“Sexual matters must remain confidential”

“I have been married to a beautiful lady called Janet for 38 years, but I have never kissed her in public or in front of my children. Sexual matters, heterosexual or homosexual, must be confidential.” Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni talking to European Union diplomats March 28, 2012.


That is what foreigners, activists (both foreign and Ugandan), and everyone agitating for sexual rights (gay or straight) in Uganda needs to understand. Overt shows of affection are not the Ugandan way. My grandfather, too, was married to his wife for as long as I can remember but never once was there any hint of sexual innuendo of any sort between them; be it spoken of gesticulated. But, obviously a lot of sex was going on since we see the products of that sex all around us.

Par for the course in the West: topless public frolicking

That is the Ugandan way. That is indeed the Africa way for the most part and it is patronizing to try and change us when our way has worked rather well since creation. Keeping sexual matters secret is not a weakness as long as no one suffers for it, indeed the divorce rate in Africa is way below what you see in the West where people can get married in a blaze of publicity today and divorce 17 days later, again in a blaze of publicity.

White people, (or should one say people in the West?), stand on train platforms and snog away for minutes while waiting for the train. That is Un-African. They take their tops off in perfectly manicured parks, lie on top of each other and lock lips for what seems like eternity. Un-African. They even have places at Metro stations that they call Kiss and Ride – ostensibly because that is where you are expected to drop your loved one off and kiss them goodbye as they head for their train journey. Eergh!

In that light, even Gay Pride parades in London, New York, Berlin and Sydney make sense because such displays lend themselves to the culture of flaunting it that is par for the course in most of these places. Not so in Uganda where heterosexuals seem to do all they can to keep their relations – or at least the sexual aspects of them – secret.

Zari snogs Sylvia Owori on a boat cruise recently

In Uganda, that sort of thing is done by idle socialites pretending to be gay in order to get a photo into the the tabloid papers. If you don’t believe me, try to find a single photo of these types of women with their tongues down the throat of a man they are actually in love with or are married to. You won’t find it because they, too, know that the real thing is to be kept very private.

In Uganda (Africa) we don’t even talk about love – we just demonstrate our affection and those we direct it towards sense it even if it is not articulated.

Prudish, primitive? That is the African way for the most part and I for one must admit that it suits me down to the ground. There is definitely something to be said for keeping some things private.

So, our activist friends in London, Berlin, Oslo and New York. Before you run around trying to fight for our “right” to snog in public or mount Gay Pride Parades along Kampala’s streets, a little cultural circumspection might come in handy.