While AfroGay still feels (chooses to feel?) that this law will not be enacted, it sometimes helps to think beyond what one wishes because, as we all know, common sense is not common in third world backwaters like Uganda where men still treat women as chattels and women routinely march in demonstrations seeking to protect men who wish to keep a third and fourth wife.
I recently spoke to a government official about the bill in general terms and he said something that I found chilling if only because it contradicted much of my own assumptions about the fate of this bill. “Parliament is independent,” he told me. “If Parliament passes the bill, it will be difficult for the President not to sign it.”
Of course it is laughable to even think that Uganda’s Parliament is independent, but the point was well taken. When you use terror-tactics, when you go for the lowest common denominator to cower minds into submission, just as the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan, you get what you want. When terror reigns the terrorists often get what they want from the defenseless. They don’t get it because it is what is right, but because the price of opposition becomes too high for most ordinary people.
So, it is hardly surprising that GayUganda has given up. Indeed he is not alone. Legal minds are already looking past the bill to constitutional challenges. There is no way this bill can pass the simplest test of constitutionality but that is beside the point since constitutional challenges can take years to resolve.
As a friend told me recently, “the structure of this bill and how it ends up being applied (if passed) could profoundly alter the landscape and viability of Uganda as a place to do business. Certainly it might make it impossible to live there. The fact that the fear of violence and the anti-homosexual streak in society runs so deep that NOBODY will speak out against it now, doesn’t bode well for anyone that gets caught up in its accusations later. You will get swept away to jail or death with nary a peep being made. “
As Somalia, Zimbabwe, The Sudan, Kenya have shown us in the recent past, Africa can be quite cruel that way. While it is not likely that Uganda will go the way of the pogroms we have seen in the aforementioned countries, a bill like this would make cheap political fodder for politicians looking for tactics to win re-election. Mere accusation that one’s opponent is gay should be enough to kill off their campaign. And you can be sure Bahati and his friends will use the ‘gay’ card. In fact, the more far-sighted Parliamentarians should vote for the bill in anticipation of using it as a devastating cutlass against their political enemies. On top of the thoughtless primitiveness driving the bill, even those MPs who are not interested in who sleeps with who will likely see the political gift they are about to be handed if it passes.
Which brings one to the frightening but necessary question: what can be done should common sense fail to prevail and the law is passed? AfroGay doesn’t know at this time. But a look at history gives a hint of what then has to happen.
There are not a lot of neat options – there never are where the fight for human rights is concerned. As the Americans say, you have to break some eggs to make an omelet. But delving into the ins and outs of what can be done is best left for another time.
For now, AfroGay must choose to believe that this bill will not become law. There is simply no way the current president can sign this bill and expect to show his head ever again at any international gathering, and so the price for him personally would be too high. Contrary to what many critics are suggesting, AfroGay thinks Museveni doesn’t want this bill anywhere near his desk, and he will never sign it if it makes it that far.