Rachel Maddow Joins the Fight Against Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill

Rachel Maddow on Uganda’s Nazi anti-gay bill

Rachel Maddow featured Uganda’s anti-gay bill tonight, giving the subject coverage of about 5 minutes, bless her.

In her usual sardonic manner, Maddow highlighted Rick Warren’s distancing himself from Martin Ssempa’s vindictive tactics while, on the other hand refusing to condemn Uganda’s Gestapo parliamentary legislation that seeks to jail hundreds of thousands of homosexual Ugandans as well as parents, teachers, onlookers and sympathizers.

The evangelical right in America scarcely deserves anyone’s time. So rabid and paranoid are their views on almost any human interest aspect that one would be excused for thinking of them as Stalin and Adolf Hitler reincarnate.

But, as usual, I digress. This was about Rachel Maddow decrying Uganda’s attempts to legalize mob justice.

Silly me.

Related Reading/Viewing:

1. Gay Pressure Mounts on Museveni, Bahati

2. The Latest on Uganda

3. Rachel Maddow: Debunking a Cure

4. Rachel Maddow takes on Richard Cohen


Gay Men And Good, Honest Relationships 5

It’s official! There are a lot of lonely gay men out there today. No, rephrase that: there are a lot of miserable, lonely, frustrated, disillusioned, muddled, bewildered, emotionally empty gay men out there today.

Yet, having gay sex has never been easier for gay men all over the world.

Thanks to the internet, one can log on to Adam4adam, Men4now, Gaydar and a plethora of gay dating/sex sites and find someone to grope you within a few seconds. Sex parties are advertised openly, providing yet another outlet for those who are looking for quick, anonymous sex round the neighborhood so to speak. Being gay is now so passé even in backwaters such as Burundi and Uganda that parliaments are taking up precious parliamentary time to try and curtail homosexual activity, and presidents are secretly signing anti-gay bills in the dead of night.

In terms of publicity and raising awareness, this couldn’t be a better time to be gay and searching because homosexuality is being given prominence by everyone; from hypocritical, self-serving, pontificating pastors and wannabe presidents in America to hypocritical self-serving pontificating pastors and cabinet ministers in third world backwaters. As a gay fraternity that used to be hidden in the furtiveness that Oscar Wilde called the love that dare not speak its name, we are now feted in national parliaments all over the world by friendly legislators and pilloried by vindictive and confused parliamentarians as well the press. We are now employed as openly gay men in the highest offices of the land in such diverse places as Britain and Israel.
It was this thread online about what good, honest relationships mean today that got me thinking about this subject:
[Edited] money quote:

Do gay people in 2009 still have good, honest, lasting relationships or is it mostly a “SEX thing” for a couple of months and then they move on? Many complain about not being able to find a good lover, but then want to screw half the town and expect their mates to behave as if everything is okay. Do we put unreal stipulations on what an ideal mate is without considering what we bring to the table? We are only human and we all have some kind of baggage/imperfections. What do you think gays need to consider for having a (honest) lasting relationship? Do gays guys even have good honest relationships these days?

Difficult questions, that no doubt don’t have a straight yes or no answer, AfroGay will nonetheless hazard a long-winded one.

Just 50 years ago, when gay relationships were still conducted clandestinely everywhere in the world, gays took the trouble to nurture personal relationships because having them seemed like a godsend. There has always been a lot of one-night-stands going on in the gay shadows, of course, but the secretiveness of gay life forced many to take relationships seriously relatively early. Only 15 years ago, I knew at least 20 couples who had been together for more than 5 years. Today, I struggle to count on one hand the gay relationships that have lasted that long among my peers.

The more fertile climate for easy sex seems to have run a coach and horses through our collective conscience as nesting human beings. Where we used to make effort to try and understand others, we now grope their pants within minutes “to see what they are working with” as an acquaintance recently remarked. Dick size is the be-all-end-all and many of us openly admit that once we are not impressed with the size of the dick, we are off again to search for better endowed specimens. The freedom to explore as our desires demand has, paradoxically, led to the loss of the most crucial ingredients in establishing lasting relationships – forbearance and fortitude.

Thus, one hears a lot of gay boys saying that they don’t want relationships; just sex. One just has to scratch the surface, however, to realize that this is just mock braggadocio for the most part. Human beings, be they gay or straight, are meant to be with someone. When one is a teenager, that is the time when one can act like a bar fly without compunction because that is what teenagers do. Slinging one’s hook with everything that comes your way throughout one’s twenties is also not something terribly unique in the gay world especially since many gay boys get the ability to explore their sexuality in their twenties. But when one gets into one’s thirties and is still looking solely for hit-and-run sex over establishing meaningful relationships, one has to be very careful as that can portend the road to a slippery slope.

And have you ever noticed that the men in their 30s or older who claim not to want long term relationships are also the most jealous and territorial if one of their conquests is snatched from them? Forget the cattiness of teenagers; hell hath no fury than a 30+ something man who loses a conquest to someone else. The bitchiness is internalized and thus less pronounced but the hate that develops in such situations can take years to heal if ever. That, to AfroGay, is the clearest indication that, deep inside, we all want to have someone to call our own.

Once you hit your 40s, life alone is exactly that; life alone. Anyone who has been having sex since their 20s kn0ws that there is nothing new anyone can show you sexually after 20 years of active service. What one is looking for, as one approaches middle age, is companionship and a meeting of souls, with sex as the icing on the cake. Sex is of course still available for 40 and 50+, but the absence of a soul mate is usually a grating reminder that one is not complete.

Check out any gay dating/sex website today and you will be shocked at the number of men over 45 on there. In reality, they are looking for much more than sex but the environment has been bastardized to such an extent that they must now settle for what they can get. And let’s face it, unless one has gone to almost superhuman lengths to stay “with it” a man of 50 is not as attractive as he was when he was in his 20s. Yet, on Adam4adam alone, there are more than 1200 men in Washington, DC and New York City alone, over the age of 45 who say on their profiles that they are searching for relationships. That is a very conservative number, though, because in typical Adam4adam ‘airbrushing’ 55 years is the new 45 and it is not unheard of for 58 year-old men to say on their profiles that they are 36. You are, therefore, talking about more than 2,000 men out of at least 18,000 in just those two metropolises who are in their 40s or older who are alone and/or lonely, and are searching for lasting love. Unfortunately, time is no longer on their side and life should get even more complicated as more of us grow out of our eligible 30s into the precarious 40s.

Still in your 30s and saying that you are only interested in quick sex without commitment or emotional capital? Look around you and stand warned; the club of middle aged gay men who are alone is growing.

Freak Show Heading to Kampala

If the reports are to be believed, a boxing freak show is about to be put on in Uganda – with the protagonists being two elderly grandparents who should know better than to take off their clothes in public, let alone engage in a commercial boxing bout.

Evander Holifield has just turned 47, looks very good for that age. His opponent, Francois Botha is 41 and looks a tired 60. The prime fighting age of any boxer is between 25 and 32. When Muhammad Ali retired for good, he was a shadow of his former self. His last bout was in 1981 when he was 41. He duly (and fittingly) lost that fight to a much younger, but ultimately unremarkable, Trevor Berbick.

What drives men like Holyfield to carry on despite the writing on the wall that they are past their shelf life? AfroGay doesn’t know and, truth be told, is too embarrassed by the whole thing to bother finding out. Suffice to say that when men of a certain age deign to take off their clothes in the name of sports and lumber around the boxing ring like elephants , the words sad and desperate take on new meaning.

Uganda Debating the Judicial Persecution of 500,000 Ugandans

Recent statistics show that Uganda’s population is now at 33m people. In most countries the percentage of gay men and women is anywhere between 1 and 10%.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that only 1% of Uganda’s population is gay. Based on those statistics, Uganda has at least 300,000 gay men and women. That means that Uganda is about to debate the judicial murder of 300,000 Ugandans whose crime no one can pinpoint, and indeed who most people don’t know because they conduct their same sex loving in private. Add to that number the parents that will get seven years for not turning in their gay children, and the teachers who will be sent to Luzira Prison for not snitching on gay students, Uganda is preparing to sanction the legal killing and jailing of 500,000 Ugandans.

Can someone pass the people who wrote the Bahati Anti-Gay Bill a detailed history of how Nazi Germany came to be?

Related Reading:

1. British PM Against Gay Legislation

2. Uganda Hits Back Over Gay Criticism


The Bahati Bill Will NOT Become Law in Uganda 3

I am now ready to predict:

The Bahati Anti-Gay Bill will NOT become law in Uganda. There is going to be no statute in Uganda that empowers anyone to sentence homosexuals to death, forces parents and teachers to snitch on gay people or hounds people out of their beds on suspicion that they are gay. Bahati should of course enjoy his 15 minutes of fame but his bill is going to collide head on with the realities of politics and will go down like a lead balloon.

If it ever gets out of Parliament Museveni will never sign it into law.

Why do I say this?

Uganda is heading to the precipice with this bill and savvy politicians like Museveni know it. Bahati is a two-bit MP from a nondescript constituency who can afford to be as parochial as he wishes. Not so Museveni with a bird’s eye political view, and who loves the limelight that he gets on the international stage, and the accolades that are showered on him all over the world for his efforts against this and that. He is all too well aware that this bill will put Uganda on par with Somalia, Zimbabwe and Myanmar (Burma) as far as human rights are concerned, turning him into an embarrassment on the international stage.

After 23 years in office, President Museveni is at that point where being feted at home and abroad is really what being president is all about. He now wants power, not for what he can do with it for the betterment of anyone, but for its own sake. That is the reason why he waxes lyrical about the East African Federation, and you can cut his smugness with a knife when commentators laud him for pulling Uganda back from the brink, and for being instrumental in shaping the political discourse and direction in the Great Lakes region. Museveni feels big, important, valued on the world stage and listened to by world leaders. He is not going to jeopardize his international standing by signing a vindictive bill designed purposely to single out and attack a defenceless segment of the population.

There is another reason this bill is dead in the water.

In an election year, Museveni needs a lot of money to buy off voters. That money is usually channeled into his coffers by foreign donors in the form of aid or grants etc. He knows that he will not get it (donors have already been reached as GayUganda’s excellent tracking shows) if this bill is still at the forefront of debate and so you are going to see all sorts of convulsions in Parliament and maneuvering that will delay this bill, relegate it to the back burner at least until after the upcoming national elections. By then, who knows, Bahati might even be voted out of office and poor Martin Ssempa will be back to square one, looking for new allies in the next Parliament.

These are the options available:

1. The bill will be kept in its current form, but will languish in Parliament like a bad penny, just as the Domestic Relations Bill has done for the last five years due to pressure from the Muslim lobby.

2. Parliamentary debate of the bill will keep on being postponed. The current timetable brings it up in January 2010, but that should slip further. And the closer Uganda gets to elections, the less likely that this bill will get air time in Parliament.

3. The bill will be watered down so much so that it is rendered meaningless by the time it gets to the floor of Parliament. If it makes it out of Parliament in the garbled state it currently is in, Museveni will use that as the excuse not to sign it.

4. The bill is debated, passed in its present form and sent to the president for signature.

Ironically, despite Museveni’s protestations against the so called homosexuality recruitment, the president must hope that the bill fizzles out in Parliament. Museveni doesn’t want anything to do with this bill because of the reasons already highlighted and because he knows that it is funadamentally unfair as his recent admission that homosexuality is not new in Uganda revealed. So, he will not want it to make it to his desk. If it ever makes it to his office, be ready to see the Attorney General being asked to scrutinize it for crossed tees and dotted eyes. Of course we already know that it will not pass the simplest test of a legal challenge and the Attorney General will advise accordingly or will be prevailed upon to advise accordingly. And Museveni will get his excuse not to sign the bill.

My money is on the bill not reaching the floor of the house. It will do its rounds in committee and the Speaker of the House will keep on finding reasons to postpone it until time runs out on it in the current Parliament.

It will be a bumpy ride, but mark my words … the Bahati Bill will not be signed into law by the current president of Uganda.

Related Reading:

1. Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Causes Commonwealth Uproar


I Caught [Him] With A Man in Our Bed 2

Mukasa, who found his fiancee in his bed with another man

The story that has pricked my interest is in a Ugandan local paper and the person in question (Mukasa, above) is talking about finding his fiancee with another man in their bed.

The rather sexy looks of the man aside (isn’t he rather dishy?), I have always wondered what is the lesser of the two evils; cheating on your man or cheating on him in the bed you share.

For if it is cheating that is the problem, why does it matter where you cheat? Cheating is cheating is cheating, right? Obviously there are ego issues involved (feelings of betrayal, violation, inadequacy etc.) when you come home and find your man in bed with another man but, ego aside (and let’s face it, we can all get over our egos if we love someone enough), since we know that most men cheat at some point in their lives, does it really matter that much where the cheating happened if you want to forgive and move on?

Of course, if you get so cut up about the cheating that you throw out your man in the street butt naked and then his clothes after him, then you might as well have caught him at a roadside ‘lodge’ as in your bed. If the hurt is that it happened in your bed, what is it about that bed that makes it so much more profound? It seems to me that if you are prepared to work on the relationship, where your man cheated on you from is irrelevant … unless one is arguing that the sex that happens when the cheating is in the ‘marital’ bed is different from that at a sleazy ‘guest house.’

I am thus inclined to think that if one’s man cheats and one is prepared to forgive and move on, where the cheating happened is immaterial. In fact, there is everything to be said for the cheating to happen in your bed because, for one, it makes it easier for the sordid details to be kept secret and give the whole thing some semblance of dignity. Surely it beats sex in a guest house flea-bug with prying eyes, eavesdropping ears and the very real possibility of the whole mess ending up in the tabloid papers, doesn’t it?

R. Kelly Heading to Uganda 1

R Kelly

Zain is apparently breaking the bank to take R. Kelly (real name Robert Sylvester Kelly) to Uganda for a performance on January 29.

I am going to pay $85.00 (approximately Uganda Shillings 157,000/=) to see the man at DAR Constitution Hall next Tuesday evening. If anything, the prospect of all those knickers and bras being thrown on to the stage amid sexual swoons is too exciting for me to miss. I have already been advised to carry smelling salts in case Kelly rips his shirt off. and to wear shoes with soles that won’t soak up the female juices that are going to be flowing freely Tuesday night.

His child-sex troubles behind him, and a string of hits and swooning women in front of him, R Kelly is another one of America’s singing stars who has been lured to sub-Sahara’s heat and hysteria. He follows in the steps of Akon who had to be dragged kicking and screaming to board the plane to Uganda even after being paid millions by the telecom company that was called Celtel at the time. Celtel is now called Zain and it is Zain that has ponied up yet more millions for R. Kelly.

R. Kelly, 42, has over the years been dogged by allegations of having sex with minors. In June 2008, he was acquitted on 14 counts of child pornography by a Chicago Court. A sex tape claimed to have been filmed by Kelly himself, is purported to have shown Kelly having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Kelly would have been 35 at the time. Prior to that, a marriage certificate was publicized showing that, when he was 25, Kelly had married the singer, Aliyah, who was 15 at the time but whose age on the marriage certificate was indicated to be 18. The marriage was annulled once Aliyah’s parents found out what had happened.
I am not a rabid fan of Kelly but he has certainly put me through my paces on many occasions, most notably on Burn It Up and Step in the Name of Love.

I am going with four girlfriends. R. Kelly’s fan base in the United States is almost exclusively women, and most men are embarrassed to admit that they are fans. I have been exhorted by the girls I am going with to dress up, so, I am heading to Nordstrom tomorrow to look for something suitable. We mustn’t let the side down sartorially, now, must we?
I must take some pictures.


Sylvia Tamale’s presentation at the public dialogue with Bahati on November 18, 2009


By Sylvia Tamale

[Public Dialogue November 18, 2009, Makerere University]

I would like to thank the Human Rights and Peace Centre for inviting me here this afternoon to share my views on this bill. It is great that HURIPEC organized this to be a dialogue and not a debate because debates have a tendency to polarize and divide along irrational gut-level responses. A dialogue, on the other hand, usefully sets the stage for people to listen to each other with understanding, tolerance and helps build bridges. I hope that this public dialogue will mark the first stepping stone for all of us to embark on a rewarding journey of mutual respect, simple decency and fairness.

Mr. Chairperson—

My brief talk this afternoon is divided into four sections:
i. First, I will address issues of mutual concern that I share with Hon. Bahati;
ii. Secondly, I will open the window of history and offer us a glimpse of the politics of
hatred and discrimination that has affected the struggle for human rights over the years;
iii. Third, I will highlight the social meaning of the bill; and
iv. Finally, I shall put on my legal hat and outline the legal implications that this bill holds for our country if passed into law.

I. Common Issues of Concern

I have scrutinized the bill thoroughly and the Honourable Member of Parliament David Bahati will be surprised to learn that I share some of his convictions. For example, Hon. Bahati I share your desires as expressed in the preamble to the bill:

1. To strengthen the nation’s capacity to deal with emerging internal and external threats to the family unit. It is nevertheless important to point out that most of these can hardly be realized through the regulatory mechanism of the law.
2. To protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda, particularly the positive aspects of it.
3. To protect Ugandan children and youth who are vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation—whether the abuse is hetero and homosexual.

I do not have the time and space this afternoon to engage in a detailed sociological discussion of the concept that the bill refers to as the “Traditional African Family.” However, it is my humble opinion that the concept needs to be unpacked and scrutinized. Mr. Chairperson as you very well know, Africa is a vast continent with an extremely rich and diverse cultural history. Indeed it would be next to impossible to mark a particular institution as the one and only “Traditional African Family”.

I will cite just a few examples to demonstrate that matrimonial relations among various African communities have differed a great deal:-

a) While marriage between first cousins was traditionally taboo among the Baganda, marriages among blood-related kin were considered the best unions among the Bahima here in Uganda;
b) There is the phenomenon of chigadzamapfihwa where the family of a barren wife among the Ndaus of Zimbabwe would ‘donate’ her brother’s daughter to her husband to become a co-wife and bear children on behalf of the barren woman;
c) Practices of non-sexual woman-to-woman marriages among various African customs e.g., the Nandi and Kisii of Kenya, the Igbo of Nigeria, the Nuer of Sudan and the Kuria of Tanzania for purposes of coping with various reproductive, social and economic problems; and
d) Levirate marriages where a man inherits his dead brother’s wife were a customary requirement in many African communities.

While these may have been cultural practices at some point in our history, it is also important to recognize that family institutions all over the world are undergoing rapid transformation. The changes that we see in this basic unit of society are the result of many factors including, economic crises, an increasing number of working mothers, technological advancements, armed conflicts, natural disasters, globalization, migration, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, etc. Many of these changes and indeed the evolution of culture cannot be halted, certainly not through law.

Perhaps the undisputed value that is a common denominator in all traditional institutions of the family in Africa is the group solidarity that we have embedded in our extended family networks. Unfortunately, the support, stability, love and respect that were the hallmark of this family model are rapidly being eroded and will soon become history.

Thus, while I agree with you Hon. Bahati that we must seek ways of dealing with issues that threaten our families, I do not agree that homosexuality is one of those issues. Mr. Chairperson, Ladies and gentlemen, what issues currently threaten our families here in Uganda? I will name a few:

a) Blood thirsty Ugandans and traditional healers that believe that their good fortune will multiply through rituals of child sacrifice.
b) Rapists and child molesters who pounce on unsuspecting family members. Research undertaken by the NGO, Hope after Rape (HAR) shows that over 50% of child sexual abuse reports involve children below 10 years of age, and the perpetrators are heterosexual men who are known to the victims.[1]
c) Sexual predators that breach the trust placed in them as fathers, teachers, religious leaders, doctors, uncles and sexually exploit young girls and boys. A 2005 report by Raising Voices and Save the Children revealed that 90% of Ugandan children experienced domestic violence and defilement.[2]
d) Abusive partners who engage in domestic violence whether physical, sexual or emotional. The 2006 national study on Domestic Violence by the Law Reform Commission confirmed the DV was pervasive in our communities. 66% of people in all regions of Uganda reported that DV occurred in their homes and the majority of the perpetrators were “male heads of households.”[3] The Uganda Demographic Health Survey of 2006 put the figure slightly higher at 68%.[4]
e) Parents who force their 14-year old daughters to get married in exchange for bride price and marriage gifts.
f) A whole generation of children who were either born and bred in internally displaced persons (IDP) camps or abducted by the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) in the northern sub-region of Kitgum, Gulu and Pader districts.
g) The millions of children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The Uganda Aids Commission puts the cumulative number of orphans due to AIDS at 2 million.[5]
h) The all powerful patriarchs that demand total submission and rule their households with an iron hand.
i) Rising poverty levels and growing food insecurity which lead to hunger, disease, suffering and undignified living. Figures from the latest report from the Uganda Bureau of Statistics show that over 60% of Ugandans living in rural areas live below the poverty line.[6]

I do not see how two people who are in a loving relationship and harming no one pose a threat to the family simply because they happen to be of the same sex. The argument that homosexuality is a threat to the continuity of humankind and that it will lead to the extinction of human beings in the world simply does not hold water because there are too many heterosexuals in the world for that to become a reality. How many of you in this room would “convert” to homosexuality any time soon?… So, just as the priests, nuns and monks who are sworn to a life of celibacy will not cause the extinction of humanity, homosexuals will not either.

II. Lessons from History

Anyone who cares to read history books knows very well that in times of crisis, when people at the locus of power are feeling vulnerable and their power is being threatened, they will turn against the weaker groups in society. They will pick out a weak voiceless group on whom to heap blame for all society’s troubles—refugees, displaced populations, stateless persons aka illegal immigrants, minorities with no status, children, the poor, the homeless, commercial sex workers, etc. I will offer a few examples to illustrate this point:
Ø In Uganda, colonialists at various times blamed traditional chiefs and elders as well as Muslims as the main impediments to progress and civilization.
Ø Dictator Idi Amin blamed Asians for Uganda’s dire economic problems and expelled all Indians in the early 1970s.
Ø When Milton Obote’s political power was threatened during his second regime in the early 1980s he embarked on a deliberate campaign of hostility towards refugees in Uganda, particularly those of Rwandese extract. Obote’s persecution of the Banyarwanda in Uganda and the whipping up of anti-Rwandese sentiments included the constant reference to his political opponent, Yoweri Museveni as a “foreigner from Rwanda.”
Ø In the 20 years that northern Uganda faced armed conflict, the NRM administration pointed fingers at Kony and the LRA was blamed for all the atrocities and suffering of the people in the north.
Ø The transmission of HIV/AIDS at various points in our history has been blamed on different “weak” constituents including commercial sex workers, truck drivers, young women aged 15-23, and mothers to babies.
Ø When native South Africans faced dire economic crisis they turned against black “foreigners”, blaming them for the high unemployment rates and sparking off brutal xenophobic attacks against helpless immigrants/migrants and refugees in May 2008.

The lesson drawn from these chapters in our recent history is that today it is homosexuals under attack; tomorrow it will be another exaggerated minority.

Homosexuality has troubled people for a very long time. Some religions find it distressing and there are many debates around it. Mr. Chairperson and distinguished participants where did the idea of destroying homosexuality come from? As his Excellency President Museveni pointed out at the inaugural Young Achievers Awards Ceremony last weekend, homosexuals existed prior to the coming of Europeans to Uganda. According to the President: “They were not persecuted but were not encouraged either” (Daily Monitor Nov 16, 2009 at p.2). The idea of destroying homosexuality came from colonialists. In other words, homosexuality was not introduced to Africa from Europe as many would want us to believe. Rather, Europe imported legalized homophobia to Africa.

Homosexuality was introduced as an offence in Uganda directly through laws that were imported from Britain during colonialism. And what did these same colonialists think of the “African traditional family” in Uganda? They certainly did not introduce sodomy laws in order to protect the traditional African family. In fact they believed that the traditional African family was inferior to their nuclear monogamous one and considered the former barbarous and ‘repugnant to good conscience and morality.’ This colonial attitude was well exemplified in the infamous 1917 case of R. v. Amkeyo, in which Justice Hamilton dismissed customary marriages as mere ‘wife purchase.’

Today, with all the economic, social and political crises facing Uganda, homosexuals present a convenient group to point fingers at as the “biggest threat” or the “real problem” to society. Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the re-criminalisation of homosexuality is meant to distract the attention of Ugandans from the real issues that harm us. It conveniently diverts the attention of the millions of Ugandans who have been walking the streets for years with their college certificates and no jobs on offer. Ladies and gentlemen, homosexuals have nothing to do with the hundreds of thousands of families that sleep without a meal or the millions of children who die unnecessarily every day from preventable or treatable diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, measles, pneumonia, etc. Homosexuals are not the ones responsible for the lack of drugs and supplies at primary health care centres.

III. The Social Implications of the Bill to the Average Ugandan

You may think that this bill targets only homosexual individuals. However, homosexuality is defined in such a broad fashion as to include “touching another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” This is a provision highly prone to abuse and puts all citizens (both hetero and homosexuals) at great risk. Such a provision would make it very easy for a person to witch-hunt or bring false accusations against their enemies simply to “destroy” their reputations and cause scandal. We all have not forgotten what happened to Pastor Kayanja and other men of God in the recent past.

Moreover, the bill imposes a stiff fine and term of imprisonment for up to three years for any person in authority over a homosexual who fails to report the offender within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge. Hence the bill requires family members to “spy” on one another. This provision obviously does not strengthen the family unit in the manner that Hon. Bahati claims his bill wants to do, but rather promotes the breaking up of the family. This provision further threatens relationships beyond family members. What do I mean? If a gay person talks to his priest or his doctor in confidence, seeking advice, the bill requires that such person breaches their trust and confidentiality with the gay individual and immediately hands them over to the police within 24 hours. Failure to do so draws the risk of arrest to themselves. Or a mother who is trying to come to terms with her child’s sexual orientation may be dragged to police cells for not turning in her child to the authorities. The same fate would befall teachers, priests, local councilors, counselors, doctors, landlords, elders, employers, MPs, lawyers, etc.

Furthermore, if your job is in any way related to human rights activism, advocacy, education and training, research, capacity building, and related issues this bill should be a cause for serious alarm. In a very undemocratic and unconstitutional fashion, the bill seeks to silence human rights activists, academics, students, donors and non-governmental organizations. If passed into law it will stifle the space of civil society. The bill also undermines the pivotal role of the media to report freely on any issue. The point I am trying to make is that we are all potential victims of this draconian bill.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told us many years ago, “Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is love correcting everything that stands against love.” Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instructs us: “All Human Beings are Born Free and Equal in Dignity and Rights.” Many great people that we respect and admire have spoken out for the rights of homosexuals. These include international award winners and champions of freedom and humanity—President Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Barack Obama. Just yesterday, it was reported that former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae added his voice to those who have come out in opposition to the Bahati Bill (Daily Monitor, November 17, 2009 at p.10).

We must remember that the principal message at the heart of all religions is one of LOVE (And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love- 1 Corinthians 13: 13). All religions teach the virtues of tolerance and urge their followers to desist from passing judgment. Ladies and gentlemen, this bill promotes hatred, intolerance, superiority and violence. Even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin, this bill is not the best method to address the issue. It is valid to have religious and spiritual anxieties but our jurisprudence has a long history of separating the institutions of religion from the law. The law, Mr. Chairperson, does not seek to ally any legal principle with a particular religion. Mr. Stephen Langa is free to deliver his lectures on morality but it is unacceptable to reduce what he is preaching into law. In my final submission I want to turn to a legal analysis of this bill.

IV. The Legal Implications of the Bill

Mr. Chairperson, ladies and gentlemen, the Anti-Homosexuality bill has a total of 18 clauses. 12 of these 18 clauses (i.e., 67%) are not new at all as they simply replicate what we already have on our law books. So the first point I want to highlight is that Parliament has been given a bill two-thirds of whose content duplicates existing laws.

So, let us examine the content of the remaining 6 clauses that introduce new legal provisions.

Clauses 6 provides for the recognition of the right to privacy and confidentiality for the victim of homosexual assaults. This is a procedural issue that no one can dispute and it can easily be inserted in the Penal Code provisions that criminalize rape and aggravated defilement.

Nevertheless, the remaining 5 clauses are extremely problematic from a legal point of view. They violate Uganda’s constitution and many other regional and international instruments that Uganda has ratified.

The interpretation section (Clause 1) replicates several definitions that are provided for elsewhere. Its novel provisions lie in the attempt to define homosexuality and its related activities. I have already alluded to the potential danger that Ugandans face in the threatening and broad fashion that the bill defines a “homosexual act.”

Clause 13 which attempts to outlaw the “Promotion of Homosexuality” is very problematic as it introduces widespread censorship and undermines fundamental freedoms such as the rights to free speech, expression, association and assembly. Under this provision an unscrupulous person aspiring to unseat a member of parliament can easily send the incumbent MP unsolicited material via e-mail or text messaging, implicating the latter as one “promoting homosexuality.” After being framed in that way, it will be very difficult for the victim to shake free of the “stigma.” Secondly, by criminalizing the “funding and sponsoring of homosexuality and related activities,” the bill deals a major blow to Uganda’s public health policies and efforts. Take for example, the Most At Risk Populations’ Initiative (MARPI) introduced by the Ministry of Health in 2008, which targets specific populations in a comprehensive manner to curb the HIV/AIDS scourge. If this bill becomes law, health practitioners as well as those that have put money into this exemplary initiative will automatically be liable to imprisonment for seven years! The clause further undermines civil society activities by threatening the fundamental rights of NGOs and the use of intimidating tactics to shackle their directors and managers.

Clause 14 introduces the crime of “Failure to Disclose the Offence” of homosexuality. As I have noted above, under this provision any person in authority is obliged to report a homosexual to the relevant authorities within 24 hours of acquiring such knowledge. Not only does this infringe on the right to privacy but it is practically unenforceable. It dangerously opens up room for potential abuse, blackmail, witch-hunting, etc. Do we really want to move sexual acts between consenting adults into the public realm?

Clause 16 relates to extra-territorial jurisdiction, and basically confers authority on Ugandan law enforcers to arrest and charge a Ugandan citizen or permanent resident who engages in homosexual activities outside the borders of Uganda. This law enforcement model is normally used in international crimes such as money laundering, terrorism, etc. The Ugandan Penal Code already provides for crimes that call for extra-territoriality. All these touch on the security of the state e.g., treason, terrorism and war mongering (see S.4 of the PCA).
When it comes to offences committed partly within and partly outside Uganda, the Penal Code provides:

When an act which, if wholly done within the jurisdiction of the court, would be an offence against this Code is done partly within and partly beyond the jurisdiction, every person who within the jurisdiction does or makes any part of such act may be tried and punished under this Code in the same manner as if such act had been done wholly within the jurisdiction. [Section 5—Emphasis added]

Note that clause16 of the Bill employs the disjunctive “or” which gives it wider reach than S.5 of the Penal Code that uses the conjunctive “and”. Therefore, what the Bill proposes to do is to elevate homosexual acts to a position of such importance that they appear to be at an even higher plane than murder, rape or grievous bodily harm for which no such provision is made. It is difficult to see any rational basis for such inordinate attention to homosexuality. And how exactly will they enforce this provision? Is the government going to storm the bedrooms of consenting adults, or deploy spies to follow them when they travel abroad in order to establish who they have slept with and how they did it? Does this include heterosexual couples that engage in anal sex? What about our constitutional right to privacy? In short, this provision of the Bill is a gross abuse of the principle of extra-territoriality. But more importantly, the bill carries hidden venom that is bound to spread beyond persons that engage in homosexuality.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this bill is Clause 18, which requires Uganda to opt out of any international treaty that we have previously ratified that goes against the spirit of the bill. Article 287 of the Constitution obliges Uganda to fully subscribe to all its international treaties obligations ratified prior to the passing of the 2005 constitution. We cannot legislate or simply wish these obligations away. Indeed, international law prohibits us from doing such a thing. Article 26 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties clearly sets out the pacta sunt servanda rule which requires that “Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by them in good faith.”

Article 123 (1), a provision deliberately placed in Chapter Seven of the Constitution (dealing with the powers of the Executive) says:

The President or a person authorised by the President may make treaties, conventions, agreements, or other arrangements between Uganda and any other country or between Uganda and any international organisation or body, in respect of any matter.
This is a wide power that can only be limited by express language under the Constitution itself. A major procedural limitation is found in the next clause of the same article, which provides:
Parliament shall make laws to govern ratification of treaties, conventions, agreements or other arrangements made under clause (1) of this article. (Art. 123.2)

Another substantive limitation is to be found in the Bill of Rights found in Chapter 4. In effect, the President cannot by the mechanism of Article 123(1) sign treaties whose effect would be to amend the Constitution. Indeed, any such treaty would be, as a matter of municipal law, null and void to the extent of such inconsistency, in terms of Article 2 (2) of the Constitution.
Parliament therefore has only a procedural role to incorporate treaties into Ugandan law – and that is the full extent of its powers. It cannot purport to proscribe ex ante (before the fact) the limit of the President’s treaty making powers. Nor indeed, can parliament bind its own future action by purporting to exercise in advance its power to scrutinize treaties signed by the President and determine which of them to ratify. All that Parliament can do is to either ratify or refuse to ratify a treaty after it is signed, and in the latter case such treaty does not become part of Ugandan law. This is the balance of executive power and democratic input achieved by Article 123, and one that clause 18 of the Bill is incompetent to amend.

Mr. Chairperson, distinguished participants, I wish to end by appealing to members of parliament and all Ugandans that believe in human rights and the dignity of all human beings to reject the Anti-homosexuality bill. I am imploring Hon. Bahati to withdraw his private members bill. Do we really in our heart of hearts want our country to be the first on the continent to demand that mothers spy on their children, that teachers refuse to talk about what is, after all, “out there” and that our gay and lesbian citizens are systematically and legally terrorized into suicide? Ladies and gentlemen, you may strongly disagree with the phenomenon of same-sex erotics; you may be repulsed by what you imagine homosexuals do behind their bedroom doors; you may think that all homosexuals deserve to burn in hell. However, it is quite clear that this Bill will cause more problems around the issue of homosexuality than it will solve. I suggest that Hon. Bahati’s bill be quietly forgotten. It is no more or less than an embarrassment to our intelligence, our sense of justice and our hearts.

Thank you for your attention.

Response after the Q & A Session

Mr. Chairperson, in the interest of time I will respond to only three issues:

· “Mad people” “like bats seeing the world upside down” “animals” “wicked”… These are some of the words used to describe homosexuals by the audience. All the heckling and vicious jeering… Mr. Bahati you commenced your talk this afternoon by saying, “We are not in the hate campaign.” Well, if you were in any doubt about the fact that your bill is whipping up hatred and violence against homosexuals, just reflect back on the discourse that transpired in the room this afternoon.

· Secondly, Mr. Chairperson I think it is the height of paternalism and arrogance for Hon. Bahati and Mr. Langa to stand here and say they are legislating against homosexuals because they love them, they feel sorry for them, they face the risk of cancer, their lives are reduced by 20 years, etc. Homosexuals are not asking for your pity, love, approval or redemption. They only want you to affirm their humanness and their right to exist and be different.

· Finally, Mr. Chairperson, Hon. Bahati asked the question, “Tamale, do you support homosexuality?” I would like to tell Hon. Bahati that I am a simple woman that recognizes all human beings as worthy of dignity and rights and I am not obsessed with how people have sex in the privacy of their bedrooms. I support the rights of all human beings regardless of how and with whom they have sex as long as they are adults and are not harming anyone. So, the question should not be whether I support homosexuality, or heterosexuality for that matter.

Thank you very much Mr. Chairperson.

[1] Study cited in Uganda Youth Development Link, Report on Sectoral Study on Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Uganda, Commissioned by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (January 2004).
[2] See Raising Voices and Save the Children (edited by Dipak Naker), Violence Against Children: The Voices of Ugandan Children and Adults. (2005). Available at http://www.raisingvoices.org/files/VACuganda.RV.pdf
[3] See Law Reform Commission, A Study Report on Domestic Violence, April 2006 at p.112
[4] See http://www.measuredhs.com/pubs/pdf/FR194/FR194.pdf
[5] See Report by the Office of the Auditor General, Value for Money Audit Report on Uganda AIDS Control Project, October 2007. Available at http://www.oag.go.ug/docs/UACauditreport.pdf
[6] See UBOS, Spatial Trends of Poverty and Inequality in Uganda: 2002-2005, February 2009.

Seeking Asylum? Here are some tips 5

You have managed to leave your Neanderthal country where homosexuality is taboo, perhaps even a sure death sentence. You want to file for political asylum on the basis of your sexual orientation.
Though not by any means conclusive, there are a number of tips you need to be aware of before and during the filing process.
European countries and Canada are thus far the most amenable to tales of gay persecution. The United States entertains asylum applications on grounds of sexual orientation but the burden of proof there is tougher than in the Scandinavian and Nordic countries or Canada. Britain has accepted many gay applicants especially from Sub-Saharan Africa but you had better have crossed your tees and dotted the eyes to your story. You may have heard of the stiff-upper lip – it is actually true that the Brits, perhaps used to seeing blood and gore in the various battles they have fought all over the world, and with the Irish IRA, are not going to be moved by tales of woe that are not properly backed up.
A few useful tips (these are not the only ones but they are guiding rays so to speak):
1. You need to file as soon as you arrive in a country where you feel you will be safe. Many a time, applicants for political asylum apply months or even years after their initial arrival. This doesn’t help their case because whoever looks at it will ask the justifiable question: why has it taken you so long to decide that your life is threatened if you return home?

2. It is not enough to say that the government of your country is homophobic. Take Saudi Arabia which we know is one of the most homophobic countries in the world, and where accusations of being gay alone can lead to one’s stoning in public. A Saudi who wants to claim asylum on account of his sexual orientation has to illustrate that there have been real threats against his own person, or that he has been part of a group that has been specifically targeted.

3. If AfroGay is fearful for his life, one expects that he has proof of this. This will come in the form of written threats one has received, police summons, harassment that has been witnessed and is thus verifiable … that sort of thing. Officers who listen to asylum cases know that a few tears and a harrowing story are not enough; they will be looking for evidence that you were/are specifically targeted and so to send you back will put you in harm’s way.

4. Choose a lawyer with a track record in asylum cases. It might seem like a cliche but experience is indeed the best teacher and the more experienced the lawyer you select, the better for your case.

5. Never, ever, allow someone whom you are not comfortable with to take your case. Your lawyer is your first and last line of defense and if you are not sure that he/she believes you, find another one.

5. Speaking of lawyers, it is quite true that lawyers who have personally experienced bullying, persecution or have a family background where injustice was experienced are likely to empathize with your case better. In that light, Jewish lawyers are especially good at understanding racial persecution. Female lawyers are well placed to understand mistreatment based on gender. Do your homework and, just like with choosing a doctor, get a reasonable comfort level with your lawyer before signing him or her up to defend you.

6. At the hearing, your lawyer will tell you to keep your story to the facts. Tears and histrionics are well and good but unless the story you tell makes sense to the asylum official they count for very little. Cases are decided on the facts on paper, not how many sobs racked your body as you told your story. As Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer in Dicken’s Great Expectations said again and again “the facts dear boy, facts.”

8. Persecution doesn’t have to be by the police or government functionaries. Your family can be a source of persecution, just as your friends and neighbors can be a real threat to your life. Has your name been published in a public roll call of gay shame by the Red Pepper(for instance)? You have a good starting point. Has your family thrown you out into the streets because you are a lesbian? If you can illustrate that this is the case, you have a defendable case.

9. Asylum filings cost money and can be expensive especially if you have to make appeal and counter appeal. Be ready for the cost. In the United States, many lawyers accept payment plans which allow more flexible payments over agreed-upon months. Take advantage of those if you are cash strapped which most asylum seekers tend to be.

And finally … if you have any questions, address them to me via e-mail (supakoja@yahoo.com) and I shall attempt to answer them as best I can.

Good luck.

Black and White; the color bar in gay America

Military Guy. Not interested in a whole lot of chit chat, exchanging resumes’or a date. Get to the point. Sorry only interested in white guys.
Masculine, muscular, versatile man. I prefer men who are versatile or bottom. I am not interested in white men.”

The color bar is alive and well in America. It is indeed very much alive and well in gay Americana. Yours truly has been fortunate to live in various places on this planet and nowhere is the color divide so pronounced as it is in the ironically named United States of America.

Bars are color coded. In Washington, DC JRs is white, and black boys who frequent it are ‘snow queens’ after white men. I have been going to The Bachelor’s Mill (The Mill) in South East DC for at least ten years now and I am sure I have ever seen more than two or three white men in that place. Yet a typically busy night at The Mill might trawl in 200-300 men. Even the places of entertainment run by white people (and nearly all the most enduring ones are) have invisible color lines that are rarely crossed.

Take the Fireplace, off P Street in Dupont Circle. It is widely accepted, even if no one says it, that the ground level is for white boys and their admirers and upstairs is black. That is the way it has been for as long as I remember and there seems no indication that this will change any time soon.
To be black and gay in Washington DC, and to date a white man is to shunt oneself into to a predominantly white lifestyle; a lifestyle frowned upon if not sneered at by the black fraternity. This African boy I know once dated a cute Latino boy that physically was to-die-for in any objective assessment. But it was fairly obvious that the black boy’s friends didn’t approve of the match in the way the Latino boy was ignored and sneered at. Essentially the black boy’s friends gave him an ultimatum without saying it; drop the “white” boy and remain part of the group or continue seeing him and find new friends. In the end, and sadly in my view, the Latino boy was dropped. That kind of reverse racism is well entrenched in places like Washington, DC and Atlanta Georgia where the black population outnumbers white in many neighborhoods. Yours truly has never had a problem mixing freely with white people, but in DC mixing races is such a burden that you find yourself giving up on trying. So, I have probably attended just a handful of gay parties (out of at least 500) hosted by white people in Washington, DC.
The other curious aspect is that not even ownership seems to have any impact on the barely concealed apartheid in Washington, DC’s gay entertainment scene. JR s and The Fireplace are white owned and operated. For the longest time, The Mill was owned and operated by a white Jewish woman before she retired and sold it to the current black managers. The clientele of the three places has always been decidedly segregated, however.
The saddest aspect of it all is that gay men and women who have been at the receiving end of discrimination and unfairness should get along as brothers and sister. Perish that thought in America. Bars are segregated, nightclubs are segregated, gay pride celebrations are segregated, and white events are white and black events are black. Even dating adverts routinely say things like “blacks only” or “not interested in white men.” Interestingly, it is mostly black personal ads that tend to be so trenchantly selective. I suppose that the white boys are too polite (or too cowed) to be that overtly racially biased. The net result is that interracial gay couples in America are a rarity, even in places where white men significicantly outnumber black ones.
If you are white or black and are attracted to the opposite race, my advice is that DC and Atlanta are not the cities for you. New York City (NYC) is a friendlier city for interracial dating, likely because it is a huge melting pot of races and the kind of provincialism you see in the more southern towns and cities is overshadowed by the frenetic activity going on in NYC. If you are interested in dating people of other races, there is too much else going on, too many places to go, too much to do in NYC for anyone to really notice or care.
Los Angeles is a predominantly white city and one suspects that black guys who don’t date white guys are at a disadvantage because of the fewer pickings of men of their own color. Likewise, most small cities in America have less discernible racial apartheid because black men cannot really afford to be so choosy even if they were many men of other races interested in them. If you are black and live in Boise, Idaho, and you want to date only fellow black men, you really have one choice; move to a big city.