David Bahati doesn’t like gays. In fact, he dislikes them so passionately he wants them to be put to death. This wouldn’t matter a jot if David Bahati were some African version of Archie Bunker, sitting on his LazyBoy in front of his television with an open can of Tusker, watching a football game and fulminating against all and sundry; but David Bahati is a member of Uganda’s parliament and the National Resistance Movement, which is the ruling party in that splendid country. He has brought a Private Member’s Bill called the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (PDF) which, if passed, will ensure that no one’s member remains private. He wants life imprisonment for homosexual acts and the death sentence for what he regards as “aggravated” homosexuality–offences in which the perpetrator is either HIV positive, or seduces a minor, or is a serial offender.
Apart from the barbarity of penalties envisioned, the entire Bill is based on a false premise. The first paragraph of the Bill states:
This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic.
But same sex attraction has been shown in numerous peer-reviewed research papers to be precisely an innate and immutable characteristic.
Here are some examples. But even if homosexuality were a choice and not an immutable characteristic, it would still not be excusable to pass legislation of this sort which seeks to criminalise consensual sexual behaviour between adults.
It seems reasonable to ask why Mr Bahati has such an antipathy to those who prefer the caresses of their own sex. He says it’s because homosexuality was introduced to Africa by the colonial powers, and he wants it eradicated and Africa’s traditional strong family values reasserted. An examination of African folklore, as, for example, embodied in Indaba, My Children by Credo Mutwa gives the lie to that assertion. Homosexuality was known millennia before the arrival of European colonists, and was well tolerated. Homosexuals were regarded as being different to others, but were not ostracised; in fact they were often valued for their skills as healers and shamans.
If we look at the process of colonisation we begin to perceive the real reason for Mr Bahati’s crusade. European armies were preceded by missionaries who converted great swathes of the population to Christianity, both of the Catholic variety and Protestant. It seems Mr Bahati is a member of a secretive American Christian organization called “The Fellowship”, also known as “The Family”. This sinister organisation claims that the vows of silence taken by its members are in response to biblical admonishments against “public displays of good works”; it is a shame that they don’t have the same attitude to public displays of bad works. Fellow members of this organisation are the American evangelists Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge (the very one who hilariously tries to ‘cure’ homosexuality (remember him from Penn & Teller’s Bullshit?), and Don Shmierer, who serves on the board of Exodus International. These worthies converged on Kampala, Uganda in March 2009 to conduct a workshop whose theme was the “gay agenda”.
how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how ‘the gay movement is an evil institution’ whose goal is ‘to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity’.
It was at this workshop that the new law was proposed. It is really more a function of interference in Africa’s affairs by the US religious right than a home grown initiative, and David Bahati is merely the pawn of external forces. It is frightening to note that this Bill has a high probability of passing. The only government in sub-Saharan Africa that has any constitutional protections for its gay community is South Africa, but the present South African government is far too spineless and incompetent to exert any sort of pressure on the Ugandan lawmakers.
This is surely one of the most egregious examples of the religious propensity to penetrate into the most private parts of other people’s lives and dictate not only how they should act, but how they should think. It is horrifying to speculate that this is the bow wave of the new colonialism–African thought being invaded by religious neoconservatives from the new world.
Perhaps you can influence the government in your own country to exert whatever influence they have (aid allocations, perhaps?) to persuade the Ugandan parliament not to pass this regressive and barbaric legislation.
Grumpy Old Man by Mark Widdicombe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License