What you need to know:
- For a country that prides itself on being religious, this is unacceptable.
For the past couple of months, the debate about homosexuality in Uganda, especially on social media, has grown intense. It followed comments by the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Thomas Tayebwa, that countries championing gay rights were trying to impose homosexuality on Uganda — and allegations that a male teacher at Kings College Buddo had sexually molested a male student.
The school strenuously denies those allegations. But many people — including Mr Tayebwa and at least two pastors who have accused one prominent Ugandan pastor of engaging in homosexuality — insist homosexuality in Ugandan schools does exist and is growing by leaps and bounds.
Last week, while speaking at an event in northern Uganda to mark the Janani Luwum Day, President Museveni weighed in and said: “We are not going to follow people who are lost. These Europeans are not normal — they don’t listen.”
There are truths we have to deal with when we say that we need to reject homosexuality. For example, homosexuality is not the same as sexual abuse/violence.
We can combat sex crimes committed by gay people and punish, for example, gay men who rape or sexually molest people, but we cannot reject and should not criminalise homosexuality. Here are some of the reasons.
First, all people who believe in God — and more than 70 percent of Ugandans are believers — agree that every living thing, including gay people, was created by God. Pope Francis made the same point while visiting South Sudan recently when he said: “Persons with homosexual tendencies are children of God. God loves them. God accompanies them...condemning a person like this is a sin.”
If we begin from this simple premise that all living things are created by God, we cannot reject gay people. You cannot believe in God and reject homosexuality. Even if you are not a believer, you cannot do away with homosexuality. God knows why he created homosexuals and knows how He will deal with them if and when they join Him after death.
Second, there is incontrovertible evidence that some women and men naturally feel sexually drawn towards fellow women and men. We know this because those women and men are not forced to go for same-sex partners. They are in same-sex relationships of their own volition, and we cannot change that, although we make them live in fear and make it hard for them to come out.
In Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity, Bruce Bagemihl, a Canadian biologist, says that homosexual mating and pairing occur in all species. His book, illustrated with pictures of homosexual matings, has been read by many scientists, but none has come forward to say that what he wrote is fiction.
The third reason we cannot and should not reject homosexuality is that it is not alien to African culture, as Africans often claim.
We already have laws criminalising homosexuality in Uganda, so we have, technically, rejected same-sex sexual relationships. But the laws are grossly unfair because they deprive gay men and women of the rights that heterosexual people enjoy, yet we believe in equal rights.
For a country that prides itself on being religious, this is unacceptable. Religious people should preach love and tolerance.
And they should stop pretending that homosexuals are not normal. Tim Cook, a homosexual, leads Apple, which is richer than many African nations and makes iPhones that homophobes buy and flaunt.
Musaazi Namiti is a journalist and former Al Jazeera digital editor in charge of the Africa desk