The Rev. Anthony Musaala, a Ugandan priest who offers pastoral ministry to displaced sexual minorities in various countries, submitted the following call for repeal of Uganda’s harsh new anti-gay law.
Musaala is currently appealing last year’s decision by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Kampala to suspend him after receiving a plea for reform in a letter from Musaala that complained of priests keeping secret wives and abusing minors sexually.
Why the Anti-Homosexuality Act must be repealed
By Fr. Anthony Musaala
Following the successful enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in Uganda and the ensuing hoorays, a petition was lodged in the constitutional court to have the act repealed.
My own reasons for denouncing the Anti-Homosexuality Act derive from 1) my Catholic faith, 2) my experience as a pastoral counselor, 3) the personal challenges I face in Uganda for allegedly being “a promoter of homosexuality” and 4) because I consider myself a patriot.
Ten reasons to repeal the act
1. It is contrary to Catholic teaching
The act contradicts the teaching of the Catholic faith in the matter of how homosexual persons should be treated.
The Catholic catechism no. 2358 says:
“The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God’s will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord’s Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.”
This text emphasizes acceptance and tolerance, not condemnation and punishments. It is strange that the new act, conceived and promoted by Christians (in the Inter-Religious Council), requires homosexuals to be jailed, in some cases for life.
The Inter-Religious Council only now makes lame appeals against violence and the extreme penalties in the act, perhaps because funds have been cut off by donors to their programs and government coffers are empty!
Even the Catholic Church shamefully failed to present clear teaching from the relevant section of the catechism quoted above, thus becoming complicit in the enactment of laws which incite violence, hatred and stigma towards a small group of Ugandans. Religious leaders are directly to blame for the harassments, injuries, and two deaths suffered by suspected gays, both prior to and in the wake of this act.
2. The Anti-Homosexuality Act is un-African
By rejecting individuals who are members of the African community on the basis of homosexual behavior alone, which is not strange to Africa, the new punitive laws are inconsistent with an African world view of cultural variety and diversity of customs. There is no African tradition of persecuting homosexuals. Research shows rather that homosexuals were traditionally tolerated and even incorporated under various guises. (See Will Roscoe’s book ‘’Boy Wives and Female Husbands: Studies in African Homosexualities’’).
[Related articles: “21 varieties of traditional African homosexuality”and “What traditional African homosexuality learned from West.”]
3. It serves no moral purpose
The new law will not change moral behavior, not even of homosexuals who are accustomed to living beneath the radar of public observation and will continue being homosexual in spite of the act and indeed to spite it. The greatest moral evil in Uganda is not homosexuality, but corruption, abuse of authority, the diversion of public funds, the exploitation of the poor by the rich, exclusion of youth, continued violence towards and degradation of women, massive unemployment.
How does banning homosexuality cure those real moral and social ills?
4. Jailing homosexuals is futile
The irony of sending men and women to prison for homosexual acts when Uganda’s jails are rife with homosexual acts seems to be completely lost on the crusading anti-homosexuality lobbyists! It is more than a little self-defeating to punish an offender with more of the offence!
Furthermore if 3-5% in any population is sexually variant (Uganda is no different) then between 900,000 – 1,500,000 Ugandans are either gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or transsexual or intersexual. Even if half that number of sexual minorities were to be jailed, ridiculous as that is, Uganda’s prisons would be inadequate.
5. The act is unenforceable
To enforce the new laws would require employing highly intrusive measures, such as spying on citizens and invading people’s bedrooms. This would entail such an intolerable violation of rights as to be unacceptable in any free society. Private homosexual acts between consenting adults are victimless crimes. If the state is the complainant, who are the witnesses? Any witness would violate rights to the privacy of those individuals, to freedom of conscience, to freedom of association. An amendment to the constitution is required to deprive only homosexuals of those rights.
6. The act is illegal and undemocratic
The illegality of the act is due to the fact that it lacked the quorum required for it to legally pass muster in parliament.
The act is illegal because the president assented to it on erroneous grounds. The scientific basis for his decision was manipulated to deliver a conclusion which was political not scientific.
Finally, the act is illegal because it is thoroughly unconstitutional, with regard to the rights of certain citizens, which is why a petition has been lodged in the constitutional court.
The act pretends to be the “true voice of the people” but is undemocratic. It is in fact the voice of the few who instigated it via outrageous lies and smears against homosexuals, which were never challenged but are tantamount to hate speech.
The four big lies told to the public about homosexual men and women by a handful of people are:
- Homosexuals are only interested in corrupting children.
- Homosexuals spread AIDS.
- Homosexuality is not African; it is an entirely foreign lifestyle sponsored by the West and a few degenerate Africans who want to destroy African culture, morals and faith.
- Homosexuals are moral deviants who choose unnatural sexual acts.
These lies have been backed by religious texts, pseudo-science and appeals to the nostalgia of “African culture.” The popular media also irresponsibly conspired with the anti-homosexuality lobby to portray alleged homosexuals as subhuman and undesirable. This is what delivered the “democratic” vote against homosexuality. It is likely to be copied in other African states and will be branded as the authentic African view on homosexuality.
7. The Anti-Homosexuality Act creates the non-existent crime of ‘promoting homosexuality’
The crime of “promoting homosexuality” mentioned in Section 13 of the act is ridiculous, unjust and based on three wrong assumptions:
1. That homosexuality is identical with specific ‘’sexual acts’’, which it is not.
Homosexuality as such is not a specific ‘’sexual act’’ (such as are disallowed by Section 141 of the penal code). Rather it is an orientation involving the whole person. Promoting it therefore cannot be a crime. The phrase “promoting homosexuality” itself is meaningless, since an orientation does not need promotion.
To speak of criminalizing the “promotion of homosexuality” is to disavow the characteristic of homosexuality within human nature, as an involuntary and unintended phenomenon. This section of the act is therefore highly discriminatory, being based on ignorance and prejudice.
2. Another erroneous belief assumed by this section of the Act, is that as a result of “promotion” a person’s sexual orientation might change; that one can change from heterosexuality to homosexuality (or vice versa) due to some external influence. There is absolutely no evidence for this. There is no known method or process which can change sexual orientation.
It would be like thinking that a talented footballer might have become a talented high-jumper, if high jumping had been “promoted” to him, since both are are athletic sports. Or to assume that a great physicist like Einstein would have automatically excelled in theology, if it had been “promoted” to him at an early age.
This naïve unscientific way of thinking is what lies behind the new pseudo-crime of “promoting homosexuality.” Once again the root of it is ignorance, prejudice and fear — in a word, homophobia.
3. The other false assumption in this section is that homosexuals by virtue of being homosexuals, forfeit any right to free speech. If “promoting homosexuality” means speaking positively of one’s orientation, how is that a crime, while others lawfully speak of its demerits?If one group may speak of something while another may not, that is a violation of the right to speak freely of one group.
8. The Anti-Homosexuality Act damages Uganda’s international image
This new act has very badly damaged Uganda’s image abroad. Winston Churchill famously described Uganda as the “Pearl in Africa’s crown.” Quality education, culture and religious pluralism, were outstanding hallmarks of Ugandan life both before and after independence. Uganda’s economy and Southeast Asian economies were on a par in the early sixties before the blunders of Obote and Idi Amin. Significant recoveries were made by the present regime, but now by this act Uganda returns in one way to a pariah status.
As Uganda becomes synonymous with the persecution of sexual minorities, with petty intolerance, with flat-earth thinking, and anti-Western diatribe, even Uganda’s closest friends are dismayed. When the foreign media touts Uganda as “the worst place on earth to be gay,” even though this is not strictly true, we should not consider that some kind of accolade.
In so far as all modern states need to image themselves appropriately in order to be position themselves on the world stage and to be competitive, the Anti-Homosexuality Act sets Uganda back at least twenty years.
9. The Anti-Homosexuality Act has damaged Uganda’s economy
Aid cuts, though slighter than expected,are already affecting the value of the shilling and the price of commodities. Some tourists have already cancelled their trips to Uganda. International corporations and multi-nationals which promote equality and inclusiveness such as Barclays, Coca Cola, MTN, are under pressure by their international customers to take a stand against the Act. Richard Branson will not do business in Uganda and advises others to avoid Uganda like the plague. The health sector is severely affected by cuts to its budgets which will in turn affect supplies of drugs and services to ordinary Uganda.This a rather costly way to achieve one piece of legislation to deal with one small group of allegedly errant citizens. Uganda has cut off its nose to spite its face. Politicians say that Uganda will survive, but at what cost?
10. The Anti-Homosexuality Act gives the state powers it should not have
It is dangerous for the state to become the moral arbiter. Attempts to create a “state” morality have been problematic in history, usually entailing abuse of rights, followed by uprisings. One should consider the inhumanities of Nazi Germany, communist Russia, Maoist China, North Korea, Islamic theocracies such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, apartheid South Africa and pre-civil rights USA. All those regimes assumed rigid moral postures which resulted in unprecedented injustices.
In Uganda too we remember Idi Amin’s “moral” crusade against mini-skirts, tight trousers and beards, not to mention his disastrous “economic war” against another small disliked group, the Asians, which resulted in Uganda’s economic collapse and Amin’s subsequent removal.
While it is good for a nation to desire virtue and upright living for its citizens, this is achieved multi-laterally and not by the imposition of harsh laws on one section of the population. State laws are reformable and do not represent a stable body of moral values. Their main purpose is to ensure the protection of all its citizens, especially the most vulnerable, against prejudice and injustice.
Repeal the act
The Anti-Homosexuality Act is objectionable in the manner in which it stigmatizes and victimizes homosexual persons, by criminalizing not only what they do as consenting adults, but also their freedom to think and be what they are. This law refuses to consider that homosexual orientation might be involuntary and proceeds to severely punish acts which flow from it. This is not acceptable, which is why the act should be repealed.
Fundamental political change is the ultimate goal
It is my hope that the anti-homosexuality faction will open its eyes and disengage from the inherent fascism disguised as law in the new act, since this plays straight into the hands of dictatorship. We do not need anti-homosexuality laws. We need a radical change of the political leadership in Uganda ,which will inspire us to build a stable, prosperous and united nation.
We need more accelerated and equitable economic development, since we have the resources, as in other parts of eastern Africa; we need development which is not lop-sided and guided by political interest but which but includes all citizens in all parts of Uganda.
We need an end to corruption and patronage and single-tribe domination once and for all.
We need to strengthen the judiciary as an independent arm of government.
We need to end the creeping militarization of the security forces and the suppression of alternative political voices.
We need a more authentic decentralization of government and devolution of powers, not by creating more districts as an expensive political game but by allowing existing natural polities to aggregate themselves in a manner proposed by “Federo” [See the website federo.org, which promotes federalism in Uganda] and by amending the constitution to curb presidential powers, as done recently in neighbouring Kenya.
We need to decrease the size and cost of central government, which has spiralled out of all proportion, and to have officials who reflect the aspirations of the poor in their style of life.
Let us make these, not anti-homosexuality laws, to be our proper focus at this critical time in our development.
Should all these be unnecessarily delayed, our country may still face other sad chapters in its history.
For God and my country.
— Fr. Anthony Musaala
- Ugandan Priest Exposes Abuse Only to Get Suspended Without Pay (patheos.com)
- Despite new law, Ugandan cleric ministers to gays (news.yahoo.com)
- 21 varieties of traditional African homosexuality (76crimes.com)
- What traditional African homosexuality learned from West (76crimes.com)
- Draconian details of Uganda’s misguided new anti-gay law (76crimes.com)