Uganda has had one of the most controversial anti-gay campaigns in Africa. Severe acts of homophobia have been witnessed in the country. In 2011, David Kato, a gay rights activist was murdered in cold blood in his home. This was curiously after a Ugandan tabloid, Rolling Stone, published names and addresses of people believed to be gay. The tabloid was calling for their murder. Since then, homophobic attacks have never ceased in Uganda.
Anti-gay campaigns in Uganda can be traced back to 2009. A member of parliament, David Bahati, had introduced an anti-gay bill seeking to prohibit same-gender sexual relations. The bill was then referred to as “Kill the Gays” bill. It sought to have anyone convicted sentenced to life imprisonment. Prior to the bill and debates, homosexuality or homophobia was unheard of in Uganda. Whether there were gay people or not was never an issue for anyone. The authorities were not bothered by it either. And just like in many other African countries, the topic was not even discussed. It may not be approved in almost all African cultures as well, but it was really not a topic of discussion.
The Brains Behind the Anti-Gay “Revolution”
Notably, though, the bill was formulated after a workshop titled “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals” which was attended by three American evangelical Christians. The three were Scott Lively, Caleb Lee, and Don Schmierer. They are all active anti-gay campaigners. For instance, Scott has authored several books on the topic. All opposing homosexuality. Caleb says he is a former gay man and now organizes sessions to help other homosexuals heal. Don on the other hand advocates for “freedom from homosexuality by the power of Jesus Christ”. Through this workshop, the three men extensively spoke of the evils of being gay, how gay people preyed on and sodomized teenagers and how the Ugandan society, which is marriage based, would soon crumble and get replaced with a culture of “indecency and unnatural acts”.
Stephen Langa, leader of Family Life Network, which had organized the workshop cited Richard A Cohen in his book Coming Out Straight saying:
“homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25% of pupil molestation; 40% of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.”
Soon after, a motion was tabled in parliament. And Uganda woke up to a new dawn; anti-gay-ism.
The Dawn of Anti-Gay-Ism
In 2014, Uganda passed the bill, now referred to as the Anti-Homosexuality Act, 2014. There was a great unrest thereafter with LGBT activists around the world protesting against the Act. It was considered harsh and punitive. Scott Lively and Richard Cohen themselves did not agree with the Act saying it was extreme and that their intentions were to only have gay people leave their gay life and embrace the life of non-gay people. Rick Warren, a renowned Christian leader also disagreed with the Act calling it un-Christian. Uganda has, however, not relented on the Act and it still remains illegal to be gay in the country.
Stigmatized and Seen as Outcasts
Churches and other religious leaders still remain conservative concerning homosexuality. Dr. Frank Mugisha, an LGBT rights activist in Uganda, actively advocates for gay rights. He, together with his fellow gay community, organizes events where they all meet up and celebrate themselves. The events are low key as they fear confrontations with the police. Society is also not kind to them. They are stigmatized and viewed as outcasts. Because of that, many fear to openly come out as gay.
While Scott Lively may not be blamed entirely for introducing homophobic culture in Uganda, he and his friends did play a role. That said, the society we live in today is vigorously demanding for the rights of every human being. Whether that will ever emerge in Uganda remains to be seen.
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