How we express our sexuality is a private matter

Monday January 11 2010

By Val Kalende

Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo thinks of musician Iryn Namubiru’s new video titled Lwaki as pornographic material. Whereas I am an admirer of Iryn’s music, I believe that adult television material is like matooke in the market. You don’t like it. You don’t buy it.

Still, Buturo seems to have personal issues with things that do not match his personal interests. Is he not the same minister who blamed road accidents on women who wear mini skirts?

This is why I find it troubling that people in power should decide what Ugandans should do and not do under the guise of ‘upholding morals’.

Hon. David Bahati says his private members Bill is meant to protect the ‘traditional African heterosexual family’. People who plead the supremacy of family values over other human values have one of two motives: either they are biblical fundamentalists whose religiosity has gone haywire, or they are so steeped in irrational fear of their own sexual orientation.

The effect of this legislation will inevitably be to demonise homosexuality even further, to intensify stigma, to drive gay men and women underground, to diminish dramatically the prospect of counselling and testing to establish HIV status, to make it virtually impossible to reach homosexuals with the knowledge and education and condoms that prevent the spread of Aids. Moralist Martin Ssempa has his facts upside down. Let it be understood: it’s not homosexuality that spreads Aids; it is the culture that brutalises gay men and forces them underground that spreads Aids.

It is not surprising that most of those connected to state power are rigid, fundamentalist, revivalist Christians who bring to the public policy process and the management of state affairs, their religious bigotry that they pass off as public morality and ethics. It is the reason no significant progress will come out of Africa, because we have erected a ring fire of religious and social taboos around our lives and thoughts, that venturing beyond is not only terrifying, but patrolled and policed by authoritarians. Legislators must not chaperone us on around, including how we express our sexuality which is a private and personal matter. As Professor Ogenga Latigo said of this ‘Bahati Bill’, “we cannot plunge into a legislative process before looking at what is happening, the facts and what the trends are”.

The evidence of just how foolhardy the legislation is lies in its most extreme feature: the Bill asserts that where any of its provisions is in conflict with any international human rights instrument that Uganda has ratified, the content of the Bill will prevail over international law. This is palpable nonsense. Using what is called “extraterritoriality”, the legislation decrees that any Ugandan engaging in homosexual acts outside of Uganda is equally culpable, and will be arrested and charged accordingly.

If this Bill becomes law, Bahati is ready to hand over his son to police once he discovers he is gay. Failure to do that will cost him a fine of Shs5,000,000 or three years in jail. If this Bill passes, Ssempa will be required to inform the police upon learning that a member of his congregation is a homosexual. Failure to do so within 24 hours would result in imprisonment for three years. One other clause purports to extend the arm of the state to visit people’s bedrooms to ensure that sex is enjoyed only through the legislated style. This does not only infringe on the right to privacy of consenting same-sex practicing people but it could be used against the very people pushing for this Bill.
Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Ms Kalende is a gay rights activist
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