(The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday, March 15, 2014)
KAMPALA, UGANDA ✦Fear is a strange thing, which is why it’s so hard to look into the eyes of another human being that you’re about to gas or bomb or, in the case of Uganda’s gays, throw to the lions.
This is also why President Yoweri Museveni recently refused to meet with Uganda’s gay community – there were repeated requests – before signing Uganda’s infamous anti-gay law.
The new law means even touching with the intent of a homosexual act – try to prove or disprove this one – will get you seven years. Short of jail, a life-sentence for a single homosexual act, there’s obviously also a new chill on the street here.
In this country of almost 40 million, gays likely number several hundred thousand. And because African cultures are very community-driven, mob justice can easily rule.
So, as recently happened at a Kampala taxi park, women wearing skirts too short can be stripped and beaten. How much more a target is the gay person trying to survive a kick to the head, or brick through the window, or the so-called ‘treatment,’ reparative rape?
But you’re the president, for 28 years actually, and there’s another election soon, and when even outside polls show 96 per cent of your citizens oppose homosexuality, how can you meet for tea and biscuits with any gay man?
Now there’s also this golden opportunity to stand up to the west, the colonialist west, to say no to its cultural imperialism and immorality, and no you don’t need its dirty aid money either.
This is the view from Uganda, Gay Ground Zero.
Ground Zero because much of this ignited when a few American activists, so-called Christians, came to warn locals – MPs, clerics, lawyers, thousands of students – of the so-called global gay agenda.
One, Scott Lively, wrote supporters how hopeful he was when told his 2009 visit was like a nuclear bomb exploding. Indeed, shortly later, Uganda’s parliament introduced its initial Kill the Gays bill, since softened to jail.
A gay activist group has also since sued Lively in a Massachusetts court for the resulting arrests and beatings and murders of some gays here in Kampala.
This is what happens with nuclear bombs. They’re not so precise. They leave collateral damage. Radiation lingers.
Because of the misguided religiosity of radical activists, what, for example, is the counter-attitude toward conservative Christians in places like, say, Hamilton?
But Ugandans have taken ownership of this issue. It’s their country and, like any, it has its ways. Even pro-gay Ugandans now wish the west would butt-out because the more it riles itself up and pushes for aid penalties, the harder it is for Uganda’s gays.
There are, in fact, gay sex crimes here, predators paying for sex in schools. They abuse and confuse and destroy youth who find it hard to refuse money otherwise never imagined. It’s forced prostitution that needs to be punished as any sexual perversion, gay or heterosexual.
Then again, why not create and demonize a larger enemy? Charge it with destroying families. You hear this on your side of the ocean too. Really, though, it doesn’t take much to see that families everywhere are destroying themselves quite fine on their own.
Finally, Museveni told the world on cable news that he signed Uganda’s new law only after Ugandan scientists confirmed homosexuality is simply learned behaviour. There’s no genetic cause. None.
Thank you Ugandan scientists. We’re all relieved to finally have the final word, such conclusive knowledge, about the mysteries and nuances of human sexuality. No?
No, the truth is that there’s a political whiff in the air. And that fear. It’s a powerful force, like in the ancient world, everyone in the coliseum watching. Then your thumbs go down. Then the thunderous and terrible roar of the crowd.
Uganda is hardly alone in all this. Homosexuality is illegal in 67 countries. In ten others, it officially carries the death penalty. This, if you’re not beaten dead first.
Westerners call this state-sanctioned homophobia. Here it’s called cultural sovereignty. Whatever, it amounts to the same dark sport.
This is our world. There will be a day of reckoning someday. But that’s in another time and place.
Hamilton Spectator link to this column