What are ‘gay rights’?

Author: Phillip Matogo. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Many human rights violations were committed due to widespread ignorance on human rights.   

In the olden days, when the world was much younger than it is today, the word ‘gay’ carried another meaning. 
It meant “carefree and light-hearted”. In a word: happy. 

Accordingly, when I worked as an administrator in the Ministry of Defence ordnance factory in Nakasongola, Luweero Industries Limited (LIL), we received a visit from a Swedish contractor. 
He arrived with a Uganda People’s Defence Forces General. 

After spending some time with the employees of LIL, the smiling Swede fulsomely declared: “You’re all so gay.”

The silence which greeted his words presupposes that most of us who heard him designating us as “gay” were either confused or consumed with a silent rage. 

Whichever the case, his describing us all as “gay” (happy) does not preclude the appropriateness of homosexuality in a military setting.

For, we all know, most of history’s greatest Generals were said to be gay.
Alexander the Great reportedly had a male lover called Hephaestion (c. 357-324), who was a Macedonian nobleman. During the expedition against Persia, he often served as a military commander.

Julius Caesar—the finest general in Ancient Rome—was alleged to be bisexual and thus described as, “Every woman’s man, and every man’s woman.”

Shaka Zulu was said to keep a seraglio of women as a means of overcompensating for being gay.
For Shaka, rumours about his sexual orientation began after he put Ntombazi, his rival Zwide’s mother, to death.

Zwide was the chief of the Ndwande who were the sworn enemy of Shaka, the Zulu warrior.
Zwide’s mother Ntombazi, a Sangoma (Zulu seer or shaman), was locked in a house by Shaka; along with eight hungry male jackals! After a few minutes, the whole village heard the whimpering and whining of the jackals followed by a loud cry of a lady in sheer agony. This went on all night.

In the morning, the house was opened and there was blood everywhere, but no Ntombazi.
She had been devoured. However, the jackals were still whimpering and writhing in pain. The 10 Impis, all-male Zulu warriors who kept watch outside the house, were mortally shaken. 
Still, Shaka didn’t punish these Impis.  Instead, he kept them close. Too close. 

That’s when the rumours of him being gay began regarding his closeness to the Impish. Rather, Impis.
With that in mind, the LIL staff reactions to the Swedish contractor’s word usage betrayed an underlying fact about homosexuality in Uganda it is an ‘issue’ misunderstood. 

This week, police added to this misunderstanding by accusing gay rights advocates of promoting the recruitment of adolescents from poor Ugandan households.

Fred Enanga, the police spokesperson, said as much while briefing the country on two incidences in which two male suspects were apprehended in relation to ‘sexual offences’ against their fellow men.
“Our country has taken a firm stand against child sex exploitation. However, certain gay acts have been condemned in our country, and as a result, there are a number of campaigns against our country,” Enanga said. 

However, instead of taking a “firm stand”; the State would do well to consider the recommendations made by the Commission of Inquiry into Violations of Human Rights established by the National Resistance Movement via Legal Notice No.5 of 1986. 

The said commission observed the need for “human rights education” since, it was noted, many human rights violations were committed due to widespread ignorance on human rights, especially among the rural population. 

Through this education, the perpetuators of rights violations, their victims and all Ugandans will find common ground with common sense with regard to gay rights as a largely misunderstood human right.

Phillip Matogo is a professional copywriter  
[email protected]