In his article in your issue of January 23 titled, “Why does the West criminalise polygamy and allow homosexuality? ” Mr Daniel Kalinaki asked an a interesting question. The answer to this question is central to the issue as to whether or not we should have an anti-gays law on our statute book.
Many Ugandans are opposed to homosexuality on religious and cultural grounds. Our church leaders are in the forefront of the fight against this practice which is condemned in biblical writings. The cultural argument revolves around the point that the practice is un-African and an importation from the West.
Unfortunately, these grounds do not take into account the scientific angle to the problem.
Homosexuality has been scientifically defined as “a romantic attraction, sexual attraction or sexual behaviour between members of the same sex.
As an orientation, homosexuality refers to an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual affection or romantic attraction primarily or exclusively with a member of the same sex.
It also refers to an individual’s sense of personal and social identity based on those attractions, behaviours expressing them and membership in a community of others who share them.” Accordingly, there are three types of homosexuality “a romantic, sexual attraction and sexual behaviour.”
The practice of homosexuality was discriminated in the Western world until a change of attitude came about in 1973 when the American Psychiatric Association removed the practice from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders. This negated the previous definition of homosexuality as a clinical disorder.
Quebec became the first jurisdiction to prohibit discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and most developed countries followed the example of Quebec in the1980s and 1990s.
Since then, a lot of scientific studies results have proved that the common assumption that homosexuality or any sexual orientation is a choice which one can avoid as a misconception.
In 2010, the Royal College of Psychiatrists in England submitted to the Church of England a report titled “Submissions to the Church of England’s Listening Exercise on Human Sexuality” in which it found that “……sexual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment.
Sexual orientation is, therefore, not a choice.” In another work Professor Michael King writing in the Church Times of November 16, 2007 under the title “How much is known about the origins of homosexuality” said “The conclusion reached by scientist who have investigated the origins of sexual orientation is that it is a human characteristic that is formed in early life and is resistant to change. Scientific evidence on the origins of homosexuality is considered relevant to theological and social debate because it undermines suggestions that sexual orientation is a choice.”
Another scholar, Garcia-Falgmens has shed more light on why people become gay. He writes in “Sexual Hormones and the Brain: An Essential Alliance for Sexual Orientation” that “The fetal brain develops during intrauterine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the development of nerve cells, or in the female through the absence of this hormone surge.
In this way our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and sexual orientation are programmed or organised into our brain structures. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The first record of a possible homosexual couple in history is an ancient Egyptian couple known as Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, who lived around 2400BCE. Anthropologists Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe (“Boy Wives and Female Husbands: Studies of African Homosexuality”) have reported that women in Lesotho engaged in socially “long-term erotic relationships” called motsoalle. Again in “Sexual Inversion among the Azande” Evans Pritchards notes that male Azande warriors in the northern Congo routinely took on male lovers who helped with household tasks. Here in Uganda, the practice was rampant in Buganda in the 1850s as a result of the arrival of Arab traders during reign of King Mutesa 1 and was given the name of “ebisiyaga”. It is, therefore, not true that the practice is a recent importation from the West.
The present attitude in the developed world is that although gays’ sexual orientation is different as human beings they have certain inalienable rights which cannot be taken away by those who do not approve of such orientation.
Two attempts have been made to make this a universal doctrine. A resolution in the United Nations General Assembly sponsored by the French and Dutch representatives condemning violence, harassment, discrimination and prejudice against homosexuals has already been signed by 94 countries.
On June 17 2011 South Africa initiated a resolution in the United Nations Commission for Human Rights requesting for a report on the situation of gays worldwide. The resolution was carried by 23 to 19 countries and a draft report has already come out.
To answer Kalinaki’s question, therefore, one has to say that the West criminalises polygamy because it is a social evil while homosexualitily is regarded as a genetical condition which one cannot change.