Thursday January 23 2014

Why does the West criminalise polygamy and allow homosexuality?

By Daniel K. Kalinaki

Our honourable Members of Parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill just before Christmas. Although I read an earlier draft of the Bill, I admit I have not read the final draft so I do not know if it is any less odious or any more relevant.

Few things are as emotive as homosexuality in Uganda. It is as if we have grown used to the stealing, murder, adultery, fornication and whatnot that homosexuality is the final moral frontier.

It is the one remaining vice that many can shake their fingers at before the wave of hypocrisy forces them to dismount from their high horses.

Unfortunately, both sides of the argument are guilty of hypocrisy. As the three or so regular readers might recall, this column has previously called out the hypocrisy of trying to nail and jail the gays while we do zilch about the rampant heterosexual rape and defilement of mostly women and children in this country.

Look around you and count 10 men. Statistically speaking, it is more likely that one or two of them are rapists or defilers rather than gay.

Those in favour of the Bill say it will help stop those who “recruit and promote” homosexuality, especially among minors. That is a useful position to take but why prejudice it by targeting gay recruiters and not heterosexual recruiters? In fact, why not simply protect the rights of children from sexual abuse without clouding it with the broad brush of sexual prejudice and discrimination?

The pro-gay rights lobby is not blameless, mind. Take, for instance, Richard Branson and his Virgin Group. He started foaming at the mouth the moment the Bill was passed, fulminating about not doing business in Uganda.

What are we to make of the fact that Mr Branson does business in Kenya, Nigeria and across the Arab world where homosexuality remains illegal? Yet Mr Branson can be forgiven his moment of cheap publicity seeking.

What should worry us more is the wider hypocrisy over rights that we have seen exhibited from our friends in the international community. Over the last 10 years, very serious human rights violations have taken place in this country.

There have been mass killings by security agencies during public demonstrations that start out peacefully. There have been restrictions on basic freedoms of assembly, association and expression, including arbitrary closures of media houses.

Many of these violations have been met with silence or mumbled diplomatic mambo jumbo yet this transforms into strongly worded reprimands when it comes to the respect for gay rights.

Of course, people are free to pick those rights that they feel most strongly about and agitate for them. Yet one suspects that a more successful and defendable approach is one which seeks to uphold the rights of all, not just those of whichever flavour we are drawn to.

President Museveni has taken a measured response to the whole matter by refusing to assent to the Bill in its current form. Even if one suspects that he is acting in his self interest in regards to his relations with the West, he has been reasonable and restrained where many around him have been straining at their leashes. He must be commended.

The irony of it all is that in the narrow prism within which these things are assessed, a President who doesn’t allow his political opponents to demonstrate against the policies of his government, even with a large support base, can win praise and respect for refusing to sign away the rights of a tiny minority.

Before we go, here is some food for thought. Why does the West allow homosexuality and criminalise polygamy? Answers, as usual, on a postcard. Twitter: @Kalinaki