By Joan Akello and Ian Katusiime
West Budama MP Fox Odoi who is one of the petitioners to challenge the Anti-Homosexuality law in the Constitutional Court, spoke to Joan Akello and Ian Katusiime about the gay issue
What is the spirit of this petition?
The spirit of this petition is rooted in the fallacy in the Anti-Homosexuality Act. Apparently it was tabled as a Private Members Bill and the object of the bill was to protect the African traditional family; children and minors against acts of homosexuality. This is the starting point of disagreement. We believe that it’s a dishonest position, fallacious and very unscientific and in fact a red herring. If you want to protect the traditional African family, the biggest threat to the family is not homosexuality, it is something totally different. 99.9% of Ugandans are heterosexual. They get into heterosexual relationships and marriage. 100 percent of the divorce cases in Uganda in heterosexual marriages are not occasioned by the fact that either spouse wants to engage in a homosexual relationship. They divorce for other reasons.
Court records from 1990 to date, indicate that not one divorce case or marriage break up had homosexuality as a ground. The causes were adultery, cruelty, and adultery here meaning that one person getting involved in another heterosexual relationship. There is not one case.
What are the main areas of contention in your petition?
Well our arguments are legalistic. The enactment of the Anti Homosexuality Act was without quorum in the House which was in contravention of Article 2 (1) & (2), 88 and 94 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda and Rule 23 of the Parliamentary Rules of Procedure. Also sections 1, 2 and 4 of the Anti Homosexuality Act in defining and criminalising consensual same sex among adults in private, are in contravention of the right to equality before the law without any discrimination and the right to privacy guaranteed under Articles 2 (1) & (2), 21 (1) (2) & (4) and 27 of the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda respectively. Also Section 2 (1) (c) of the Act that criminalises touching by persons of the same sex creates an offence that is overly broad and in contravention of the principle of legality under the Constitution. Then imposing a life sentence for homosexuality provides a disproportionate punishment for the offence in contravention to the right of equality and freedom from cruel and degrading punishment under the same constitution. The Act in criminalising consensual same sex among adults in which one person is living with HIV/AIDS is contrary to the freedom of discrimination guaranteed by our Constitution.
Proponents of this law say homosexuals should not be allowed to corrupt the morals of our society. Are they?
Another lie that has been spread to Uganda over the last four years is that this law is to protect marauding predatory homosexuals. This is neither scientific nor true because there is no evidence to back up this claim. It’s a blatant lie being thrown at Ugandans. These people think we are stupid, gullible or incapable of making research. If you look at all the offenses reported in respect to minors, top on the list is defilement, 100% of the cases are in respect of heterosexual paedophiles; a man sleeping with a minor female child. Right now the Court of Appeal is going to try 33 cases of defilement; all of them are in respect of heterosexual relationship with minors. That is paedophilia. Straight men sleeping with minor girls, not one is homosexual. What about adult females sleeping with minor boys?
That is negligible, people would never complain. It is still wrong but this society does not find it offensive. I find it offensive. At the High court, all the cases of defilement are adult males sleeping with minor girls hence illegal heterosexual relationships. I have canvassed all police stations in Kampala metropolitan looking for any report of an adult male who has defiled a minor male and I have not found any. That is not to say that I have not found cases of alleged homosexuality, in about four of them, it was about adults complaining about other adults. So it is not correct to say that we need to protect our children from homosexuals but not from the heterosexuals. I have two boys and two girls and protect them like a lion would protect its curb and expect every parent to do the same. I would back up any law to protect them because they are legally incapable of consenting. Biologically, they are not ready for sex. They deserve our protection as a society. But does this law protect them? Certainly not. The people we need to protect our children from are heterosexuals and not this law that is being touted as the magic bullet for protecting our kids. So from the beginning, the law was premised on a disingenuous position.
It is estimated that there are 500,000 homosexual Ugandans; are they not a threat to children?
They are less than that, probably less than 100,000 so how can they out of 37 million Ugandans be the problem? The problem of this society, a basis for our petition, we can prove that the problem in Uganda is not homosexuality. We can prove that the problem in Uganda is homophobia.
There is no free and democratic society that would determine for any adult male or female whom to love or hate by legislation. If you believe in freedom and democracy you must as of necessity learn to respect private spaces of adults, private choices those adults make. If two adults of the same sex decide to fall in love, my position is that it can never be a matter for their neighbour, neither for the state nor for legislation.
Given the level of homophobia should you even be looking at a court petition?
Let me take you back to the mistakes of the majorities. If you asked anybody in Germany in 1937 whether a Jew was a human being, the answer would be no. Hitler had made them believe that Jews were the cause of all their problems and this also applied to Gypsies and blacks. Hitler used the same arguments to protect; the traditional family values, culture and their supposed pure race. Not so long ago in the 70’s, if you told anybody in South Africa that Black people had the same mental faculties or even the same biological composition as whites, they would not believe it. Instead the whites came up with legislation that required them to live apart and that it was illegal for a black man to sleep with a white woman. Such sentiments, for example, that it offends nature or God never intended it that way are dangerous. Ugandans live in a state of fear because they fear homosexuals. But for me I fear living with homophobic people. If you have a society that fears that a few members can be different, then know you are living close to hell. We are heading there if this law goes unchallenged. How can the tiniest minority be the problem?
Observers say that the Constitutional Court is made up of ‘cadre’ judges and that therefore this petition is a dead end.
I do not think anybody can successfully interfere with a judicial process. I know judges are independent minded. You see a lot of lies are peddled in the media about individuals and that has been a problem in this country for a very long time. I have been in and out of court over very many issues and I have been given justice. There are times I have won and there are times I have lost. When I have lost I have reassessed my case, looked at the judgement and more often than not, agreed. When I have disagreed I have appealed and probably won.
Critics argue that homosexuals are recruiting people into the act. What do you have to say?
At a certain age human beings become sexually active. It is a factor of the genes. If you are locked up in a community where there are only men and your body is acting up and you have genes that tend towards liking of the same sex, you will become sexually active you do not have to be recruited. If you want a totally heterosexual society then never have same sex schools. And that is not to say that everyone who goes to mixed schools will turn out to be heterosexual. So the problem is not that homosexuals are recruiting. It is that people spreading this are just primitive.
Do you think the people of West Budama will re-elect you into office now that you are against this popular law?
I will be re-elected by the people of West Budama. I will explain to them that I refused to sign onto lies, I refused to misdiagnose the problem and instead I have the solution. I will be re-elected. But even if I am not re-elected, it will be a price worth paying. You remember the people of West Budama are a minority so I have to caution them. Every time you see powerful people not caring for the weak, you should fear them. Now I am beginning to fear heterosexuals. I do not see a difference between them and the framers of apartheid.