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UGANDA’S ‘ANTI-GAY’ LAW – PRESIDENT MUSEVENI AND ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU DEBATE

President Museveni has released a statement to the international media explaining his reasons for signing what he terms an ‘anti-homosexual bill’ to which Bishop Desmond Tutu has responded. Both statements are reproduced here for Kenya Forum readers.

Homosexuality: nature or nurture? The imposition of Western views or human rights denied to Africans?

PRESIDENT MUSEVENI’S STATEMENT: WHY I SIGNED ‘ANTI-HOMOSEXUAL BILL’

President Yoweri Museveni

President Yoweri Museveni

I have seen the statement H.E President Obama of the USA made in reaction to my statement that I was going to sign the anti-homosexual Bill, which I made at Kyankwanzi.

Before I react to H.E. Obama’s statement, let me, again, put on record my views on the issue of homo-sexuals (ebitiingwa, bisiyaga in some of our dialects).

Right from the beginning of this debate, my views were as follows:

1. I agreed with the MPs and almost all Ugandans that promotion of homosexuality in Uganda must be criminalized or rather should continue to be criminalized because the British had already done that;

2. those who agreed to become homosexuals for mercenary reasons (prostitutes) should be harshly punished as should those who paid them to be homosexual prostitutes; and

3. exhibitionism of homosexual behavior must be punished because, in this part of the World, it is forbidden to publicly exhibit any sexual conduct (kissing, etc) even for heterosexuals; if I kissed my wife of 41 years in public, I would lose elections in Uganda.

‘I SOUGHT SCIENTIFIC OPINIONS’

The only point I disagreed on with some of the Members of Parliament (MPs) and other Ugandans was on the persons I thought were born homosexual. According to the casual observations, there are rare deviations in nature from the normal. You witness cases like albinos (nyamagoye), barren women or men (enguumba), epa (breastless women) etc. I, therefore, thought that similarly there were people that were born with the disorientation of being attracted to the same sex. That is why I thought that that it was wrong to punish somebody on account of being born abnormal. That is why I refused to sign the Bill and, instead, referred it to our Party (the NRM) to debate it again. In the meantime, I sought for scientific opinions on this matter.

I am grateful to Ms. Kerry Kennedy of the USA who sent me opinions by scientists from the USA saying that there could be some indications that homosexuality could be congenital. In our conference, I put these opinions to our scientists from the Department of Genetics, the School of Medicine and the Ministry of Health. Their unanimous conclusion was that homosexuality, contrary to my earlier thinking, was behavioural and not genetic. It was learnt and could be unlearnt. I told them to put their signatures to that conclusion which they did. That is why I declared my intention to sign the Bill, which I will do. I have now received their signed document, which says there is no single gene that has been traced to cause homosexuality. What I want them to clarify is whether a combination of genes can cause anybody to be homosexual. Then my task will be finished and I will sign the Bill.

‘AFRICANS DO NOT SEEK TO IMPOSE THEIR VIEWS ON ANYBODY. WE DO NOT WANT ANYBODY TO IMPOSE THEIR VIEWS ON US’

After my statement to that effect which was quoted widely around the World, I got reactions from some friends from outside Africa. Statements like: “it is a matter of choice” or “whom they love” which President Obama repeated in his statement would be most furiously rejected by almost the entirety of our people. It cannot be a matter of choice for a man to behave like a woman or vice-versa. The argument I had pushed was that there could be people who are born like that or “who they are”, according to President Obama’s statement.

I, therefore, encourage the US government to help us by working with our Scientists to study whether, indeed, there are people who are born homosexual. When that is proved, we can review this legislation. I would be among those who will spearhead that effort. That is why I had refused to sign the Bill until my premise was knocked down by the position of our Scientists.

I would like to discourage the USA government from taking the line that passing this law will “complicate our valued relationship” with the USA as President Obama said. Countries and Societies should relate with each other on the basis of mutual respect and independence in decision making.

“Valued relationship” cannot be sustainably maintained by one Society being subservient to another society. There are a myriad acts the societies in the West do that we frown on or even detest. We, however, never comment on those acts or make them preconditions for working with the West. Africans do not seek to impose their views on anybody. We do not want anybody to impose their views on us. This very debate was provoked by Western groups who come to our schools and try to recruit children into homosexuality. It is better to limit the damage rather than exacerbate it.

I thank everybody.

ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU RESPONDS TO PRESIDENT MUSEVENI OVER ‘ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY BILL’

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Desmond Tutu

When President Museveni and I spoke last month, he gave his word that he would not let the Anti-Homosexuality Bill become law in Uganda. I was therefore very disheartened to hear last week that President Museveni was re-considering his position.

In a statement released on Friday, the President said Uganda’s scientists had reviewed available literature and unanimously agreed that no single gene could be identified as a trigger for homosexuality. It was learned behaviour that could be unlearned. He had asked the scientists if it was possible that a combination of genes could be responsible. If the scientists reported back that they could still find no genetic rationale for homosexual behaviour he would sign the bill into law, the President said. President Museveni went on to encourage the United States government to work with Uganda’s scientists. If it could be proved that “there are people who are born homosexual” the legislation could be reviewed, he said.

‘THERE IS NO SCIENTIFIC JUSTIFICATION FOR PREJUDICE AND DISCRIMINATION, EVER’

We must be entirely clear about this: The history of people is littered with attempts to legislate against love or marriage across class, caste and race. But there is no scientific basis or genetic rationale for love. There is only the grace of God.

There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification. Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts.

Human beings are very diverse. Some have dark brown skins while others are beige, olive or pink. Some have big noses, some are very tall, some are Christian, some speak Swahili, some are financially secure, some are lesbian, some have specially evolved to survive in cold climates. Yet we are members of one family, the human family, God’s family; all of us, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, African, Asian, European… all; an inter-connected global family in an increasingly inter-connected world.

DIVERSITY AND COMPASSION

Our diversity requires of us to be tolerant and compassionate and respectful of each other.

In South Africa, apartheid police used to rush into bedrooms where whites were suspected of making love to blacks. They would feel if the bed sheets were warm, crucial evidence to be used in the criminal case to follow. It was demeaning to those whose “crime” was to love each other, it was demeaning to the policemen – and it was a blot on our entire society.

My plea to President Museveni is to use his country’s debate around the Anti-Homosexuality Bill as a catalyst to further strengthen the culture of human rights and justice in Uganda. To strengthen criminal sanctions against those who commit sexual acts with children, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. To strengthen criminal sanctions against all acts of rape and sexual violence, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. And, if needs be, to strengthen criminal sanctions against those involved in commercial sexual transactions – buyers and sellers – regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Tightening such areas of the law would surely provide children and families far more protection than criminalising acts of love between consenting adults.

God bless you.

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