When Hon David Bahati introduced the anti-homosexuality bill in Parliament in 2009, the country was abuzz with excitement and loud support for 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, Rt Hon 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, arguing that homosexuality was alien to our culture and that we were 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 Ssempa ? an avid campaigner for the bill ? and Muslim sheikhs 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, December 9, 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 and of exposure of Parliament.
With accusations of homosexuality against prominent Christian preachers in Uganda, paedophilia amongst Catholic priests and ordination of homosexual Protestant bishops and priests in Europe and America, inauguration of a mosque to serve homosexual Muslims 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 outrightly rejected but were instead quietly helped to cope. Even the story of Kabaka Mwanga and his martyrdom of Christians has a homosexuality twist to it.
It must also be made clear that homosexuality is completely different from sexual abuse 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 practise bestiality.
Rather than the compassion, love and care in normal same sex relationships, theirs is abomination and heartache that no culture on earth tolerates. Secondly, the bill as it is ? “Anti-homosexuality Bill” ? is no more than a piece of hate legislation.
If we had recognized the genetic basis of homosexuality but sought to minimize 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.
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 being neutral be sustained?
Lastly, we should enact 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.
For, we are but a tiny and largely inconsequential part of this world with no capacity to swim against its tide. 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.
Merry Christmas to you all.
The author is the former Leader of Opposition, 8th Parliament.