On another forum, a discussion is going on following remarks attributed to David Cecil the playwright who whose play, The River and the Mountain, got him deported from Uganda.
David Cecil is quoted as saying: “Uganda is not a terrible place and most people are not homophobic but they are conservative,” said Mr Cecil. “There are pastors preaching hate, they are the problem.”
I couldn’t agree with him more on the homophobia. I tried to illustrate way back in 2010 that Ugandans then were no more homophobic than the South Africans, Americans or the French of 2013. Attitudes towards homosexuality worldwide are deeply visceral and the difference tends to be in the lengths governments are willing to go to discourage their citizens from acting ruinously on the feelings they are perfectly entitled to.
In that light, the Scandinavian countries are years ahead of almost any place else in the world on this question. Homophobic sentiment exists in Sweden and Denmark, too. But the politicians are setting an example by leading the campaign to actively discourage the feelings from going beyond that,and perhaps even change them to acceptance and tolerance.
But it is on the issue of ‘conservatism’ that I want to dwell at this time.
My suspicion is that David Cecil is confusing ignorance and/or lack of education about homosexuality with conservatism. There is scant evidence to show that most Ugandans are conservative. What they are is unschooled about some aspects of life and sexuality, and too many of them hide their lack of knowledge in bombastic, shrill, often foolish knee-jerk throw-aways that observers mistake for conservatism.
Then there are Ugandans who are incapable of logical thought who, largely because this country’s education system focuses largely on churning out examination grades rather than critical thinking, run to the Bible and “tradition” as their refuge.
The ignorant ones , who are not familiar with or educated about homosexuality, simply parrot what they heard Martin Ssempa yell out. If you try to engage them in an intellectual exploration of the issues, they are visibly at sea. Since Ugandans typically don’t want to admit that they don’t know, it is little wonder they opt for ignorant din instead.
Ssempa is of course a cynical and opportunistically homophobic pastor who knows that he is talking nonsense all the time but nonetheless tries to encourage his listeners to be homophobic because he is hoping it will get him paid. It all makes for great mindless noise – sadly – which many people mistake for “conservatism.”
Remember that more than 50% of Uganda’s population is under 25 (48% is under 15). That is precisely the age group that is demonstrably more open-minded about sex and sexuality – to Martin Ssempa’s acute frustration since it is also the age group he really wants to convert in his homophobic petri dish sermons.
See why it is a complete misunderstanding to argue think that Ugandans are homophobic or conservative?
That said, David Cecil has clearly used the years he has spent in Uganda rather well. He never met my grandmother who died at the ripe old age of 96 but he would be correct if he realized that she was not homophobic or conservative.
Having only gone to Bible school, she wasn’t the kind of woman anyone today would call educated. But she showed critical thinking and an enlightenment that a lot of schooled Ugandans would do well to emulate.
My grandmother knew David Kato. He lived down the road from her own house. She also knew that he was gay and spoke about how odd it was that a man could ‘unite’ with another man that way. But she also knew to mind her own business and made sure she never raised Kato’s homosexuality with his mother whom she also knew well. One of her step sons, my father’s brother, spoke positively of David Kato at his funeral and my grandmother would have totally approved.
My grandmother had more sense than ten Martin Ssempas and do you know how I know that? She was angrier about the wanton abuse of office by government officials than she was about homosexuality. She recognized that homosexuality was a curiosity but would not expend energy on it because she was aware that she had known ‘odd’ people like that all her life and they had never affected her life the way lack of drugs and doctors in hospitals had robbed her of children, grandchildren and great children.
Uganda is not at all a terrible place, and the majority of Ugandans are not homophobic or conservative. The pastors and politicians preaching hate for their own opportunistic, selfish, ends are the problem.
- What makes Pastor Martin Ssempa (PhD) tick? (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- Uganda deports British theatre producer over play exploring gay issues (guardian.co.uk)
- I was flung into cell with killers and rapists for staging ‘gay’ play (standard.co.uk)
- Uganda ‘deports’ UK theatre producer (bbc.co.uk)
- Please stop this exaggeration! Please!!!!!! (sebaspace.wordpress.com)
- I am embarrassed to be African!