Why it’s a costly waste of time for Ugandans
Kampala, Uganda | RONALD MUSOKE | Father Simon Lokodo, the ethics and integrity Minister’s planned re-introduction of the anti-homosexuality bill in Parliament has been described by human rights activists as “a waste of time and an unmitigated self-inflicted disaster for Uganda.”
Dr. Frank Mugisha, the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda and Andrew Mwenda, a veteran Ugandan journalist were among the petitioners who successfully challenged the anti-homosexuality Act, 2014, in the Constitutional Court.
“I feel Ugandans are tired of this talk; we don’t see Ugandans go on streets to demand for an anti-homosexuality bill,” Mugisha said, “So the question we are asking is why now?”
Mugisha also wondered why, following the negative press Uganda suffered five years ago when Parliament attempted to pass the bill, the MPs want the country to attract the same backlash.
Mwenda added: “Uganda already has a law criminalizing homosexuality; the Penal Code already has provisions against unnatural sex. Why add this law especially when you know that this law offends your partners?”
“Uganda has partners at the diplomatic level, including the Western countries. This is a no-go area for them,” he said. “Uganda is not an island on Mars where it needs to say that it only cares about its cultural values.”
“These countries have investors and businesses in this country and because these businesses fear being boycotted in Europe, they will pull out,” he said, “We may be in love with our cultural values and we can emotionally treasure them but we need to understand that we are living in a world where the idea of human rights and individual liberties are growing every day.”
Mwenda also rejects the arguments that the law should be passed to apprehend agents of homosexuality who are believed to be massively recruiting in schools. He wonders how there can be a massive recruitment of young people amidst Uganda’s sophisticated security infrastructure.
“The Uganda government has a sophisticated security infrastructure including; ISO, the police, ESO, CMI and the local council administration, why haven’t they produced one person who is promoting homosexuality.”
“It is possible there is a lesbian or gay man who goes to school and tries to lure a young girl or boy into sex but for every single gay man or lesbian who has gone to school to lure the young girl or boy into sex, I am willing to produce 1,000 straight men who have gone to girls’ schools to lure girls into sex.”
Mwenda is also uncomfortable with those trying to pass this law in the name of Christianity or Uganda’s cultural values. He says not everyone in Uganda is a Christian and Uganda is not a theocracy. He says it is wrong to subject everyone to Christian law.
On those waving the cultural values card, Mwenda said: “It is in our culture to keep slaves, it’s in our culture to do human sacrifice, it is in our culture to prohibit women from inheriting property and it is in our culture to batter our wives, so should we also promote all these because it is our tradition?”
On Oct. 10, Father Simon Lokodo, the ethics minister said the government was planning to re-introduce the anti-homosexuality bill five years after a similar one that sought to ban gay sex in Uganda was nullified on a technicality.
The backlash from the international community to Lokodo’s plan has been instant. Two days after Lokodo spoke, on Oct. 12, Ofwono Opondo, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre—the government’s public communications clearing house—posted a message on its social media platforms saying: “Government hereby clarifies that it does not intend to introduce any new law with regards to the regulation of LGBTQ activities in Uganda because the current provisions in the Penal Code are sufficient.” LGBTQ is an acronym which refers to people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and “queer” according to the American Psychological Association.
Don Wanyama, President Yoweri Museveni’s senior press secretary also added that the government had no plans to introduce the legislation because Uganda has a Penal Code that already handles issues of unnatural sexual behaviour.
However, Lokodo said on Oct. 14 that “they intend to bring back the Anti-homosexuality bill because the first one was lost on lack of quorum.”
Lokodo’s predecessor, James Nsaba Buturo, 68, the MP Bufumbira County East asked for leave from Parliament to prepare a private member’s bill.
Asked by The Independent on Oct. 18 why, of all challenges Ugandans are facing at the moment, he sought to revive this bill, he said: “We are still putting our facts together before we can issue statements to the press or any other person. Bear with us.”
But Lokodo is not coy about his project. He says he and a group of anti-homosexuality MPs are at the moment lobbying colleagues in parliament ahead of the re-tabling of the bill.
He says he wants the bill passed because the vices the anti-homosexuality law intended to fight are still happening in Ugandan society. He adds that the provisions in the Penal Code are not sufficient.
“It is difficult to prove beyond reasonable doubt that one committed a homosexual act. Now, we are saying, anything done to recruit, promote or exhibit tantamount to committing a crime against that law.”