Friday, January 8, 2010

Ugandan Activists' thoughts and fears

One thing that has not been getting out in the international media has been the reaction of the Ugandan LGBTI themselves. Hey, we are not all that literate. We cannot speak in the country itself. And, apart from me shouting on this blog... There are precious few people saying what we think and fear of this bill. (text here)

In the Advocate is this story. An uncertain future for gay Uganda activists. (We are pretty sure this bill is aimed at us, after all, us as in the activists.)

“Who would want to live in a place where everyone hates you?” Frank Mugisha, the chairman of Sexual Minorities Uganda, asked me recently over the phone. “Who wants to live in a place where you cannot easily do your shopping? Where you think, Am I going to survive today? Am I going to get arrested today? Or beaten? Who wants to live in a place where your friends have alienated you? Who wants to live such a life?”
But in spite of the police harassment, the attacks from local media (he was identified in a Ugandan tabloid as a “Top Homo”), the death threats on his mobile phone, and the attempted blackmail, Mugisha and other activists are determined to stay and work for change in a country where the already criminalized gay population is being threatened.
Mugisha’s resolve is astounding, given one simple fact: “I could be the first person to be sentenced to life in prison if this law is passed.” He added calmly, “Uganda has some of the worst prisons in the world.” 
And, another
Another person who, while frightened of what the law will do to the country, refuses to be intimidated we’ll call John (not his real name), a physician who also works for an international HIV/AIDS organization. “If the bill passes,” he said, “I will be supposed to do things that I, frankly, will not do. Damn the bill! I will be supposed to report any person who comes to me and tells me about homosexual contact within 24 hours on pain of a fine and three years in prison myself.”
John is equally indignant with the bill’s potentially devastating effects on HIV prevention and services. 
“The doctors’ consultation room will become a trap,” he said. “Instead of a place where a gay person — or any patient — can get treatment.” There is little available information in the country about how gay men can protect themselves from HIV. Even though he is a doctor, John received no training about the health needs of gay people. What he knows has come solely from the Internet. “Giving out water-based lubricant will be criminal, as it could be seen as 'promotion of homosexuality.’ How will it be possible then, to tackle HIV prevention amongst gay men?
“Oh, I had forgotten,” he said with a grim laugh. “They will all be in prison, or on death row.” 
“‘Family values’ is an American concept,” John said. “It is distinctly not Ugandan. According to my upbringing, I am supposed to protect my brothers and sisters with my life. When [Anti-Homosexuality Bill author] David Bahati was asked on the radio whether he would report to the police a brother who was homosexual, he said he would arrest him himself and take him to the police, even though he knew that his brother would be convicted to life imprisonment or death by hanging. My idea of family values is to protect my brothers with my life. The claims that this terrible bill protects ‘family values’ are laughable.” 
That bill, (text here) is horrible. It is horrible. When sops like taking out the death penalty are offered, like here, I just get angry. Why should I go to prison for loving my lover? Why should I live under the threat of life imprisonment just because I am gay?

"The death penalty is likely to be removed," said James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda's minister of state for ethics and integrity. "The president doesn't believe in killing gays. I also don't believe in it. I think gays can be counselled and they stop the bad habit."
Ruling party spokeswoman Mary Karoro Okurut said she also agrees with the president that some punishments in the bill should be dropped. But she said she will still push for a modified version of the bill when it comes to parliament in late February or early March.
"Although the president is against some parts of the bill, the bill has to stay," she said. "(Homosexuality) is not allowed in African culture. We have to protect the children in schools who are being recruited into homosexual activities." 
And, it is all in support of something, some rumours that are ongoing, that have not been proved. That I am supposed to be 'recruiting' school children. Rumours, false stories, unproved allegations. That is what is behind this bill, the threat to my life and liberty.
I like the fact that the Monitor in Uganda is insisting on asking David Bahati for his 'proof' of our 'recruitment'. Simply put, George Oundo and Paul Kagaba are not enough. Nor are they credible.
 Mr Bahati denies being in a hate campaign, although he has failed to provide evidence to back claims that European gays are recruiting in Ugandan schools.
What do we want? WE WANT THE BILL WITHDRAWN. Sops and mollifications of taking away the death penalty still leave a stupid piece of legislation which puts us in prison for nothing other than us being ourselves.

I agree with Truth Wins Out here.

“The idea that homosexuality can be prohibited in Africa is as absurd and unrealistic as banning oxygen,” said TWO’s Besen. “Gay people are not a threat to children. We do not recruit them. It is clear that the Ugandan government is awash in ignorance and trying to legislate based on false stereotypes and misinformation. Unfortunately, American evangelicals and ex-gay organizations are responsible for spreading these lies and propaganda in Africa.”

 Funny as it may seem, the thought of asylum does not appeal so much. Of course, we have made, and are making contingency plans. That is a necessity. But, it does not appeal. Some friends are putting pressure on their governments to help. Indeed, they are responding, in more than one way. But, asylum is not the option that we think of it. How many of us can afford to leave family and friends? And, how many of us will be allowed out? How many have passports at the moment, to travel? Travel plans, money for tickets, etc etc. Too many questions. Queerty asks, Will the US give us asylum? We do hope so. Grimly.

Someone, writing about 'defilement' and the Bahati Bill in Uganda has a very thoughtful assesment. The whole article is very absorbing. Well written, but, I will pick this out.

This “breakdown of the family” and the fear it has engendered in Ugandans is one of the major pillars of Bahati and company’s arguments for further marginalising and criminalising Uganda’s gay community. This sentiment was echoed by Topher Mugumya, then-programme coordinator for research, information and advocacy at the ANPPCAN Uganda Chapter, who noted in 2007 that the widespread myth that having sex with a young child can “cleanse” one of HIV had led to a spike in child rape by HIV-positive men. This blanket statement, without any substantial qualification, is all that supporters of the anti-gay bill need to further stoke the fire. A quick glance at comments on Andrew Mwenda’s November 10th op-ed piece in this magazine shows just how many visceral, fear-driven reactions there are.
Instead of a nuanced and intelligent debate about the legality and ethicality of such a bill, the discourse revolves around a sinister cabal of homosexuals fiendishly preying upon innocent school children. Perversely, this renders the two terms synonymous, thus permitting proponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill to stifle opposition by calling any supporter a homosexual and thus invariably a defiler of small children. Even though the Penal Code Act already includes provisions which criminalise rape and defilement, Pastor Martin Ssempa can still vehemently argue that, “For too long we have had a problem that boys are raped and sodomised in school settings. Now when we deal with aggravated homosexuality, we are trying to provide equal protection before the law.”
 Unfortunately much of the debate over the Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 and the serious problem Uganda faces regarding child abuse seem to have become confused, allowing those like Ssempa to articulate that this deeply unfair bill is one that promotes equality.

That analysis is spot on. I mean, we gay Ugandans are a very convenient scape goat for what has been happening in the country. Most 'defilers' are heterosexual men having sex with girls who are minors. But, it is we homosexuals, men and women, who are taking the brunt of the assault. Because we are supposed to 'recruit'. Even without any evidence of that. Just rumours, and unsubstantiated allegations.

Here is a link which you should follow if you are interested in the Kabaka Mwanga the Second saga. Mwanga of the Uganda Martyrs. I wish I could get the dissertation itself. Apparently, it is there. I will ask one scholar about it... Not my strenght, that. But, you are very welcome to the links.

Now, I am posting this for the afternoon. So, hope your day is good.

Be good.


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