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Why such hatred for homosexuals?

January 27, 2011, was a normal morning with a pleasant Kampala sun; I turned on the radio as I sipped my tea.

Then everything changed. The news that David Kato Kisuule, a prominent homosexual rights activist working with Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), had been murdered leapt out of the speakers to my ears and took an uneasy place in my heart.

It was reported that Kisuule had received death threats before, and it seemed these had been actualised. A blunt object, reportedly a hammer, had been used to bash his skull in.

But who would do this to a man who had dedicated his life to bringing justice and fairness to the numerous souls that bear that heavy tag ‘Homosexual’?

Kisuule was one of the applicants in the epic December 2010 court case that was brought against the Rolling Stone newspaper. The newspaper had in October 2010 run names and pictures of people it alleged were gay, including Kisuule. Over their heads was a yellow banner screaming: “HANG THEM”.

Justice Kibuuka Musoke found that the publication, had by its actions, infringed the right to privacy as well as the right to life and human dignity of the people whose names and photos it had published.

The judge noted that by running these stories, the newspaper had singled homosexual people as unworthy of the same human dignity as others. He went on to say: “Death is the ultimate end of all that is known worldly to be good. If a person is only worthy of death, then that person’s human dignity is placed at the lowest ebb.”

Now Kisuule lay still. Maybe he died for the cause he lived for. Maybe he was killed for other reasons. Either way, it is not a secret that homophobia in Uganda is institutionalized - a brand of hatred sanctioned by politicians and religious leaders at the highest level.

Why would someone who has problems of global proportions to solve be bothered with the way people have sex in the privacy of their homes? Why such unrelenting and obstinate hate?

It is claimed that homosexuals go around schools recruiting young children. Yet the vast majority of sexual crimes, in schools and other places, are committed by heterosexual males against females.

Sexual abuse (rape or defilement) is wrong, whether it is committed by a heterosexual or homosexual, and our Penal Code recognises this.

It is also said that the act of homosexuality is inherently dangerous, exposing those who practise it to HIV/AIDS. Here again, the evidence shows otherwise. The HIV/AIDS prevalence is growing fastest amongst married heterosexuals.

Heterosexual sex is also the number one way in which HIV/AIDS is spread in Uganda.

Many still, find the act of anal sex (which they assume all male homosexuals engage in) repugnant. But should this be the basis for hating them? What about heterosexual couples who have anal sex? Are these repugnant too?

Gayle S. Rubin, a cultural anthropologist and sex and gender activist, may have the answers. In a 1975 essay titled The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex, Rubin draws a link between the capitalist system and the sanctioning of heterosexuality.

Thus while people are born biologically male or female, she argues, society has managed (through gender construction) to “transform biological sexuality into products of human activity.”

Accordingly, part of this transformation is compulsory heterosexuality. Rubin points out that in the heterosexual setting, women are consigned to a secondary position in human relations. She argues that the reproduction of labour power depends upon women’s housework to transform commodities into sustenance for the worker.

Women thus stay home and subsidise the costs of employing men who go out to work in the public sphere. Their labour and efforts in the home are altruistic and are never considered as part of the GDP of any country.

Even though the system of capitalism cannot generate surplus without women, society does not always grant women access to the resulting capital. This status quo is maintained through female oppression which in turn is maintained through compulsory heterosexuality.

Many anti-gay activists today hinge their debate on relative religious arguments and the need to protect the heterosexual family.

These would trade their souls for heterosexual families over homosexual ones any day. It would not matter if in this family spouses are battered and hacked to death or daughters are raped by their own fathers.

All these atrocities are suddenly forgivable. At least they are not homosexual.

pakumu@observer.ug

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