Tuesday December 29 2009

Stop threat to life over Gays Bill

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill before Parliament has generated so much public debate – a good thing for the maturation of a civilised democracy and open engagement for Uganda – that we can only hope for a more positive and generally acceptable position for the whole country. Unfortunately, some developments threaten to kill the openness of the debate with real or imagined threats to life and property of those either supporting or opposed to the spirit of the Bill.

Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, who tabled the Bill in Parliament, has already pressed a distress button claiming his life is in danger over the Bill that proposes death or life imprisonment for gay people and punishment for those who fail to report gay activities to authorities.

Since the Bill was tabled on October 14, numerous voices worldwide have emerged either in support or opposed to it. US President Barack Obama and other US government officials have opposed it; the UK, Canada and Sweden have openly criticised the Bill with the latter even threatening to cut out aid to Uganda if the Bill were allowed to pass in its current form.
Foreign opposition to the Bill is part of what happens in international politics but the crude form of threat to life and property is an uncivilised method of solving problems and should not be allowed to rear its ugly head in Uganda.

Gays or no gays, we are all Ugandans first who can solve our own problems amicably. The Land Bill, billed as one of the most controversial Bills in the history of Uganda has just been passed without a whiff of bloodshed. Ugandans are culturally and ethnically attached to their land probably more than is the threat of homosexuality to their moral values. If we were able to allow the Land Bill to sail through without fear of ‘spoiling’ our heritage, why can’t we allow a sober debate over what has not yet become law?

In the UK or even the US-- two of the world’s oldest democracies-- laws have developed over hundreds of years into their current forms and they keep changing. It is therefore only prudent for everyone to look at the positive side of this debate. If there is nothing inherently sinister about our motives in supporting or opposing the Bill then we can only expect the best that an honest debate can produce.