Much brouhaha has been made concerning the passing of pieces of legislation in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalise acts of homosexuality. These two countries have stirred the ire of Western nations who consider their actions to infringe on rights of LGBT individuals. Governments around the world pass laws all the time without any of us paying attention but laws around homosexuality are keenly watched by many influential groups today.
When the president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni finally affixed his signature to a law that authorises stiff penalties for people caught in same sex relations, the United Nations’ Ban Kin-moon released a statement of disapproval. And so did President Barack Obama of the US and our very own archbishop Desmond Tutu. Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and 36 other African countries.
The issue with the latest law in Uganda is that it strengthens the sanctions against those found guilty of homosexual acts. What is interesting regarding the situation in Uganda is the process that culminated in the signing of this law. The president had opted to delay signing the law while soliciting scientific proof of whether or not homosexuality is genetic or behavioural. He not only sought this advice from his own scientists but from the scientific community in the US.
Nature or nurture?
The Guardian quotes this statement from President Museveni, “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.” He continued: “When that is proved, we can review this legislation.” What the president sought to establish is whether homosexuality is nature or nurture. In other words: are people born that way or are they nurtured into this lifestyle?
If homosexuality is biological and not just behavioral then why was the president not given this proof when he requested it? President Obama wrote a letter that insinuated that the US might discontinue giving aid to Uganda because of this law. The US president said that this law might ‘complicate our valued relationship’ in reference to the US partnership with Uganda. Is this relationship based on Uganda being subservient to an American value system? Is this not blackmail?
I am not aware of any African country seeking to impose its views and values on the countries of the West but Westerners think they have a right to do this. Why do Western nations arrogate themselves as being custodians of morality and virtue? Many people in Uganda are against homosexuality because of cultural and religious reasons and the president has to take their views into consideration.
Another issue that the president had to deal with is American organisations who are actively recruiting Uganda’s children into homosexuality. Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity minister talked about the “commercialization of homosexuality.” In other words Uganda is not just going after gays and lesbians but is trying to protect its children from paedophiles. Countries enact laws in order to protect their values and therefore the laws are a reflection of a country’s values.
For instance most countries value human life and this is why they have laws against murder. Countries cannot be expected to have laws that are inconsistent with their values because this will give rise to anarchy. To change laws we must first influence the value system that gave rise to them. By exercising its right as a sovereign country Uganda has been accused of committing an act not dissimilar to racial discrimination.
This suggests that homosexuality is seen as a biological factor just like race is. If this is true then where is the empirical evidence to prove this? Personally I am not in favor of stiff penalties against homosexuals because I do not think countries should try and legislate morality. If we legislate morality then we should also deal with adultery, lying, and other aberrations.
However we should also not give special legal protection for homosexuality because this suggests that we are actively promoting it. The West and the well-resourced homosexual lobby group want us to create a raft of laws to promote homosexuality and present it as an alternative lifestyle. Through their militancy they seem to be gaining ground but that does not mean they have succeeded in convincing people that homosexuality is natural.