Wednesday March 12 2014

Condemning the West over anti-gays law misses the point

By Edith Kamya Mpanga

Throughout my life, my beloved sister, Ms Beti Kamya, has been a fountain of wisdom to me. Among many things, she taught and encouraged me to cultivate an independent and objective mind, and always to arm myself with the weapons of factual evidence and cold logic. Hence it was with some disbelief that I read her recent article in the Daily Monitor denouncing the condemnation of Uganda’s anti-gay law by some Western nations. With the greatest respect, I beg to disagree with the entire premise of Ms Kamya’s argument.

Firstly, it’s not clear which values are being imposed onto Uganda in this case. As Kamya admits, being gay is the natural orientation of some people, so clearly homosexuality is not what is being imposed on Ugandans here as it is a human condition which all races share. Kamya also claims homosexuality is promoted in the West, arguing that the same kind of promotion is being imposed on Uganda.

Having lived in the UK for 25-odd years, I don’t know of a single statute in the law books that lends any credence to this claim, still less any UK/US government initiative encouraging Uganda to promote homosexuality in the name of democracy. I’m afraid there is a lot of heat but very little light in Kamya’s argument here.
Secondly, I’m rather shocked that my sister, who first opened my mind to the concept of feminism, could argue that polygamy is a union of consenting adults! I cannot think of any single woman who would choose to be in a polygamous marriage rather than a monogamous one. Women only accept polygamous marriages when they feel they have no better alternative; hardly the case for homosexual unions.

Thirdly, it is fallacious to equate homosexuality to rape, paedophilia or bestiality, all of which involve the violation of a weaker party. Kamya completely loses me when she argues that societies should be allowed to evolve out of their attitudes, however inhuman, without intervention from outsiders. Would she say that the world should not have intervened when Nazi Germany collectively felt that the Jews were ‘vermin that ought to be exterminated’? Should William Wilberforce have been told to shut up and let slave owners carry on with their diabolical practice since society found it legitimate? Should the Ku Klux Klan who carried the weight of public opinion in the American deep south, have been allowed to lynch and murder with impunity until society weaned itself off racial discrimination?

Ms Kamya’s article ignores the real elephant in the room: the gross abuse of human rights that this law entails. Indeed, the only value that is being promoted by the West is a basic respect for human rights as enshrined in the Human Rights Declaration to which Uganda is a signatory. Western societies did not organically wean themselves off homophobia. It is still rampant even today, as the recent events in Arizona proved. Governments instituted laws to curb homophobia, and gradually attitudes began to change. It took the courage of a few people to force this change.

While Uganda waits for evolution to wash away its homophobia, how many innocent people will be imprisoned and dehumanised for something they can’t help being? In vetoing SB 1062, the governor of Arizona has demonstrated that leaders are supposed to lead, not follow, those they govern. The anti-gay law must be condemned by anyone with a modicum of human compassion – inside or outside Uganda. After all, “For evil to flourish, it only requires good men to do nothing,” says Simon Wiesenthal.