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
[3] See Law Reform Commission, A Study Report on Domestic Violence, April 2006 at p.112
[4] See
[5] See Report by the Office of the Auditor General, Value for Money Audit Report on Uganda AIDS Control Project, October 2007. Available at
[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 ( 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.

The Washington Blade Closes

It’s a sign of the dreadful economic times!

Nonetheless it is shocking to hear that the Washington Blade, billed as one of the oldest gay newspapers in America, has closed.The Blade’s parent company collided with the tough economic climate and filed for liquidation when it could no longer meet its financial obligations.

When I first came to Washington, DC, the Blade as it has been fondly referred to, was the Bible of where to go and what to do in gay DC. Lately, I must admit that I have glanced at it only rarely but it was comforting to see it inside liquor store doorways, in bookshops, bars and night clubs. To me, the Blade was like a sentimental coffee table in the corner of one’s living room; rarely used, but comforting just to be part of one’s furniture.

The sounds coming out of woodwork suggest that the Blade writers are getting together to launch another publication soon. We watch and wait. In the meantime, I think it is no exaggeration to say the demise of the Blade is like a death in the family.


Museveni Warns Against Homosexuality

First, let’s have an English lesson:

To recruit

–verb (used with object)

4. to enlist (a person) for service in one of the armed forces.
5. to raise (a force) by enlistment.
6. to strengthen or supply (an armed force) with new members.
7. to furnish or replenish with a fresh supply; renew.
8. to renew or restore (the health, strength, etc.).
9. to attempt to acquire the services of (a person) for an employer: She recruits executives for all the top companies.
10. to attempt to enroll or enlist (a member, affiliate, student, or the like): a campaign to recruit new club members.
11. to seek to enroll (an athlete) at a school or college, often with an offer of an athletic scholarship.

And now set the above definition against the words attributed to Uganda’s president in remarks he made over this past weekend:

Let us put all these claims into context.

Are Europeans really recruiting young men and women into homosexuality? AfroGay has no knowledge of this but sensible minds might want to ask themselves how they are doing this. Are they flitting in and out of schools, colleges and homes with recruitment literature, in the dead of night like apparitions? For that is the only possible way Europeans could be recruiting without anyone noticing. If it were possible that they have ghost-like powers to fly in and out of countries unnoticed, where is the literature that they are distributing? But perhaps there is a whole movement out there, marching like Alexander the Great’s Army,cutting swathes across Uganda’s fertile youth territory, commandeering boys and girls, and forcing them into ruinous acts of buggery as chattels.

Why, you might think someone would be asking themselves, would Europeans head to Uganda to recruit gay youth? To take them to Europe as their concubines? Life for most gay Europeans is already tough enough, what with the extremely high cost of living, to make this a feasible proposition. Are they recruiting to ruin the morals of the African populace? How so, when the evidence of homosexuality having been accepted as par for the course in Africa before the advent of the white man is well documented? To enjoy the exotic charms that the dark boys present? That sounds a little more enticing a proposal, but dark skinned boys who are willing to date white men are a dime a dozen, and can be found by placing a personal ad on a dating website or walking into a high street gay bar all over Europe. So, what then would be the reason why Europeans would head to Africa to recruit boys?

Needless to say, neither Museveni nor anyone who has made these foolish claims has attempted any answers.

And how about this stunning admission from the president:

The president clearly seems to understand Uganda’s history a little better than his Minister of Ethics who has categorically pronounced that homosexuality is a western import. It is an open secret that Kabaka Mwanga, he of the 1880s Uganda Martyrs infamy, was gay. Of course we know that homosexual activity is as old as life itself, given that it is well chronicled even in the Bible, and Africa’s history is littered with incontrovertible evidence of tolerance for homosexuality. If, in periods where news was spread on foot, we know that homosexuality existed in Uganda and Africa, should it really surprise anyone that in the days of 24/7 news coverage, cell phones and the internet, stories about homosexuality are more easily accessed.

What you have to understand is that the “they are recruiting” and “they are funded with Western money” claims are not idle chatter. I recently spoke with a highly placed Ugandan diplomat who told me that Ugandan gay organizations are being funded by Western money, “a lot of money.” He didn’t seem to have any evidence of funding from anywhere but I was struck by the surefootedness with which he made the claims that he did. Now, if this thoughtful man (and I know that he is not prone to whimsical claims because his professional training doesn’t allow for that) believes that kind of pulp, imagine the man on the street who only hears voices such as Martin Ssempa’s and Nsaba Buturo’s.

Obviously, we cannot blame Museveni and his minister entirely for peddling the “they are recruiting” rubbish. We had a Judas Iscariot in our midst, George Georgina Oundo, who, earlier this year, appeared in front of the national media in Uganda and made similar claims. Never mind that he didn’t corroborate a single one of his claims – the fact that he sat in front of a throng of reporters and claimed that he was a paid recruiter hurt the gay community in Uganda badly. Six months later, George Georgina Oundo retracted his entire claims but, as they say, mud sticks.

It is a depressing situation.

1. Britain and Canada denounce Extreme Anti-Gay Proposal

Who Is Martin Ssempa? 2

In brief, Martin Ssempa is the face of the rabid anti-homosexuality movement in Uganda. And Martin Ssempa is a hypocrite.

He calls himself a “pastor” but I for one take such titles with a grain of salt where Ugandan ‘pastors’ are concerned. What he does officially is run a religious ministry at Makerere University, Kampala (MUK) whose avowed aim is to keep young people celibate till marriage, and out of the jaws of homosexual predators. So far so good and honorable.

At MUK, he had a very colorful sex life that he readily admits to, one that had him slinging his hook at every woman that would have him while his campus peers were attending lectures,and more besides. But he says all that is in the past now, and he seems happily married with two or three children. One could, however, be forgiven for thinking that it is pretty rich for him to lecture the youth about chastity when he himself exercised no self control whatever in his youth. But people change so one cannot really beat the man up about a past he now admits was excessive.

The first curious thing about Ssempa is his website:

It names him as a global crusader against AIDS/HIV but you will be hard pressed to find anything of import he has written or said about AIDS/HIV in the last 10 years even on his own website. Basically you will find that despite his claims, Ssempa is no Noerine Kaleba, the founder of TASO.

Ssempa’s primary obsession has been and still is ‘the evil of homosexuality” and he is especially cut up about the effect of homosexuality on the the African moral fabric. It is in that sense that his silence on the General Kazini overnight shenanigans while his wife was asleep in their marital bed is curious. What is he telling his youth ministry: that it is alright to publicly cavort with mistresses while married but it is not okay to engage in same gender loving in private? Don’t hold your breath for the answer – Ssempa will not address the glaring “sin” accompanying Kazini’s death.

Secondly, Ssempa is paid lots of money by an organization called Wait Training which is based in Denver, Colorado. Wait Training is a fundamentalist Christian group crusading to save the institution of marriage and keep young people … celibate till marriage. As you can imagine, their politics lie to the far right of the political spectrum and they tar sex before marriage, homosexuality, prostitution, adultery with the same “immorality” brush. It is Wait Training who built Ssempa’s website and if you want to book Ssempa for a speaking engagement, you call Wait Training in Denver.

The interesting aspect is that Wait Training did not utter a word when one of their own, ‘pastor’ Ted Haggard, was defrocked as secretly homosexual. They didn’t utter a word when their far right firebrand, family values agitator and and American presidential hopeful, Sarah Palin, was forced to admit that her daughter had been knocked up while underage. I have looked in every place I can for their view on just those two glaring cases and I cannot find a single thing that they said about either of them. Now, you might be able to understand why Martin Ssempa is not going to say anything about the brazen Kazini shenanigans with a trollop.

One could go on, but I am sure you get the picture.

UPDATE:Wait Training dissociated itself from Martin Ssempa in 2010, calling his stance on the Bahati Anti-Gay Bill – it called for the killing of anyone identified as gay – in Uganda extreme.

Andrew Mwenda Makes an Incontrovertibe Case For Gay Rights 1

Love him or hate him, there is no denying Andrew Mwenda’s sharp intellect. Yet again he has put his fine mind to laying bare the paucity of the campaign currently raging against homosexuality in Uganda.

To be fair, Mwenda says nothing that has not been said many, many times before but it is heartening to read views one has held and written about for years in an African publication such as Uganda’s The Independent.

Money quote:

This observation is of course especially pertinent at this time because, only a few days ago, a senior Ugandan army commander was killed at 5am in the morning after a night of cavorting and boozing with a woman who was not his wife. But the silence from Martin Ssempa, James Nsaba Buturo, all the Ugandan clergy and the Hon. Bahati regarding that particular transgression is deafening.

The hypocrisy and injustice of it all is sickening. How can these self-same men who are turning a blind eye to the conduct of a man that clearly is hurting his wife and family condemn consensual homosexual activity that no one knows about except those involved in it? Are they really saying that adultery is a more acceptable vice than consensual same sex loving? Adultery which destroys families, scars children for life, and which is expressly condemned in New and Old Testaments?

Martin Ssempa and their friends cannot name you one homosexual couple they know of. Yet there are many, many gay relationships in Uganda of men and women who have been loving each other and living together for years. What exactly then is the “evil” that Ssempa and his friends see in gay relationships that they know nothing about because they can only guess at what happens in them?

Ssempa’s perennial refrain is that homosexuality is anal sex. But is it? Is his own heterosexual relationship just about sex? Would it make him any happier if all homosexuals assured the world that they were not engaging in anal sex? In other words, is it the anal sex that bothers Ssempa so much or the same-sex loving? And why is anal sex a concern of Ssempa if those who indulge in it are of an age to do so freely? And what has Ssempa got to say to heterosexual couples who also freely indulge in anal sex with their wives and girlfriends? Of course he has nothing to say about that because he doesn’t know about it! Why then can’t this person see the ridiculousness of reducing people’s relationships to a sex act he himself is capable of performing with his wife if they both agree to it?

My helplessness in confronting Martin Ssempa, Nsaba Buturo and their friends sometimes makes me feel like resorting to drink. It is because of that helplessness that I cannot but blow one hundred kisses to Andrew Mwenda for making the case in his publication.

Thank you Andrew Mwenda. I don’t see how I could have expressed my rebuttal to the Bahati Bill any better.

The Bahati Bill’s Unintended Consequences

Ever wondered why the intimacy with your spouse feels strained, perfunctory, mechanical?

Well, if your husband is totally straight, that might suggest that he is no longer into you and has found another woman. But there is another more sobering reality that you might do well to think about; your husband may be a gay man whose blood only boils naturally when he is with another man.

Sounds ridiculous? It really shouldn’t because the safest protection of any gay man seeking social respect is within a straight marriage. As this Washington Post article clearly illustrates, many gay men don’t want to be so because it is such a difficult life loving another man. The social opprobrium that comes with it pushes totally gay men into often loveless marriages – just to fit into what society expects. The toll on the men and women in such marriages is best left to the Lord to disentangle, but there is no doubt that it is harrowing at best.

There is nothing like sleeping with a woman when your entire mind is pining to be with a man. But we know that many men fall into this category and have gotten married to try and “marry away” their homosexuality. If you are a woman, pray that you don’t fall for such a man because it surely will end in tears of frustration and despair. And Bahati’s anti-gay bill is about to drive even more gay Ugandan men into loveless, passionless, empty marriages.

You see, talk about how homosexuality is un-African is just that; talk. But there are thousands of women married to gay men in Uganda and such talk is scant comfort when they are living the trauma of marriage to a man who doesn’t love them, and instead would prefer to be with a fellow man. Such women deserve to be with men who love and like women. Yet, the Bahati bill is about to condemn even more women to the pain and suffering that accompanies being married to a man who doesn’t want you as surely as night follows day.

The Right Honorable Bahati and his friends don’t know the half of it of course. How could they?

AfroGay cannot name names but you just have to scratch the surface of many a loveless marriage and you will find that if it is not another woman, it is another man responsible for the strain or lack of interest. Bahati is about to force even more gay men into getting married in order not to end up in jail or in front of a firing squad because of their sexuality.

Take it from one who not only knows, but one who has lived the experience; if you think this bill is about homosexuals alone, you haven’t really studied the society you live in well enough. This bill is about to ruin many, many lives. Women and children are about to become unsuspecting victims of the Bahati bill in numbers that were dwindling as gay men accepted who they were and looked for like-minded men. All these are about to be forced back into the closet and/or into staid, passionless marriages.

The solution of course is simple enough – let homosexuals love who they wish and sleep with whoever will sleep with them in the privacy of their homes. Ask any woman what she prefers and she will tell you that she would rather deal with a straight man than have to struggle with a man who cannot get it up for her because his mind is dreaming of another man. There are no tricks a woman can pull with a man who is gay. Gay men belong with gay men and that is all there is to it. But Bahati of course will not know what we are talking about because he is a legislator who likely doesn’t understand that homosexuals cannot be cured since that is who they are.

And if the Bahati bill is passed, prepare for an avalanche of men who arrive late for their nuptials, who disappear for days on end without explanation, who perform sexually only now and then and with no emotion. In other words, prepare for many, many miserable wives crying for a husband when they have a man right there in their home.


Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: Jail Gays, Don’t Hang Them 7

The religious clerics of Uganda have pronounced themselves on the anti-gay bill. And their learned contribution? Jail all homosexuals and throw away the key!

Money quote:

“If you kill the people, to whom will the message go? We need to have imprisonment for life if the person is still alive,” said Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, the provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda.

I suppose one is meant to look at this as progress of sorts and Ugandan homosexuals should thank the clerics for this timely intervention. Rather than lose your life for being who you are, you would rather rot in jail.Death by a thousand pricks. (I know … it is death by a thousand cuts but surely an interesting pun, huh?) is better than a quick death, yes?

Unfortunately, no one seems to have asked the Rev. Canon whether he would wish the same fate for his own child. But this is about something that doesn’t concern these prelates, or is it?

There is another curious reference further down in the same article:

Parliament yesterday begun public debates on the Bill, conducted by the committee on presidential affairs

What, my curiosity aroused (pun unintended), has homosexuality got to do with presidential affairs? I am still scratching my head as I write this.

Finally, in a related report from another Ugandan news publication, there is this breathtaking economy with the truth:

Seventh Day Adventist’s John Kakembo noted that homosexuality has been in Uganda since the 1960s. He called on Parliament to quickly enact the Bill into law, so as to curb the vice.

“Homosexuality has been in Uganda since the 1960s?!!”

This man’s name suggests that he is a Christian. Has he ever heard of Kabaka Mwanga and the real reason he sent those pretty pages, the Uganda Martyrs, to their deaths in the 1880s? Is it possible that John Kakembo doesn’t know what Martin Ssempa knows all too well, namely that the boys were killed in part because they rebelled against Mwanga’s homosexual demands?


Related Reading:

1. No death penalty for homosexuals – clergy men

2. Out of the Closet – Unveiling Sexuality Discourses in Uganda

3. Why Anti-Gay Bill Should Worry Us

4. A Gay Witch-Hunt in Uganda


"I Have Always Known That I Need To Think For Myself" 1

Dónal Óg Cusack, the Irish hurling professional who recently came out as gay in his book deserves a gold medal. No, he deserves a plaque on the front pew of his Catholic Church for articulating what many of us fail so badly to do.
And in simple terms, Cusack puts in perspective the main thorn that gnaws away at many a gay man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality – namely that homosexuality is wrong, anti-Bible, sinful etc.
Money quote:
“I went out with nice women and good women, but sure, I still knew. I wanted something else. I get more out of men. I just do. Always have. I know I am different, but just in this way. Whatever you may feel about me or who I am, I’ve always been at peace with it.” … “I can remember as a young lad that we would all be sitting on our knees saying decades of the rosary every night, because that’s the family I came from. Thankfully the one thing I would have always known is that I needed to think for myself. That helped me to deal with my own situation. “If I had believed everything that was said about homosexuality by the Church over the years, I might be saying that I was going to burn in Hell for a long time. To be honest, I couldn’t find the rationale for that so it didn’t affect me.”
And that, in a nutshell, is what all gay boys and girls struggling with their emotions have to learn to understand; there is absolutely no rationale as to why being gay is a sin, no rationale as to why having consensual sexual relations with an adult is evil or depraved, no rationale as to why the Bible says that it is wrong to engage in homosexual sex and then in the same breath say that keeping slaves is alright. Most importantly, Cusack shows us that as human beings, we have to use the one faculty that God has given us, a faculty that makes us superior to all other creatures on earth – the ability to think for ourselves.
In that spirit, we need to rise above the parroted vituperation and ask ourselves (and our tormentors) the simple question: why is being gay wrong? If God made us all in his image (Genesis 1:27), why do we have to be straight to be blessed?

And that is precisely what Martin Ssempa, Luke Orombi, Peter Akinola, Steven Langa don’t want anyone to do – ask questions, think. To think is to question conventional Biblical straight-jacket orthodoxy (a sin is a sin is a sin). To think is to appeal to the fundamental attribute that sets us apart from wild animals; our conscience.

Thus, Ssempa and his acolytes are desperate to ensure that Ugandans don’t think. And the reason for that is obvious; whenever human beings anywhere in the world have been allowed the latitude to think, they have veered decisively away from their primordial instincts and on to the side of compassion, inclusion and tolerance.

Ugandans minding their own business where homosexuality is concerned? Imagine what that would do to Martin Ssempa’s livelihood! The poor little man cannot afford to have Ugandans think thus the desperation you see him relentlessly engaged in.