Wednesday June 25 2014

The gay issue is back: Both Museveni and donors are living in the 20th Century

By Charles Onyango-Obbo

The Anti-gays Bill controversy made its way back into the headlines a few days when the USA cut off several lines of aid to punish the Uganda government for the law, that it says violates the rights of homosexuals and lesbians.
The Anti-gays Bill was passed in a wave of national hysteria against homosexuals, with a homophobic public cheering President Yoweri Museveni as he signed it.
When you sit back and reflect, there is actually no difference between the donors who are cutting aid, and a homophobic Museveni and his supporters.
It is ignorant and prejudiced to hate gays, but it is narrow-minded to cut aid over it because, in the long run, Uganda can only become more open-minded about gays if it is richer.
The Museveni camp and the donors make a mistake because they are ultimately looking at sex as a biological and choice issue. However, if you look at sex and reproduction as a market and apply cold economic and political logic to it, both heterosexuality and homosexuality are imperfect and extremely inefficient.
Let us begin with the argument that heterosexism is natural, because it ensures reproduction of our species. Now there are things that are natural and necessary for our existence, for example air. However, we all have relatively equal access to air, but we don’t have it to sex. The handsome, beautiful, successful, rich, well-born have more sexual options (and get more of it) than the ugly, poor, unsporting. Handsome, beautiful (lesbians), successful, sporting, hunkish gays have more choice of partners than their poor and ugly colleagues.
If God had engineered heterosexism, then it wouldn’t be so iniquitous. Thus you have the result that we have more laws to regulate competition and avoid monopoly in the banking and telecoms sectors, than we do for the sex and the reproductive market. It is utter madness.
So let us look to the future. In the just-ending global financial crisis, one of the things we found out is that the world economy as it is, is anachronistic. We need to find new ways of increasing productivity, and households where (usually) the man works and the woman stays at home to look after the kids are no longer tenable.
The one thing that future generations must address is what happens when women (who produce the most economically in Africa) are pregnant, and then have to look after the children until they can feed themselves. Also, humans are inefficient creatures. A child basically needs three years to be able to feed itself and find the way to its bed. That is scandalous. And some of the children these days are 40 years and still dependent on their parents! Most other creatures are independent within days.
Therefore, for our species to survive, we must get women out of childbirth, children must grow to be independent faster, and the amount of time parents spend on “raising” their children must reduce. I cannot imagine my life without the opportunity I had to be with our children and spoil them, but I am rational and scientific enough to realise that that model will be over in less than three generations.
Our future therefore is in a place where children are “hatched” outside their mothers wombs, and their genes tweaked so they can grow up faster, and are programmed to grow with less parental involvement, and thus free their parents to be more economically productive and imaginative.
So our future depends on us decoupling sex from reproduction, and when we do that, the issue of natural and unnatural sex shall seize to be relevant. Secondly, we need to detach childbirth from pregnancy. And thirdly we need to re-engineer the dynamics between child upbringing and parentage.
In that future, both the logic of heterosexual and gay unions as they are today will be backward.
I like sci-fi movies and there is one showing on DSTv right now called Abduction. It is partly a story of high-tech sexbots, androids designed for companionship and pleasure.
The drama intrigues me because, with the kind of innovations we see in Abduction (they are happening in real life), pleasure will be a technology on a mass scale, not a human relationship issue.
Think about it, sex is probably the only area we have not allowed technology to take over. Most of the innovation actually goes to reinforcing old modes – fertility and reproduction!
Sex and family, though, still has many elements from the time when we were still living in caves, particularly the notion of a “provider” who enjoys a privileged position in the household. Our great grandchildren will read the history of the current heterosexual vs. gay angry debate, and will be totally puzzled by it.

Mr Onyango-Obbo is editor of Mail & Guardian Africa ( Twitter:cobbo3