Some may call it neo-colonialism, some may call it imperialism, but when the stakes are this high democracy based on ignorance and hatred cannot simply be allowed to plow on towards death and suffering. Action must be taken now.
In 2009 Uganda proposed the “Kill the Gays” bill, or anti-homosexuality bill. In this bill two provisions are set out which essentially equate homosexual acts to the same level as murder. Single offenders or those in same-sex relationships are faced with a sentence of life imprisonment. Those considered serial offenders – those who are HIV-positive, paedophiles (in Uganda under-18) or authority figures (including parents) – will face the death penalty. Those who knew of any offenders and did not report it would face a fine and up to three years in prison.
The bill, in the face of widespread international condemnation, has bounced back and forth in status in the Ugandan parliament. By the end of 2009 the bill had been softened to drop the death penalty though claims of western pressure were rejected, and by May 2010 it had been shelved. An attempt that August to revive it was defeated, however two years later it is back.
Why? Because ‘Ugandans are demanding it’.
This use of quotation marks seems to have been used in every use of the phrase in media treatment of this story, as if it is not credible, to be taken with a pinch of salt or not to be taken seriously at all. This simply is not the case, and in the purest concept of democracy as rule according to the values and interests of the majority this bill should pass.
96% of Ugandans believe that homosexuality should be rejected from society. Not only is this overwhelming support for the suppression and punishment of homosexuality in Uganda practically beyond question, it is completely in line with the attitudes of the region in general. Outside relatively liberal South Africa the closest a sub-Saharan state comes to supporting homosexuality is the “small” proportion of rejection in the Ivory Coast: 89%.Neither is this a concept restricted to sub-Saharan Africa. Israel is the state most likely to support homosexuality as part of society in the Middle East, yet even here only a third of the population defend it. In Egypt only 1% do. Although Western Europe is overwhelmingly supportive, the further East you go the more this position struggles. In East and South Asia only Japan shows such support. Although the Americas are generally supportive the United States stick out among their neighbours with a rejection unique in what is understood as the “West”.
In fact, the hatred of homosexuality (I refuse to use the term homophobia, “fear” is not the correct term) of the United States is very much part of its influence worldwide. Many publications have chased the influence of ultra-conservative US preachers to Africa, highlighting their influence in hate-filled sermons to fire up local populations against the imagined threat of homosexuals in their drive to infect their children with homosexual thoughts and HIV. Entire US organisations are dedicated to spreading anti-homosexual and anti-abortion agendas worldwide through religious preachers and pressure of, and through, international corporations.
However these preachers are not “exporting” this hatred, no matter what some publications may claim. Instead they are capitalising on an ignorance and hatred which is already present in these regions, one which is created by a combination of a history of superstitious practices vilifying such differences as homosexuality and albinism and colonial rule which enforced strict religious rules.
These rules, enforced by the religious practices of Christian European Empires or the Islamic Arab Caliphates, are obsessed with sex. There is no set of moral rules more obsessed and paranoid about sexual relations and even thoughts than the bizarre declarations of the Judeo-Christian holy books. The effect of the massacres of the American and African populations who would not convert to Christianity dwarfed the religious wars which rocked Europe. Wars fought over different interpretations of how Jesus might have imagined society centuries beyond his birth despite predicting the world wouldn’t last past the first century. (Matthew 16:28, 23:36, 24:34, 26:64, Mark 9:1, 13:30, Luke 9:27, 21:32)
The influence of these extreme conversions or death was to create local populations even more dedicated to the iron rules of holy books than their conquerors. Magnified by the lack of education they benefited from these rules of ignorance and superstition remained even as developed states began to turn their backs upon them. As the West cast aside these foul rules and its populations began to reject the Church in all things but identity so too did the ignorant hatred of homosexuality fade. According to Gallup polling, those states who accept homosexuality as part of society are overwhelmingly those who also reject religion as the fundamental basis of morality, those which place education and freedom of expression and ideas first and foremost.
Uganda, by democratic remit, should enforce the law which bans homosexuality and sends many homosexuals to their deaths. It is what the Ugandan population wants and it is what is demanded by their religion. Should they be allowed to do so because such a measure is democratic? No.
Some may call it neo-colonialism, some may call it imperialism, but when the stakes are this high democracy based on ignorance and hatred cannot simply be allowed to plow on towards death and suffering. Socially liberal values, however they may be despised as left-wing by much of the West, are the fundamental values of western society. Freedoms of expression, identity and from persecution and death are far more important than the decratic right of majorities to oppress those they dislike as they see fit. The persecution of homosexuals across the world is evidence that democracy alone is not enough to produce a civil society. Corruption of morals and ideas by religion and intolerant demagogues are all too common in those societies where democracy is new and where absolute moral deference to authority demanded by religion is widespread. Everything must be done to prevent these injustices and save those who’s only crime was to be born and feel love in a way their neighbours do not understand. Enough with democratic right to oppress, action is needed now.
Photo credit: Todd Huffman