Uganda has passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In passing the bill the Ugandan parliament played to the gallery of publicly conservative Anglo-Christian values that most Ugandans align themselves with. The present text is a step back from the proposals of death for alleged homosexual acts but Mps nonetheless went with life in prison ( important to note that Uganda hardly carries out death sentences so for purposes of argument life imprisonment is the highest possible punishment for capital offenses in the country). I was recently reminded that for a country whose leaders pander to “African values”, independence and sovereignty, choosing to legislate against homosexuality is bizarrely the most pro-western way of expressing a country’s so-called independence. Laws against “the order of nature” were introduced to Africa (especially British colonial territories) and elsewhere as part of the colonial project. In other words they were imposed by the colonizer.
The suggestion that these laws then express African conservatism is ludicrous on its face in the way that banning “Song of Lawino” by Okot P’bitek would be banning pornography ( Uganda also passed an Anti-Pornography bill).
What appears to have happened as usual is that African elites ( if Mps are representative of this expression as well) are still a reactionary bunch, clawing into the intellectual darkness for something, anything to represent a sense of safety in their non-identity.
As I have pointed out before the real “life sentence’ for homosexuality happens even if one is not jailed for the act. A horrible record of pre-trial detention means many men incarcerated in overcrowded jails are victims of rapesomething that the authorities-and the bill does not address. Coupled with the high rate of HIV infection in single sex detention sectors- jail is fatal for any man, gay or not.
As for the moral debate; this underwhelming take on so-called national values expresses the collective ineptitude of lawmakers. Mob justice, public sector corruption with its myriad victims, discrimination against other minorities, religious intolerance, ethnic chauvinism and the acceptance of the lack of integrity in public offices all mirror the ethical cesspool that is common occurrence in both private and public spaces.
Read the bill and parliament reports on it below. Meanwhile we will turn to more pressing matters.