hypocritical and a reflex denial of our moral decay. With accusations of homosexuality against prominent Christian preachers in Uganda, paedophilia amongst Catholic priests and ordination of homosexual Protestant bishop and priests in Europe and America, inauguration of a mosque to serve homosexual Moslems in France etc., and our sad failure to prevent and actively rally against permissiveness (kimansulo, prostitution), witchcraft and corruption that now pervade our country, who amongst us has the moral or religious standing to “throw the first stone”?
The truth is that homosexuality is a social phenomenon that hinges on both a person’s genetic constitution and the social environment to which one is exposed, and is as old as humanity. Contrary to the lies peddled by defenders of the Bill, homosexually oriented people have always been part of our African society. In my Acholi community, they were never out-rightly rejected but were instead quietly helped to cope. A wife was acquired for such person and the individual supported to lead normal sexual and family life. Even the story of Kabaka Mwanga and his martyrdom of Christians has a homosexuality twist to it.
It must also be reiterated and made clear that homosexuality is completely different from sexual abuses by perverted and mentally deranged men who sexually molest babies, lure and sexually abuse young girls and boys (the Mubiru way), rape fellow men or even practice bestiality. Rather than the compassion, love and care in normal same sex relationships, theirs is abomination and heartache that no culture on earth tolerates. Accepting these realities is the first step to finding right solutions to our challenges of homosexuality.
Secondly, the Bill as it is- “Anti-homosexuality Bill”- is no more than a hate piece of legislation. If we had recognised the genetic basis of homosexuality but sought to minimise its spread due to changing social environment, our approach and Bill would have been different. A “Prevention of the Propagation of Homosexuality Bill” would be the right bill. We would focus on mechanisms and effects, and craft appropriate policies and legal measures to protect society and help victims- but not this prejudice, false moralisation and hate campaign.
Thirdly, the promotion of any Bill, no matter how urgent it is, must not undermine the standing of Parliament and the neutrality of the Speaker. In this particular case where the Speaker already promised the outcome of the Bill before due process and parliamentary debate, how will Parliament avoid being labelled a mere “Rubber Stamp” and how will the image of the Speakership as neutral be sustained?
Lastly, other than enacting laws that truly address our challenges and can be effectively implemented without societal disruption, we must stop deluding ourselves that the Anti-homosexuality Bill is our God approved contribution to the world’s fight against moral decay- the new Sodom and Gomorrah! For, we are but a tiny and largely inconsequential part of this world with no capacity to swim against its tide. Why don’t we instead learn from President Joyce Banda of Malawi who even after ascending to the presidency by the Grace of God still went ahead to suspend Malawi’s homosexuality law in order to give “all” her citizens the equal dignity they rightly deserve in spite their unfortunate sexual orientation?
Yes, Parliament can enact the anti-homosexuality law but it will not be a “Christmas gift” to this country. For, Jesus Christ who was born on Christmas Day was a Christ of compassion and love, a sacrifice for sinners, and a Christ to heal and redeem but not condemn and sow hatred. That is my Christ and of the meek. Merry Christmas to you all.
Prof. Morris Ogenga-Latigo is a former Leader of Opposition in the 8th Parliament.