A Different Dimension...
Following my comments about the Editorial by the South African Newspaper which called Ugandan leaders Evil, I received the comment below from one of my colleagues and I respond there-under;
Here's an excerpt taken from the American Psychiatric Association way back in 1973...
"Whereas homosexuality in and of itself implies no impairment in judgment, stability, reliability, or vocational capabilities, therefore, be it resolved that the American Psychiatric Association deplores all public and private discrimination against homosexuals in such areas as employment, housing, public accommodations, and licensing, and declares that no burden of proof of such judgment, capacity, or reliability shall be placed on homosexuals greater than that imposed on any other persons. Further, the APA supports and urges the enactment of civil rights legislation at local, state, and federal levels that would insure homosexual citizens the same protections now guaranteed to others. Further, the APA supports and urges the repeal of all legislation making criminal offenses of sexual acts performed by consenting adults in private"
This was the APAs statement in 1973 after extensive research into the subject following great deabte and gay civil right movements in the USA. Homosexuality as a diagnosis was eliminated from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) II in 1973 ( p.s. the DSM is the encyclopedia of mental illness, a guide that all practicing psychiatrists follow)
As a practicing Medical professional, i find it simply barbaric that a law maker can even suggest tabling a bill such as this. It goes against the ethics of oaths of a few professions that might inadvertently be involved in the care of a homsexual.
I can't sit in my house and beam with pride as individuals at home decide to kill human beings based on emotion,cultural bias and ineptitude. Its no wonder the term medevil was used as i see no difference in the witch hunt traditions that existed in Europe in the medevil times.
There's no doubt, that the issue is repugnant, however at the same time, it's clear there are no clear cut answers to explain this behavior. Scientists continue research into the genetics behind this, the impact of psychological development as well as traumatic experiences and cross-cultural studies.
I think the real evil here is in the fact that a human life carries no value in the eyes of our leaders. This would be a similar trait i would have expected to see in someone like Hitler, Idi Amin etc. Because essentially the thought process is along the lines of killing any one whose lifestyle one doesn't agree with. I believe there are so many ways to discourage the behavior but to announce death upon any human being is plain evil. Its because of this simplistic and dismissive attitude towards any human life that our people perish in Uganda. Whether its the poor roads, the terrible hospitals, you name it, the lack of appreciation of the potential in any human being is what surely kills us. How honestly can i see our leaders in a favorable light.
Sadly i am not convinced that anything about this bill demonstrates a very robust democratic process. Everyone is debating based on the cultural perceptions and religious opinions which sadly is all that defines our people. I wish there could be strong deabte and democratic repercussion for the monies lost in CHOGM, bad roads, 30 years of insurgency in the North of Uganda.
I see nothing wrong in that article especially in this day and age when the world is alot smaller than it was 20 years ago.
My rather long response…..
Hallo (name withheld)
First things first- I am happy to hear from you….
Strong arguments for and against the Anti Homosexuality Bill 2009
Now to the article at hand, you do raise valid points especially when you state that ''there are no clear cut answers" to what is before us, and I do agree with you. Indeed, as I noted in my initial response, there are issues with the bill that many do not agree with. However there are many who agree with some, although not all issues in the bill. My take is, and does remain that those with the benefit of knowledge should disseminate it as convincingly and clearly as possible, so that they draw more to their side, rather than awakening the calls for battle through course language and abuse.
It is better that we state the facts as they truly are, rather than tell half-truths that others will immediately pick up and misuse. This is unfortunately what caused the genocide in Rwanda. For example, when you state that “I can’t sit in my house and beam with pride as individuals at home decide to kill human beings based on emotion, cultural bias or ineptitude”, this is definitely not what has happened. No one has decided to kill human beings- however there is a proposal in the Bill to pass death penalty for those convicted of aggravated homosexuality. (See Section 3). Please note that this proposal has however been subjected to scrutiny to verify whether it is founded in anyway. This is the true state of the matter. There are many other issues in the bill that infringe on the right to privacy and others which are being scrutinized.
The above does not in any way mean that I am a wholesome supporter of the Bill. I recognize its failings and shortcomings. Like I mention in my previous writing, I don't support the death penalty for homosexuality or for any other crime. Neither do I agree that parents, friends, clergy and medical personnel of confessed or practicing homosexuals should be criminalized for not revealing the sexual preferences of those under their care. However, I still think that inter alia the rapist – (whether homosexual or heterosexual) should be penalized, he who spreads HIV intentionally should be penalized, and recruitment drives for homosexuality should also be stopped etc. Secondly, when you state that it is “barbaric” for a legislator to “even suggest” tabling the bill, it means that we are going to police people’s thoughts, words and in this specific case the words of a person who is mandated to speak on behalf of others. Now, you have probably heard that “even the devil does not know the intent of man’s heart” which means that it is a thankless task to try to police thoughts or speech for those are inherent rights of the individual human being and the rest of mankind should not try to go against this. Let people think and speak. In any case, one could argue, why should someone be prohibited from even suggesting tabling a bill against homosexuality, while another is allowed to suggest a bill for recognition of homosexuality? I see unfairness in that approach, contrary to the time tested norms of freedom of speech, thought and conscience. That is why when you say “it is simply barbaric to suggest”, one will also say or should in this instance be allowed to say “it is simply barbaric to be prohibited to suggest” and that for me creates a vicious cycle that does not help this discussion. At the very least, it veers off from the issues at hand. I would rather that, people are given opportunity to agree or disagree on these issues. See below for example,
Reverend Canon Aaron Mwesigye Kafundizeki, the Church of Uganda provincial secretary, (said): "It is an important law, but the provision related to the death penalty may prevent this law from being passed, because death should not be accepted as a punishment. Therefore propose another form of punishment instead of death." Kafundizeki said pushing for extra territorial jurisdiction would be counter-productive. "The Church of Uganda is saying we need to limit ourselves to the Ugandan territory, instead of extra territorial jurisdiction, because the Ugandan constitution is very clear on protocols and ratifications. Going beyond the borders will be counter-productive," he says.
Livingston Okello Okello, Member of Parliament in Chua County in Northern Uganda, says much as homosexuality was not allowed within his culture, he would not support the death penalty against lesbians and homosexuals. "In Luo culture the death penalty has never been part of our practice. Because what is the intended purpose of the death penalty, apart from causing suffering to the relatives of the victim?" he asks. Several other parliamentarians in interviews with IPS said they would support the Bill at its second reading, because the practice of homosexuality had never been accepted in most of the communities and constituencies they represented.
The above are people’s contrasting views and we should allow them room least we stifle debate and cause anarchy and war. To my understanding, the bill came as a result of many reports of boys being defiled while older ones were either raped or cajoled into the act by pastors, priests of bigger boys. Stories of recruitments were rife with confessions of former recruiters being given. The first reading of the bill in parliament gives indication to some of these issues and that is why there is a near unanimous voice from the house of parliament, which is normally rare. That there is need to look at the veracity of these claims is clear and that is why the democratic process is taking place in the same way that the Anti Genital Mutilation Bill and other laws have been passed.
Whereas the democratic process in Uganda is not perfect, no system is infallible. The countries some of us look up to have not had a clean bill of health as far as their democratic tendencies or human rights observance is concerned. They speak in support of human rights then go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan or put trade embargoes on Cuba. Former leaders, Idi Amin and Adolf Hitler who are alluded to in your piece did not, to the best of my knowledge, ever give voice to the people of Uganda. Historians like Kiveijinja, Karugire, Kanyeihamba and others have covered what happened in these periods to great detail.
Let’s take the supposition of the Ugandan “dictators” scenario, is it not possible that the reverse is also true in some of these countries (Canada, UK and Sweden) where their citizens are being prosecuted for expressing themselves against among other things, Islam and homosexuality-which is the same mistake that the current bill makes. Hence, the justification for open space for debate. It is my humble submission that this is not what the American Psychiatric Association meant when it urged the “enactment of civil rights legislation at local, state, and federal levels that would insure homosexual citizens the same protections now guaranteed to others.” However, what we instead see today are situations where there is no room for the conscientious objector - there is no room for those who hold contrary views to say Islam. I am almost sure you know of many a case which has been won by gay rights activities all over the world because they were denied similar rights. See for example our own Ugandan case of Victor Mukasa.
In my view, the above does justify why I think that we need to avoid name calling but rather work out differences in a way that shows mutual respect for all concerned. Indeed, this is seen in your words when you state that “its clear there are no clear cut answers to explain this (homosexual) behavior. ...scientists continue research…”
Depending on which side of the table one is seated, there are strong arguments on both sides of the coin and many of us remain on the fence-conflicted. However, one will not receive support or audience when one calls Museveni an evil leader and blames him for something he has not yet done. Regardless of what wrongs our leaders have committed, and continue to commit, let us not throw away the baby in the bathwater. The heap of abuse that is levied upon our leaders and President does not and will not help this debate. That is why I say that whereas you have all the freedom to do so, and I will support your right to say so, I don’t think that statements you make such as “I think the real evil here is in the fact that a human life carries no value in the eyes of our leaders” will help us change the minds of our leaders. This is because I don’t think it is a factual truth and secondly some of our leaders do value human life. Such statements, as directed to the specific leadership in Uganda, will in my view, easily ignite a stubbornness in our leaders to walk away from the negotiation table and/or proceeding to prove a point that –Yes, they can. In my opinion, calling Bahati evil and implying the same for all leaders and legislators of Uganda, (a commentator even referred to them as animals), will not achieve the desired progress. It would be a failure on the part of us who are calling for reconsideration, restraint, healing and dialogue. Besides, the facts are clear - the government does support the bill but the Law Reform Commission clearly stated that it did not take part in drafting this private member’s bill. More so, the bill is still under scrutiny! Let us desist from being the boy who cried wolf! Besides, any ethical journalist would at least qualify their statements since there are many reports of world leaders who have responded poorly to disasters such as the Rwanda genocide, the human rights situation in China and the appalling situation in Democratic Republic of Congo.
Basis for dialogue
You make mention in your response that “Everyone is debating based on the cultural perceptions and religious opinions which sadly is all that defines our people.” I assume by using the word “sadly” means that you do not approve of the approach? If that is so, you do not suggest what “Everyone” should base their debate on. Should it be only on medical grounds? If so, why? That would help me understand. I do agree with you that people debate based on what “defines them” and that is why it is important to engage them in these very areas where they are rooted. If we discourage them from doing so, then we lose their participation which for me is the essence of any workable (not perfect) democracy. That is the basis for cultural relativism and legal pluralism as I understand it. I would be uncomfortable to make a decision based on say purely medical grounds because doctors can also get it wrong- see how they went against the Hippocratic Oath in Nazi Germany or how the WHO has changed its position on DDT over time. Consider further the decision to carry out euthanasia for terminally ill patients- in many cases the doctors have recommended termination of life but for cultural religious and social concerns, relatives have opted out. In other cases, like Terry Schiavo, the law has been abused to the pain and suffering of parents.
So, if you wish to have “strong debate,” then you ought to allow for an “all-cards-on-table” approach and with no name calling. Failure of which, then the only option is probably war which some have argued is the end of all reasoning. We should consider all view-points, the same way we consider the Third World approach to International Law and socio-economic rights, and ubuntuism- we are because they are-umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu ("a person is a person through (other) persons"). Let us not be seen to be selecting what does or does not apply depending on the situation at hand. We cannot stifle or abuse dissenting voices -they are after all our fathers, mothers, sisters, priests, pastors and basically form part of the world we live in. For them to be relegated to history, as the South African newspaper’s editorial suggests seems rather unfair and undemocratic.
In my article I argue -without using the word, that there is hypocrisy in the way this matter is handled. One cannot call the other “evil” because of one issue and keep quiet about other human rights abuses. We both agree that there is much more happening in Uganda and yet there is a deafening silence. I opine that this silence is occasioned by all citizens and not only our leaders; Businessmen sell expired drugs, drunken drivers continue to cause havoc on our roads, bodaboda(bajaj) riders continue to contribute to the highest number of accidents on our roads, lawyers give poor ill-prepared defenses for the indigent, traffic policemen wave on overloaded vehicles, doctors are not in hospitals, rich countries continue to sell landmines, women in developed nations continue to wear blood diamond, companies continue to profit from the poor, women give birth and dump babies in pit latrines and rubbish heaps, careless driving is rife, name it. Almost each one of us has contributed to the death of one or more human beings.
Here in lies my question - Why do we quickly single out only our leaders and never look at what our contribution to this situation is? We dump rubbish everywhere and block water passages but “look to our leaders to clean up after us”. We notice unfairness everyday but say nothing. How many times have we paid bribes, rolled up our car windows when beggars approach, need I go on? Why then do we dust up our banners for human rights that have been long cast aside when it comes to homosexuality? If the attitude that we have towards decriminalization of homosexuality is the same attitude we had for the twenty years Kony has been cutting off lips and limbs of our brothers and sisters, for the killings in Rwanda, Iraq, the floods, bad roads, AIDS, Ebola, name it-this world would be a better place to live.
To add insult to injury, the editorial even calls on our donor friends to put pressure - interestingly, these are the same donors who are allegedly helping us develop our democratic systems, which should be devoid of undue influence, etc. With one hand they build court houses and prosecutorial offices, fund the world of the IGG and other offices that promote good governance, and with the other hand they take all away unless we do as they say. No wonder Andrew Mwenda says that we can never develop with aid. It is no wonder that many now doubt the democratic system of this country. I do not see how our democracy will ever work in such circumstances. It just confirms that our Ugandan-ness is a myth. We only remember our alleged independence and state sovereignty when Inzikuru wins the Olympics or when there are grants for foreigners in the developed countries.
I think we need to be honest here-someone is picking and choosing which lives are more important than others-that is my point. In my opinion, there is a hegemony we are dealing with but that is for another day's discourse.
I stand to be corrected, but in my understanding, the role of the journalist is to provide unbiased, empathetic information- at best to use that position to convince but not to abuse. You cannot abuse all leadership in Uganda for each and every evil that goes on there. I am still offended that our leaders-and that includes many others apart from the president and his cabinet-are being branded evil! Evil? for a private members' draft bill? When there are already indications that the provision on death penalty will not be carried into the final draft? Give me a break! That in my humble opinion is not ethical journalism or helpful discourse. I am already putting down fires in my class for something that is not in existence yet.
Which way now?
Here in lies the biggest challenge. Many people in the world and not Uganda alone are against homosexuality. Newspaper reports indicate that many commonwealth countries still criminalize homosexuality. That homosexuality is a controversial issue in most democracies, is a given; that it shall remain so is also, in my view a reality. That the issue is political in nature is also a given as seen in the voting pattern of democrats and conservative republicans. Like you mention in your response, the findings of the APA in 1973 came “after extensive research into the subject following great debate and gay civil right movements in the USA.” This means that until the re-interpretation of homosexuality as a rights issue, there was probably majority disagreement with the gay lifestyle within the APA and beyond. However, the human rights movement has changed this perception and we also note that the APA descends in the arena of advocacy on rights, legislation and acceptance. This shows further that no institution should deny this opportunity to another be it religious cultural political or otherwise on such issues. To condemn some and uphold others is in my view unfortunate and defeats the whole human rights enterprise.
Indeed the world is a lot smaller than it was 20 years ago” however, let us not kid ourselves, certain things have not changed- racism and xenophobia continues, multi lateral corporations rule the day, professionals from developed countries are still required to re-train in order to work-an experience many of us clearly know well, international students are still paying over three or four times the price of local students at universities and schools, the permanent members of the Security Council remain the same, our economies remain hugely reliant on aid and consumerism, Copenhagen seems to require more action from the third world states than the developed ones, name it. It is interesting what can and cannot change in this century.
Let me conclude by stating that whereas I have respect for the American Psychiatric Association because I am sure they have taken time to study and research before arriving at the statement they gave. Be that as it may, I still do not agree that “there should be a repeal of all legislation making criminal offences of sexual acts performed by consenting adults in private.” I believe that there are certain acts like incest which, even though performed in private between consenting adults should be criminalized by society. I could mention a few others but that is probably for another discussion.