Why we cannot turn a deaf ear to Uganda’s homosexuality Bill

Monday December 28 2009

By JOACHIM BUWEMBO

Way back in the 90s, an American aid worker asked for my opinion on homosexuality and I said I did not have any.

She did not believe me and seemed to be quite vexed that I was withholding my opinion from her.

Her insistence that I comment on the subject yielded nothing because sincerely, I did not know or care enough about the subject to form an opinion on it.

To make her understand my lack of position on homosexuality, I rather insensitively asked her whether she expected me to care whether a South American tribe name their first born daughters after their grandmother or not.

She was disgusted about my ignorance and we dropped the subject.

Today, A Ugandan cannot run away from giving an opinion about homosexuality, after the national parliament was petitioned in a formal motion to prescribe draconian measures including the death penalty for the act.

Of course a penalty, whether light or maximum, presupposes a crime.

The gravity of the prescribed penalty also indicates the seriousness of the offence in relation to other offences.

So according to the framers of the Bill, a girl who prefers a girl is more dangerous to the society than officials who robbed millions of dollars meant to treat aids, malaria and tuberculosis patients in 2004. Only four of the over 100 suspects were sent to jail with light sentences.

And we are yet to see a conviction of any of the few men who stole most of the $200 million meant for the 2007 Kampala Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting, turning ‘Chogm’ into a vulgar world in Uganda.

But here we are, required to have an opinion on an ‘offence’ which we are neither predisposed nor qualified to understand.

In my many years of existence, I first recognised a homosexual only three years ago. I say ‘recognised’ and not ‘identified’ because I only have her claim as ‘proof’.

In a normal situation, the sane thing would be to refrain from commenting on things we do not understand.

But not when it is a matter of life and death.

If parliament discusses whether people should be killed, we need to be convinced that indeed these people are worse than the killers who rob medical funds and send thousands to early graves.

The local media have also imputed a sinister motive in the homosexual Bill, saying it is meant to mess up opposition politicians who have lived long in the West and have not declared known female partners.

Being charged with a morals-related capital offence can upset one’s leadership campaign seriously.

Yet the death penalty in Uganda has hitherto remained largely theoretical, as it is rarely implemented.

One of the reasons is that for some reason, most prison officials are against the death penalty and several years ago flatly told the government that they would no longer implement it.

They advised the government to outsource the killing services if it wished to execute any convicts.