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Why Parliament debates homosexuality

The declaration of the Anti-Homosexuality Act as unconstitutional upset the patriarchal matrix of power

COMMENT | Frank Mugisha | The Speaker of Parliament, Anita Annet Among and her deputy Thomas Tayebwa last week led the August House into a debate about homosexuality.

Parliament’s fear was that there is promotion of homosexuality and recruitment of young people into homosexuality; especially in schools. This forced the Speaker to task the Committee on Education to investigate the same. She is reported to have advised the committee not to limit its scope to only schools but ‘overall’.

This somewhat innocuous assumption is homophobia laden and has been useful to the anti-gay crusaders across historical time and geographical space to mudsling LGBTQ folks as lascivious profligates.

The idea of recruitment bears hallmarks of Christian and colonial epistemes and ontologies, that is the idea of universalism. Universalism in the sense that both seek to change or win over others. This logic is heavily imbued in homophobic discourse.

Children should be protected from all sorts of exploitation from homosexuals and heterosexuals. In-fact, there are so many stories of adult heterosexuals (usually men) exploiting children (usually girls). LGBTQ people are in all societies and professions.

They do not belong or subscribe to any organised groups as portrayed by the homophobes. They are normal people dispersed on this beautiful green earth.

Uganda’s moral panics are not new especially as regards homosexuality. Uganda’s public sphere which is highly influenced by western faiths i.e. Christianity and Islam especially across the colonial and post-colonial epochs remains largely homophobic. This therefore begs the question, why now?

Since the last quarter of 2022, public leaders in what seems like a choir have been very eloquent in their spirited quest to exorcise Uganda of any homosexuality. This choir includes religious and political leaders at the highest echelons of our society.

Anthropological evidence showcases the existence of alternatives to heterosexuality. Will Roscoe and Stephen O. Murray in their 1998 book ‘Boy wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities’ noted that Uganda has a long, precolonial history of same-sex relations among men and women.

The Nilotico-Lango, an agriculturalist community north of Lake Kwania, had men who assumed alternative gender status, that of the ‘mudoko dako’; these men were treated as women and could marry other men.

The argument commonly used by the anti-gay lobby to attack these reputable scholars is that they are white men trying to ‘impose’ a belief system onto ‘us’. That’s why I’m prompted to cite indigenous scholars on the same.

The existence of homosexuals has been recorded among the Bahima, something noted by sociologist professor Musa Mwene Mushanga in a 1973 book chapter titled “The Nkole of Southwestern Uganda. In Cultural Sources Materials for Population Planning in East Africa: Beliefs and Practices.” The same is true among the Baganda, a kingdom that’s been greatly studied. The British-Ugandan novelist Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi in her page turning novel ‘Kintu’ historicises through fiction the place of same sex desire in pre-colonial Buganda. The setting is pre-colonial to debunk the normative assumptions of same sex desire being a western import.

The reason for the timing of this new wave of homophobia, I suspect, is quite simple and yet complex to deconstruct. This ‘moral awakening’ seems like a push back against LGBTQ human rights advocacy. Our advocacy seemed to have threatened, discomforted, and destabilized patriarchal masculinities hence inadvertently inviting them to use the hetero-patriarchal state and her institutions to reassert male dominance.

For many years since the declaration of the Anti-Homosexuality Act as unconstitutional, gay folks have reclaimed their native (Ugandan identity) and have asserted the need for protection of their freedoms and rights thus upsetting the patriarchal matrix of power.

Non-conforming sexualities that are perceived to be a threat to hetero normativity are punished through discrimination and that’s why there has been renewed calls from religious and political leaders to reintroduce the repealed Anti-Homosexuality Act.

The cost of such actions by those at the locus of power are extremely high for a marginalised community. Dear, reader you can’t imagine the fear and the threats from parents, neighbours and families that worry that we are recruiting their children. A baseless allegation that is uncritically purveyed in our mainstream and social media. The principles of fair, balanced, and accurate reporting are trounced at the expediency of ‘saving our children and African culture’ mantra as though Africa is a homogenous entity whose history and culture is ossified in this globalisation era. The mental bandwidth to answer to these age-old questions is flickering by the day as much of our mental health is in the pits. Since those at the locus of power play fiddle, it’s not surprising that those below dance.

As fate would have it, amidst this raging debate the Holy Father, His Holiness Pope Francis stated that homosexuality isn’t a crime. Reminding comrades about God’s unending love for everyone.

The Pontiff’s words were quite re-assuring for me as a Roman Catholic in Uganda where both church and state sponsored homophobic rhetoric is channelled towards a marginalised community with reckless abandon. This month as Pope Francis tours parts of Africa, I hope that he touches the minds and hearts of many through his messages by reminding them of our shared humanity.


Dr Frank Mugisha is a human rights and peace advocate.


  1. Dear Mr writer,

    Thanks for the time you have taken to pen down all these. However, you seems not to be aware of the damage and the destruction that comes with the sin and wickedness of homosexuality and lesbianism?

    Being a human right lawyer shouldn’t take away the fear of God from your heart. People who supports this type of wickedness together with those who practise it shouldn’t be taken or treated with honour but rather be seen as a terrible element.

    Please spare Uganda 🇺🇬 for God’s sake. Us Ugandans we are a God fearing and loving nation. Don’t bring the wrath of God to this precious nation. For God has a good plan to this nation.

    Thanks for your understanding and writing,

  2. Actually, most of us had forgotten about gayism and recruitment and promotion and all those funny things of rainbows and alphabet people.

    If you keep bringing up this non topic in public platforms, of course parliament will have a worthy distraction to waste taxpayers money debating endlessly in order to be seen to be doing something, to compensate for poor performance, and at the expense of burning issues of actual concern.

    It seems the writer is somehow profiting from provoking anti-gayism sentiments in Uganda and reviving parliament’s convenient preoccupation with gayism.

    Uganda will never be a gay country. Please leave that topic alone, and we focus on national priorities and the protection of actual human rights.

    We are tired.

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