If you were curious about the practical implications of Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Act, signed yesterday by President Yoweri Museveni, look no further than its Red Pepper newspaper, which has published the identities of what it deems the country's "200 Top Homos" on its cover. If you thought the law banning gay sex would exist only in the realm of gay sex, you were wrong. This is a war on gay people.
Red Pepper's move is similar to that of a now defunct paper called Rolling Stone (no relation to the U.S. music magazine), which published a list of Uganda's "Top 100 Homos" in 2010. It was a call to action: "Hang Them" read the issue's cover. About three months later, Ugandan activist David Kato who was among the paper's Top 100, was bludgeoned to death. In response, Rolling Stone publisher Giles Muhame said, "This looks like any other crime. I have no regrets about the story. We were just exposing people who were doing wrong." In the 2012 documentary Call Me Kuchu, which details the struggles of the LGBT community in Uganda, Muhame giggles as he discusses his paper's detrimental outings (there was a followup a few weeks later, which identified 10 more Ugandan gays).
The original Rolling Stone story led to the harassment of several of the country's gays. CNN ran this account of Stosh Mugisha's experience:
On the day that the tabloid was published, people started pointing at her and commenting, she says.
Later that night, a crowd gathered outside her house.
"People were throwing stones through the gate," says Mugisha, "They were shouting, 'Homosexual homosexual!' I started getting scared."
Mugisha and her partner of one year had to flee their house the next morning, narrowly escaping stoning. Now they are in hiding.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act's author David Bahati has maintained that this law exists to protect children from being indoctrinated into homosexuality by recruiting gays, despite his inability to produce evidence of that actually happening. Museveni repeated that rhetoric in a statement on his rationale for signing the bill.
It's quite something, that rationale. Museveni claims that he was wary of signing the bill, saying that he "thought that it would be wrong to punish somebody because of how he was created, disgusting though it may be to us." And so he went on the search for genetic proof of homosexuality, came up short, and decided to sign the bill. Check out his logic:
After exhaustive studies, it has been found that homosexuality is in two categories: there are those who engage in homosexuality for mercenary reasons on account of the under – developed sectors of our economy that cause people to remain in poverty, the great opportunities that abound not withstanding; and then there are those that become homosexual by both nature (genetic) and nurture (up-bringing). The studies that were done on identical twins in Sweden showed that 34% - 39% were homosexual on account of nature and 66% were homosexual on account of nurture.
Therefore, even in those studies, nurture was more significant than nature. Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture? The answer is: "No". No study has shown that. Since nurture is the main cause of homosexuality, then society can do something about it to discourage the trends. That is why I have agreed to sign the Bill.
There's a lot of bullshit here, including a willful misreading of that study's findings. "Can somebody be homosexual purely by nature without nurture?" is a garbage question because nature does not exist without nurture and vice versa. Homosexuality need not be genetic to be innate, in fact, as the study's authors pointed out:
As for what environmental factors might be at play, the authors point out that these might not be entirely social but could also be biological. For example, some studies have suggested that exposure to prenatal hormones or even the mother's immune system could influence the sexual development of a fetus.
There's also the theory that homosexuality is not written in DNA at all, but in epigenetics, which influence the expression of our genes.
All of this is to say that Museveni's attempt to disclose whether or not people are born gay amounts to lip service. He didn't try very hard at all.
Speaking of lips, you should read this section of his statement, too:
Since Western societies do not appreciate politeness, let me take this opportunity to warn our people publicly about the wrong practices indulged in and promoted by some of the outsiders.
One of them is "oral sex". Our youth should reject this because God designed the human being most appropriately for pleasurable, sustainable and healthy sex. Some of the traditional styles are very pleasurable and healthy. The mouth is not engineered for that purpose except kissing. Besides, it is very unhealthy.
I want to know more about these styles and how the mouth is engineered for kissing.
In response to Museveni's signing of the bill, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark have pledged to withhold aid to the Ugandan government (the Netherlands and Denmark said they were redirecting at least $20 million in aid to activist groups and private aid agencies).
Via this Independent piece, which warns that western resistance to anti-gay laws (and ignorance of the country's other human rights violations) could "play into [Museveni's] hands," comes this interview with Ugandan gay rights activist Dr. Frank Mugisha. The entire thing is fascinating, as he comments on the progress of the gay rights movement in Uganda and how American evangelicals and the Anti-Homosexuality Act's introduction caused more visible signs of homophobia than he'd ever seen before. But this part, I think, is particularly crucial:
We are asking the international community not to cut aid to Uganda. The activists in my country who are members of [Sexual Minorities Uganda], who are openly gay, who are working at the forefront are not very many. The backlash if aid is cut, first of all, we're scapegoated...as undermining the country's infrastructure and all that. And then the other challenge is that the aid does not only go to heterosexuals. It goes to the very many homosexual Ugandans who are in the closet, who are not on the forefront, who are not even in activism. So for us we do not want the policies of the country affected. We don't want to create more victims. We are already victims of the situation. What we're saying is countries can revise the way they give aid to Uganda. They can redirect it to programs that are going to benefit everyone. They can put conditions and ask Uganda to uphold human rights...but they can also tell Uganda, "If you're going to abuse those rights, some of the budgets would get affected." Have that government dialogue. We don't want Western governments to come and tell our president what to do...That is going to create more problems for us.
[Image via AFP/Getty]