Richard Dawkins once said that ‘Science replaces private prejudice with public, verifiable evidence.’ This was especially true, and necessary for sexuality and gender activists in Uganda, when they launched, and presented their report, Expanded Criminalisation of Homosexuality in Uganda: A Flawed Narrative [Empirical evidence and strategic alternatives from an African perspective. With Ugandan president only recently refusing to sign the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and calling for ‘scientific proof that homosexuality is not genetic’. Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) presented the President’s office with their report-which could not have come at a better time.
The situation for homosexual, gender-non conforming and transgender people is precarious, and not just in Uganda, but all across the African continent. There have been increased reports of hate crimes targeted at people who are either perceived to be homosexual or people that publicly affirm their non-heterosexual orientation and identity. The attacks on these women and men in Africa are carried out systematically-by organs of the state that suppress people’s rights to access and live constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms; and also privately and in social and public places where members of the public intolerant and ignorant to other’s rights and freedoms, attack, assault, injure and in in cases, kill people. These hate crimes go unreported, uninvestigated and ultimately unsolved. State law enforcement machinery, for one, should be compelled to protect vulnerable citizens that are attacked for the crime of being different. But in Uganda, it appears, the police themselves are the aggressors, and using tip-offs from the public target Ugandan citizens perceived to be homosexual, and parade them in-front of media, thus subjecting them to even more humiliation.
Anti-homosexuality propaganda is wrought with superstition, whole lies and myths. Without the proper information on different sexual orientations and gender identities, and rapidly shrinking spaces for having these conversations-the SMUG report has come at the right time, to help Ugandan lawmakers, members of government and the general public separate the chaff from the wheat-and have true, factual and scientific evidence.
This report uses scientific, historical, anthropological and comparative social data from other sub-Saharan African states to debunk the theories behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passed by Parliament as not only factually unfounded but also essentially un-African.
Below is an outline of the findings of the report:
i. Uganda’s own Human Rights Commission, in its Annual Report of 2009, indicated that the proposed law would violate Uganda’s international human rights treaty obligations and fail to address issues such as HIV prevention and coercive or forced sexual relations.
ii. Historical and anthropological evidence shows that same sex relationships existed throughout Africa, including in the territories that now make up Uganda, long before colonisation by Western powers.
iii. Current homophobic attitudes date from the colonial period and are strongest in those countries that were once part of the British Empire. Uganda’s laws criminalising homosexuality stem entirely from laws introduced by the British colonial administration in 1902 and 1950 in an attempt to counter what was seen at the time as dangerous sexual tendencies among Ugandans. Ubuntu (or ‘African humanism’) extends tolerance towards and acceptance of other sexualities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Consequently, it is more correct to see homophobia as alien to Africa rather than homosexuality.
iv. According to the widespread consensus of psychiatric and psychological bodies, same-sex attraction is not an alterable mental disorder.
v. Homosexuality does not affect the traditional Ugandan Family Unity. The two countries with the highest fertility and birth rates in the world do not criminalise homosexuality. Countries such as Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and Congo, which have never criminalised homosexuality, do not have ever-increasing populations of gay men and lesbian women, and the traditional African family unit which forms part of their respective societies is alive and well.
vi. Incontrovertible scientific data, which has been acknowledged by various African and international figures, shows that the spread of HIV is actually facilitated by expanded criminalisation of homosexuality.
vii. Child sexual abuse will not be prevented by this bill banning sexual relations between two consenting adults. Instead, sex with minors, who are by definition under the age of consent, should be criminalised.
viii. Gay and lesbian people are not seeking special privileges or rights, they are simply seeking enforcement of the rights enjoyed by all Ugandans under the 1995 Constitution of Uganda.
Drawing on this data the report makes four recommendations as political and legislative alternatives to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
a. Amend sexual offense laws to ensure offenses and sentences are gender neutral so all perpetrators can be brought to justice.
b. Implement a system of mandatory reporting of suspected child abuse. c. Increase access to health services without discrimination
Download a copy of the report here.