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What will anti-gay bill achieve?

Dear fellow Ugandans,

Many of my critics will say that I am British and therefore will do anything to defend the West.

Please, read through my previous articles, speak to other Ugandans that know me and they will tell you I do not judge or force my views on anyone and that Uganda is my adopted home.

Now that the disclaimer is done with, let’s talk about the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the uproar from some quarters when President Museveni refused to sign it.

I am not preaching to you to like or approve of homosexuality. However, when beliefs go as far as infringing on the freedom and safety of other adults, then there is a problem. Homosexuality is not like rape or paedophilia. Please ask yourself, what exactly would such a law achieve? Will it help pay your bills or put food on your table?

It is said that criminalising homosexuality will preserve the morals of society. Where were the morals when Minister Kibuule stated that if a rape victim is indecently dressed, then the perpetrator should not be arrested?
Yes, Parliament questioned him but he kept his job, where are the morals then?

It is argued that the majority of the Ugandans support the bill and therefore government should adhere to the demands of its populace.
So why when the populace speak out against other important matters, there is silence from the government?

Apparently, criminalising homosexuality will be another breaking of the shackles of colonialism. Well, all anti-homosexuality laws in former British colonies are born out of Section 377, a colonial-era anti-sodomy law. Furthermore, the colonisers wanted to rectify the ‘queer Africans’, does this sound familiar?

Some suggest that the president has given in to leverage from Western donors, a problem Nigeria did not face due to its flourishing oil economy.  Allegedly, the West is trying to force their beliefs upon us, but then it’s ok for our government and individuals to force beliefs upon other people? Nairobi-based cartoonist Gado once cheekily drew an image of a pastor preaching that “homosexuality is unAfrican and foreign” and a woman approaches him and says “but so is the Bible, father.”

Let us also acknowledge the continued role of American Christian groups being the drivers of homophobia in Africa.
Where in any religious book does it say once you hold these scriptures you have the right to decide who is failing and punish them?

If you are criminalising homosexuality, then why not adultery and pre-marital sex? (Let me hold my pen here and not name those who would be thrown into jail first if this happened.
If we have such faith in God, why can we not allow God to deal with all his children individually as he sees fit?

Renowned leaders in the Christian faith such as Bishop Desmond Tutu support gay rights; it’s based upon individual belief.
Thirdly, to paraphrase Christ himself, “let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”
When Nigeria passed their law, some said: “Boko Haram, corruption, stolen public funds, so the government found the ideal diversionary tactic.”

I try to keep my criticism of the Ugandan government to a minimum; however, in not signing the bill, bringing it up again will always be an option to use as a decoy from murkier issues. Uganda is a young country and faces pressing issues like unemployment and equal access to a good health care and education system, yet somehow what goes on behind closed doors between two consenting adults is taking precedence?

What impact do two people in a homosexual relationship have on your life?
If you want to tell your children homosexuality is wrong, that is your wish; why does it need to be a law?

Currently, as I write, there is conflict tearing apart a country across the border, sons and daughters of Uganda are there and they too are being killed, why are we in this state of misplaced priorities?

In 2013 there were numerous cases of women and children being sexually abused by foreigners, if Parliament focused upon creating a comprehensive child protection and immigration strategy as much as they are on homosexuality, then this could be contained. To my knowledge, the gay community are not asking you to embrace them on the street. They just want to be left alone.

To reiterate, if you are homophobic, then that is your choice; however, ask yourself honestly what criminalising it will really achieve? More wasted money on rounding up ‘the gays?’, more distraction?

I end this with a tweet by a young Nigerian the day President Goodluck Jonathan signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
“I cannot believe GEJ took time to sign a bill into law jailing people for being gay. I don’t have any electricity, dude.”

Samiraa3@hotmail.com /
twitter.com/samirasawlani

The author is a UK citizen who has lived and worked in Uganda.

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