A lot, as it turns out. My post from last week, which recounted the final enactment of Nigeria’s anti-gay law and the decision by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni to veto the anti-gay bill passed in December 2013 by the Ugandan parliament, attracted more attention than nearly any post I’ve written since I started Suffragio in early 2012.
So I thought it was worth sharing some of the reactions — and they’ve been jarring.
In the past month alone, I’ve argued that the United States is engendering sympathy for al-Qaeda forces in Yemen, that the US Senate would commit policy malpractice by enacting a new Iran sanctions bill and that the late Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon’s most enduring legacy is empowering Hezbollah. Just yesterday, I entertained the notion that the United States and Canada should merge into a superstate. These aren’t easy issues, and others won’t always share my interpretations and conclusions.
But nothing has caused quite as much blowback as a relatively straightforward piece examining Museveni’s veto in the context of a rapidly worsening climate for LGBT rights throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
The (unintentionally hilarious) Anel Tunes, who’s from Kampala, shared my post on Facebook — with the following preamble:
All homosexuals need to be shot dead on site. We don’t need to spend tax payers money by taking such beasts to court. We just need to slay their throats without a question.
He’s not alone — the comments on both my blog and on Facebook run very heavily anti-gay. I’d expect that because Uganda’s culture is relatively conservative. There are plenty of good people in the United States who oppose same-sex marriage and believe, for religious or other reasons, that same-sex relationships are wrong, and the battle for wider acceptance of sexual minorities (including, for the record, transsexual and transgender individuals) can’t be legislated or enacted by judicial fiat. I can understand that.
What I can’t understand is the desire to kill fellow citizens. The virulence of hatred is staggering. I’m used to a hostile or critical comment (or dozen) from time to time, but these comments are extraordinarily hateful.
Rogers Mover M adds simply:
We HATE HOMOSEXUALITY
From Ssebbaale Henry Wise:
rubbish !!!! it doent matter whether he voted other wise, remember this is africa, we act as we please, we will contiue to kill the Gays until when they are totally finished
Homo??? you even have time to debate on that??? we have machetes
Jjemba Mathew disapproves of the Ugandan parliament’s decision to reduce the penalty from ‘death’ to merely life imprisonment:
Life imprisonment can not end gay habits.They need Gun fire in the stadium.
Black Panther argues that Ugandan gays should be fed to the crocodiles:
This is abusing our President.Its such a shameful act that it shldnt hv even been discussed in our Parliament.They shld hv just rounded up all homosexuals at night and thrown them into River Nile for our more honourable and profitable crocodiles to feast on as they are more useful at least they attract tourists and earn the country the much needed foreign currency.
Alice kirabo writes something that I think gets to the very heart of why so many Ugandans (and Africans) are becoming so very anti-LGBT:
i do believe its high time Africans should stand against the neo-colonialism of westerners . Uganda is an independent country i don’t why europeans would always wish to impose their nortorious behaviours over Uganda we have a right to choose what is suitable for our country. and i urge president Museveni to stand firm against homesexuality. for God and my country
Omaki Emmanuel makes a similar argument, mixed with additional biblical overtones:
My community and many more in Uganda, consider homosexuality as a psychological disorder, not even animals, however low there inteligence, do it because it is totally not natural. Secondly, Biblically, Sodom and Gomora where burnt by God because of the same act. How then can Uganda, being a God fearing country and many more African states bow down to western powers to agree to legalise Homosexuality?
It’s important for international human rights organizations to realize that this issue isn’t just about LGBT rights, but remains shrouded in a more complex basket of nationalism and post-colonialism. But the idea that gay rights is a ‘Western’ export is no more or less true than the anti-gay teachings of Protestantism is ‘Western’ or that the initial statutes criminalizing homosexuality in British East Africa were ‘Western.’
But as a member of the United Nations and other international organizations, Uganda has at some legal obligations to observe basic human rights. Though the Universal Declaration on Human Rights doesn’t explicitly mention LGBT rights, many legal scholars believe there’s a customary legal obligation to protect LGBT individuals from the most egregious harassment (or from harsh penalties like execution or life imprisonment).
As a commentator, I typically try to explain political matters and policy issues. In the rare case that I take an explicit policy position, it’s after having weighed all sides of an argument. I have fans and detractors on both the right and the left, and I take that as a point of pride.
But there’s simply no defense of the kind of anti-gay virulence that animates these kinds of comments.
What’s most promising are that some Ugandans have stepped up to counter some of the worst comments. Buyondo Micheal writes as follows:
Its our role as Ugandans to bring up our kids in a cultured way and stop blaming the gays , we can not fight neither stop the ills of globalization and development ,the president is not a full he did not make his decision out of excitement.
Which strikes me as a reasonable point. At a time when many countries in the region are posting double-digit growth, Ugandan GDP expanded by just 3.4% in 2012. Its GDP per capita is just $547. Attacking gays and lesbians as scapegoats isn’t going to educate more children, make Ugandans healthier, or develop the kind of industry and economy that can lift more Ugandans out of poverty.
As it turns out, I’ll be in Kampala and Entebbe in mid-February as part of a wider trip to east Africa. I’m looking forward to learning about Uganda, meeting its people and understanding more fully its history, its culture, its politics, its economy (and its food!). I can’t wait — and I’m excited to learn more about east Africa, more generally.
I’m most excited to get to know some of the brave LGBT activists fighting for greater human rights in Uganda, though, and I hope I’ll have a chance to do so.