Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why I'll keep writing about Uganda

(reblogged from
Recently I've been writing a lot about Uganda's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. I've been accused of racism, of trying to subvert Uganda's sovereignty, cultural imperialism, and of ignoring the will of the Ugandan people to push a LGBT agenda in a country that is not my own. I've been accused of trying to sink deals that could potentially inject a lot of money into the Ugandan economy. (because I have that kind of power, right? C'mon Tullow Oil, Bank of America, Merryl Lynch, Harold Ford, listen to me!)

I would like to be a bit self indulgent and respond to some of these accusations.

My criticisms of the proposed law have nothing to do with the race of the people pushing the anti-gay agenda, nor of the people who it is intended to harm. If Sweden offered a similar law I would protest as fiercely.

Nor have my criticisms anything to do with some personal suspicion that Ugandans are incapable of governing their own country. The fact is, most Ugandans who present themselves on the internet in these discussions have demonstrated a frightening hostility to homosexuals in their own country, and even those who appear sympathetic often demonstrate an understandable discomfort with the distinction between homosexual, transgendered, bisexual and other sexual and gender identities.
The issue in both those cases is a lack of education about sexual and gender identities. As a Ugandan doctor writes:
In Africa, what most of us know about homosexuality is that it's a political taboo. That had carried over into my medical education. I did all my training in Africa. I was used to wards filled with patients, male and female, dying of AIDS. I knew HIV was spread by sex. To me, it was a heterosexual disease. I'd never been taught or told much about prevention or treatment for men who had sex with men.
from The Huffington Post
In 2004, the Ugandan broadcasting council fined Radio Simba for broadcasting a program that hosted homosexuals who defended their "way of life". Under the proposed legislation, speaking about homosexuality would become a far more serious offence, meaning that doctors will remain ignorant of the needs of their homosexual patients, and the Ugandan people will remain in the dark about their family, friends and fellow countrywomen and men who live in silence and fear for simply being themselves.
“Myself I am at risk,” Onziema [a lesbian Ugandan] told Reuters Africa Journal “I can’t move on the streets as I used to, I can’t go to a shop … I have been picked off the streets, detained for sometime, ridiculed, intimidated, some money taken away from my wallet…”
from Ethiopian Review
I keep saying this, but I feel it keeps being ignored. Far from ignoring the desires of Ugandans, I am doing my level best to voice the needs of the Ugandans who have no voice. The anti-gay agenda in Uganda isn't necessarily culturally pure. As reported extensively on the Rachel Maddow show, on Box Turtle Bulletin and several other news sources, American anti-gay fundamentalist groups and prominent US politicians (and some crazies like ex-gay Richard Cohen) pumped money and, most importantly, misinformation into Uganda in the run up to the introduction of this bill.

Even from a homophobic perspective, this bill is hardly necessary as homosexuality is already a criminal offence under existing law. The new proposed bill introduces the death sentence for homosexuals, and custodial sentences for those advocating for homosexuals and those who fail to report suspected homosexual behaviour. It simply ensures to a greater degree that LGBTQ Ugandans will continue to have no voice.

And when I say no voice, I am a little wrong and perhaps a lot rhetorical. I do not want or mean to belittle the incredibly brave work of gay Ugandans and their Ugandan advocates. There are gay Ugandans fighting for their rights, and straight Ugandans who fight for the rights of their gay sisters and brothers. People risk their freedom to fight for the right to live an honest life, and if this bill passes, even the act of speaking out could lead to incarceration. If the arrest lead to the discovery of actual homosexual activity, it could lead to death.

So to close, I will continue to blog about the Ugandan Anti-homosexuality Bill because I have a voice that costs me nothing. I will name those who support it, either intentionally, by proxy or by turning a blind eye. I will keep asking those in positions of international and corporate power to voice their support for freedom to those who have the power to make a difference. I will lend my support those in Uganda who have the incredible courage to speak up for themselves and others, because every person deserves to live a true and honest life without loss of freedom or indeed her or his life.

If you have a problem with that, you have every right to say it, but I have every right to press on.
And I will.
(In case you only read me here, some of this happened over at Irish lesbian website, where I blog regularly as well.)

1 comment:

joshkutchinsky said...

I agree with what you say. I have written a little about this subject and I am following events closely. Please take a look at this blog post of mine, if you wish.