A Must-Read on Uganda and Anti-Gay Violence

Frank Mugisha, one of the most courageous human rights activists you could ever encounter, has an op-ed in the New York Times about anti-gay violence in his home country of Uganda. He thanks Hillary Clinton for speaking out on the subject and the Obama administration for making the human rights of gays and lesbians an important aspect of our diplomatic efforts. And he makes this interesting point:

Many Africans believe that homosexuality is an import from the West, and ironically they invoke religious beliefs and colonial-era laws that are foreign to our continent to persecute us.

The way I see it, homophobia — not homosexuality — is the toxic import. Thanks to the absurd ideas peddled by American fundamentalists, we are constantly forced to respond to the myth — debunked long ago by scientists — that homosexuality leads to pedophilia. For years, the Christian right in America has exported its doctrine to Africa, and, along with it, homophobia. In Uganda, American evangelical Christians even held workshops and met with key officials to preach their message of hate shortly before a bill to impose the death penalty for homosexual conduct was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament in 2009. Two years later, despite my denunciation of all forms of child exploitation, David Bahati, the legislator who introduced the bill, as well as Foreign Minister Henry Okello Oryem and other top government officials, still don’t seem to grasp that being gay doesn’t equate to being a pedophile.

In May, following criticism from the West and President Yoweri Museveni, the bill was shelved. But the current parliament has revived it and could send it to the floor for a vote at any time. Meanwhile, the bill’s influence has been felt in Ghana, Nigeria and Cameroon, all of which have recently stepped up enforcement of anti-gay laws or moved to pass new legislation that would criminalize love between people of the same sex.

And for bigots like Matt Barber who claim that there is no anti-gay violence:

A veil of silence enforced by thuggish street violence and official criminalization is falling over much of Africa. Being a gay activist is a sacrifice. You have to carefully choose which neighborhood to live in. You cannot go shopping on your own, let alone go clubbing or to parties. With each public appearance you risk being attacked, beaten or arrested by the police.

I remember the moment when my friend David Kato, Uganda’s best-known gay activist, sat with me in the small unmarked office of our organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda. “One of us will probably die because of this work,” he said. We agreed that the other would then have to continue. In January, because of this work, David was bludgeoned to death at his home, with a hammer. Many people urged me to seek asylum, but I have chosen to remain and fulfill my promise to David — and to myself. My life is in danger, but the lives of those whose names are not known in international circles are even more vulnerable.

But remember, by using diplomatic leverage to keep these people from being killed, the Obama administration is trying to impose “special rights.”

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  • MikeMa

    Matt Barber and the other hate exporters should be held accountable for the violence they promulgate. They get a free ride in faux christian amerika.

  • John Hinkle

    What I don’t understand is, what’s in it for the evangelicals in this country to spread the hate in Africa? When you listen to fundie radio here, there’s almost always some message of hate, be it for gay people, muslims, Planned Parenthood, or gay muslims working at Planned Parenthood. But there’s always a money angle. Send us money to fight this evil.

    What’s the money angle in Africa? Is there one?

  • John Hinkle


    They get a free ride in faux christian amerika.

    That brings up another point. Are they “spreading their ministry” on tax exempt dollars? If so, we’re all subsidizing this bullshit.

  • Strategically Shaved Monkey

    Frank is indeed one of the few brave & enlightened people in UG.

    I wish him all the best in his (let’s face it) near hopeless task of changing the anti-gay climate in Uganda.

    However, when the subject of gay rights in Uganda appears, there are always a few points to correct.

    1) Although the US pentevangelists are indeed some of the most small-minded bigots one could ever try to avoid meeting and are to blame for stoking the fire for their own gain, a great deal of the blame must rest on the original missionaries for importing their Victorian values. It was they who persuasded the Kabaka to give up his (often forced) sodomizing of his pages.

    2) The proposed law is almost entirely a recruitment ploy by the pentecunilinguists to fill their coffers. In effect it adds no new “crimes” to the law books except 1. Homosexuality is already punishable by long jail sentences, the death penalty is only for gay rape and the intentional/negligent infection of another with HIV. Both crimes already face the death penalty for both homo- and hetero- acts.

    And the death penalty, though still regularly passed as a sentence is almost never carried out.

    Where the law is new is the depicable (and likely unconstitutional) crime of not reporting homosexual acts to the police, which may rob Ugandan gays of the few ‘friends’ they can confide in.

    3) Although personally I believe David Kato was indeed killed at least partially becauuse of the hate stirred up by this proposed law, we need to be careful in stating it as an incontrovertable fact. The murderer and police both insist it was over an argument about money. Quite frankly, I have no real idea of the full motives and neither do the rest of us.

    Lastly and FYI, David “Braindead” Bahati (ex minister for ethics & integrity) is the same moron who tried to ban short skirts, because they apparently are responsible for many road accidents.

  • Aquaria

    What’s the money angle in Africa? Is there one?

    Not all of Africa is 100% impoverished people living in the bush. Disposable income isn’t unheard of. Education isn’t unheard of. Leisure time isn’t unheard of. The capital of Uganda, Kamapala is a thriving, modern city of over 1.5 million people.

    And there’s all that fresh meat to convert!

    What’s not to like?

  • Strategically Shaved Monkey


    Religion is the No.1 business in Uganda. Despite the US godsquad claim that your donations go to help needy dark people, they regularly tour on multi-million dollar-spinning “crusades” here to refil god’s bank account.

  • steve oberski

    @John Hinkle

    Like the catholic church they are losing their base in the western world, the young are leaving the churches in droves, by some estimates up to 75% of xtian youth leave the church, in a generation or so we can look forward to church memberships reduced by an order of magnitude.

    So what to do ?

    Well why not export your message of hate to where it thrives best, in ignorance and poverty which means Africa, Central America etc.

    And the best way to preserve the toxic environment that religion requires to flourish is to undermine the rule of law or prevent the encroachment of enlightenment, secular values in the first place.

    Homosexuals are an easily identifiable out group along with the other traditional religious markers to sectarianism such as language, colour, rituals etc.

    Throw in a few verses from your holy book demonizing a powerless minority, stir it up with evangelical proselytizing, spice to taste with messages of hate and then offer the solace of religion as a solution to this vexing problem.

  • John Hinkle

    steve oberski@7

    Throw in a few verses from your holy book demonizing a powerless minority, stir it up with evangelical proselytizing, spice to taste with messages of hate and then offer the solace of religion as a solution to this vexing problem.

    Wow. Well said.

    Aquaria, Shaved Monkey,

    I should’ve checked my ignorance at the door. I see from wiki that Uganda is 85% Xian. I just assumed that they were largely non-Xian and that western evan-fundies would have a difficult time weaseling money out of them.

  • Tony

    Frank Mugisha, one of the most courageous human rights activists you could ever encounter

    -After reading this post, I completely agree. I live in Florida and occasionally I still worry about what reaction I may get if I tell people I’m gay. But this man fights for the rights of others with the constant threat of violence hanging over him. What a remarkable man.