The TownhallSocial issues

Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill shows the price of sovereignty

By Simon Mwebaze

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed here are those of the authors. View more opinion on ScoonTV.

After over a decade of debate, 73% of Uganda’s parliament voted to pass the controversial anti-homosexuality bill, which was signed by the president of Uganda. Uganda joins over 30 African countries that have legislation criminalizing LGBTQ activities, though Uganda went a step further by criminalizing identifying as LGBTQ. 

The progression toward this bill has been controversial especially due to plenty of pressure from Western governments, donors, and activists. While a plurality of indigenous people in Uganda were for the bill, international pressure was significant enough to delay it for over a decade. But with the signing, there will be implications that follow both positive and negative depending on which side of the matter you stand. 

One of the major implications is national sovereignty. For a long time, Africa has been subject to many Western ideologies and customs. It has taken up many ideas from the West such as clothing, language, GMOs, and entertainment. Even our form of government is Western based in the form of democracy. While these are not necessarily bad in and of themselves, there are areas where adopting some Western customs has worked to our detriment. By signing the bill, Uganda retains national sovereignty to make decisions that are preferable to the majority of the population rather than the opinions of Western powers. 

Another important implication is that Uganda may protect future reproduction. Biologically, same-sex relationships are unable to procreate. The spread of same-sex relationships in the country could pose a threat to procreation in the long-term as same-sex couples usually have to adopt or undergo medical procedures to conceive. About half of Africa’s population is made up of youth who may be impressionable to the LGBTQ movement which could have a significant effect on future procreation. Therefore, laws deterring its activities could prevent this. 

Culture is preserved through the bill. Most, if not all Ugandan tribes or cultures are against LGBTQ activities. The general sentiment amongst Uganda tribes including Baganda, Banyankole, Acholi, and Basoga are strongly heterosexual. Passing the bill upholds the cultural values of all Ugandan tribes that believe not just in heterosexual relationships but the value of such relationships toward procreation and maintaining strong societies based on families.

A large front of religious leaders in Uganda were for the bill. Most of Uganda is composed of Christians and Muslims who had a concerted voice supporting the passing of the bill. Religious leaders from the Catholic, Anglican, and Muslim sects publicly condemned LGBTQ acts in their congregation and showed their support for the bill that would act as a deterrent to promotion of LGBTQ activities within the society especially among the youth.

Of course, no decision comes without consequences. Uganda has been dependent on aid from foreign countries and donors for a long time. This aid, usually in the form of funding, has been one of the major threats used to prevent the signing of the bill. Already, some donors have withdrawn funding toward cancer research in the country with others soon to follow. 

There is also the potential for increased violence against LGBTQ people. It is not a farfetched thought in Uganda. For example, in 2014, a gay man was burned to death for being gay. Also, many LGBTQ people have left the country for Western countries like Canada and Germany to escape persecution for their beliefs. Others have been evicted from their apartments for being identified as LGBTQ. 

The reality is that this is far from a common occurrence in the country. Most LGBTQ people live comfortable lives in the country without threat to their lives. They live and enjoy themselves in upmarket areas in the capital city where most people mind their business. LGBTQ people also run businesses, work in media, and fashion. If the general sentiment in Uganda regarding the LGBTQ community was as bad as it’s portrayed in Western media, this would not be possible.

The passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill brings to memory the Anti-Pornography Act 2014. Like most sensational Ugandan laws, they are rarely applied. If they are, it’s usually a month or so before it fades into the background to other issues. Ugandans have more pressing challenges like poverty, unemployment, and poor governance that keep their minds thoroughly occupied. There are far too many serious challenges to keep an eye on LGBTQ people. 

While the Ugandan parliament can be accused of not addressing other priority issues facing Ugandans, this bill acts as a deterrent to homosexuality. It is not just a bill protecting future reproduction, cultural and religious values, and national sovereignty, but it acts as a deterrent to other sexual orientations that are being persecuted in Western countries. 

Legalizing homosexuality in other countries has opened the door to other sexual orientations such as transgender people seeking rights as well. However, some are now competing unfairly in women’s sports like swimming and MMA. Beyond that, younger children are being educated toward accepting LGBTQ people as normal.  

By standing its ground through this bill, Uganda is avoiding the pitfall the West is in. On the other hand, the perception of the bill across the world may not be as serious as it’s been made out to be. Think of the Anti-Pornography Act of 2014 which was eventually dropped. The country does not have the resources nor the desire to monitor what every citizen does with their private lives. There are bigger fish to fry. 

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Simon Mwebaze

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