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Ugandan Daily Monitor Sensible Article on Religion and Homosexuality

In all my over two decades of following the anti-homosexuality climate in Uganda, the local publication of sensible articles is few and far between. It seems for the longest time that the Ugandan press has actually been complicit in the persecution 0f sexual minorities, to include lesbian, gays, bisexual, transgender, non-binary, queer and intersex (LGBTQI+) people. In fact if one were to revert back, one will find Red Pepper Magazine and Rolling Stone and other magazines and news outlets, TV, Radio, Internet and print have shamefully participated in the specific outing of LGBTQI+ people to include often names, addresses and photographs, all causing emotional trauma, physical violence, rape and even death. The evidence of this is in those publications themselves, much of which I have covered over the years, to include ny own outing of the editors, publishers and journalists who were responsible for the overt media persecution. (SEE Oblogdee.blog) If a journalist tried to report anything about LGBTQI+ people and sexuality that seemed to contradict the myth and lies that propped up the anti-homosexuality climate in Uganda, to include that which underpins the now defunct 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Act, which was nullified by the Courts, and the current newly introduced Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2023, those journalists would become victims of the Ugandan Government's suppression of the media and subject to arrest and violence themselves. (Here are past examples, and not to mention the journalists who were forced to eek asylum in the United Sttates, for their bravery. Today I read this article which am re-publishing here from the Ugandan Monitor. The reason I am republishing in full is the fact that there is a strong possibility that the Ugandan Government will exact the same suppression, persecution of its author and demand the removal of the article by the Daily Monitor, the Ugandan news outlet that platforms the guest piece. The brave author that speaks this concern about the Ugandan Constitution is a lawyer and researcher by the name of Nimrod Muhumuza.


"Religion should not be the basis for government policy or legislation

Wednesday, March 15, 2023, By Guest Writer


What you need to know:

  • One of the many ways that this provision has been repeatedly violated is in the provision of religious education grounded only in the Christian and Islamic tradition while ignoring the multiple other religious systems that Ugandans profess.

Politicians and religious ideologues often deploy the mantra “Uganda is a God-fearing country”. They

cite the motto “For God and my Country” to tip the scales on controversial or polarising issues as if it

is a substitute for reasoned and principled debate.

They want us to believe that religion should dictate and regulate our conduct. They go as far as

suggesting that our laws should be informed or at least inspired by scripture. Indeed, contemporary

religion has been a mainstay of Ugandan politics and society right from the religious wars of the

1880s, Christian-inspired colonial rule, former president Idi Amin’s Sharia-inspired decrees through

to the raft of morality laws that have been proposed or enacted recently.


The latest iteration of this unholy blend is encapsulated in the attempts to legislate against sexual

minorities in Uganda through the anti-homosexuality Bill currently being debated in Parliament.

Proponents of the legislation have consistently appealed to the defence of culture and religion as

the motivation to pass the legislation. It, thus, begs the question as to what the religious character of

the Ugandan State is or should be. In other words, what influence, if any, should religion have on the

Ugandan State and its institutions, including Parliament, the Judiciary, and the Executive?


Uganda has a sex crime problem, but gays are just easy scapegoats

To hear some legislators say “Our culture and religion should be protected” is an indication that

their cultural and religious preferences will heavily influence what law or policy they will enact. They

refer to the national anthem and motto for justification. These two national symbols are often cited

by those who seek to foist a religious character, particularly a Christian one, on the Ugandan State, it

is important to understand their background.


Whose God and selected by whom? However, neither the national anthem nor the motto are a good measure for ascribing a religious

character to the Ugandan State. The men who sat on the National Symbols Committee that

developed these symbols in the 1960s had been educated in missionary schools and had their own

religious inclinations. The anthem is grounded in a Judeo-Christian ethos given that its composer

was an educated Anglican Muganda, whose entry was selected as the best composition. One

wonders what tune the anthem would have taken had its composer been of a different faith or

none at all. In fact, the Daily Monitor has reported that the possibility of adopting a distinctly

Ugandan tune was rejected because it could not be played by a jazz band. The Committee also

rejected Nkosi Sikeleli’Afrika, an anti-colonial and anti-apartheid South African anthem which

Tanzania and Zambia had borrowed and adopted.


The national motto was developed by Busoga’s Wilberforce Nadiope, a member of the National Symbols sub-committee, who borrowed and adopted it from Busoga College Mwiri. For God and My Country is said to have been an anglicised version of Kulwa Katonda n’Eggwanga Lyaffe. With hindsight and given the importance of these two symbols and how they have been used and misused, the process of choosing and adopting them was distinctly undemocratic and could have been more representative.

The 1962 Constitution did not make any reference to the religious nature of the State. Neither did the Constitutions of 1966, and 1967. While they provided for freedom of worship, they did not regulate the relationship between church/mosque/temple/shrine and the State. It might have been the case that such regulation was not a priority during the negotiations and drafting of each of the documents given the need to address other delicate compromises that kept uneasy coalitions in power in the early years of post-independent Uganda. The misuse of the mixture of religion and the State was detrimental to the Ugandan society.


President Amin imposed government-endorsed religious edicts by requiring certain aspects of sharia law be applied to all citizens regardless of their religious affiliations. Pentecostal groups were also banned, and Uganda was admitted as a Muslim State to the Islamic Summit Conference in 1974, despite the fact that only five percent of the country was professing the Islamic faith. Amin’s overthrow would bring dire consequences. The report of the Commission of Inquiry into Violations of Human Rights – commissioned by the National Resistance Army (NRA) government, found that “several Muslims had been killed by Christians, while the previous Apollo Milton Obote government had virtually done nothing to put an end to these atrocities.”


The implication of this finding suggests that these were religiously-motivated revenge-killings. Today, the relationship between religion(s) and the State is an uneasy marriage of convenience and expedience. The government is one of the biggest benefactors of most religious groups through financial patronage and material donations. In turn, the church lends its voice or silence as when the government requires it. There are occasions when the interests of the church and the politicians align as with the spate of homophobia gripping the country today. It is especially now, as Parliament seeks to consign fellow Ugandans to second-class citizenship that we need to interrogate what role religion must have in the conduct of the Ugandan State.


Return to sanity In 1995, smarting from the effects of the misuse and abuse of religion in politics, Ugandans agreed that religion should not be a basis for State policy. Under Article 7 of the 1995 Constitution, they decided that Uganda shall not adopt a State religion. In requiring non-adoption of a State religion, the Constitution demands that the government refrains from conferring any privilege to one religious group over another or imposing a burden over religious classification. It means the government is required to minimise the extent to which it encourages religious beliefs or disbelief. It is meant to protect all Ugandans from tyranny of the majority.


One of the many ways that this provision has been repeatedly violated is in the provision of religious education grounded only in the Christian and Islamic tradition while ignoring the multiple other religious systems that Ugandans profess. I have argued elsewhere that the provision of religious education in this manner violates Article 7 of the Constitution. We have witnessed the explicit endorsement of religion by high-ranking members of Cabinet, including the President, the Minister of Education, Speaker and Deputy Speaker of Parliament and certain members of the Judiciary using State infrastructure to push certain religious beliefs, values, and orthodoxy.


A study of the Constituent Assembly (CA) reveals that Article 7 was informed by the country’s turbulent past, and the misuse and abuse of religion to oppress, suppress and divide the country. This constitutional provision was debated by the CA delegates who professed different faiths and passed with little to no disagreement.

Today, Ugandans of like-minded inclinations must agitate for the State’s neutral stance on religion. Our history tells us that religion should not be the basis for government policy or legislation. As Parliament yet again decides on the anti-homosexuality law, we should be reminded that a religious neutral state is the best guarantor of freedom for all of us."

The author, Nimrod Muhumuza is a Ugandan lawyer and researcher


++++++++++


COMMENTARY by Melanie Nathan: The Anti-Homosexuality Act is based on religious persecution:


Homosexuality was first criminalized in Uganda in 1902 by the British colonial administration. Uganda’s modern homophobic social and political climate is rooted in the criminalization of consensual same- sex acts, variously called “buggery”, “unnatural acts against the order of nature” and “gross indecency”, through enactments introduced by the British in 1902 and 1950.[1] This derived from legal attempts to control what was seen as “barbaric” sexual propensities among Ugandans.[2] Section 145 of the Ugandan Penal code, implemented since British colonial rule, states that any person who “has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; [...] or permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for life.”


As recently as 1990 legislators had strengthened the law, raising the highest penalty to life imprisonment. The government used the revised law to harass both individuals and activists who are LGBTI, censoring their speech, threatening them with prison, raiding their homes, and actual arrests, as well as relying on the law to explain, or excuse, their failure to support HIV/AIDS prevention efforts among LGBT people. This situation has not only persisted, but it has also become increasingly worse since 2009.


The incursion of homophobia in Uganda’s history has been supplemented by the “campaign of persecution” through the influx of anti-homosexual speech from American Christian evangelicals on the conservative extreme right. The most infamous example of this is Scott Lively, a pastor from Springfield, Massachusetts, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, a conservative Christian organization. The impact and influence of Lively and others is extensive. (See SMUG case under Alien Tort Act, where Lively was sued in the U.S.A. by Ugandan human rights defenders).


In March 2009, Lively, along with Evangelical activists Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge, gave a series of talks in Uganda. As noted by Jeffrey Gettleman in his Article, “The theme of the event,” according to Stephen Langa, its Ugandan organizer, was “the gay agenda—that whole hidden and dark agenda”—and the “threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.” Lively gave a lengthy presentation to members of Uganda’s Parliament and cabinet, in which he laid out the argument that the nation’s president and lawmakers would later use to justify Uganda’s anti-gay crackdown; namely that Western agitators were trying to unravel Uganda’s social fabric by spreading “the disease” of homosexuality to children. This was entirely Christianity and Evangelical interpretation of Bible inspired.


Thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, reportedly attended the conference. Lively and his colleagues, falsely instilling myth, “discussed how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how “the gay movement is an evil institution” whose goal is “to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”


He asserted that the 1994 Rwandan genocide “probably” involved gay men whom he referred to as “monsters”. Lively wrote days later that “someone had likened their campaign to ‘a nuclear bomb against the gay agenda in Uganda. He also asserted that gays were responsible for the Holocaust’” A report by VICE media, uploaded to You Tube in 2016, shows actual footage of the taping of Scott Lively and his attack on LGBTI Ugandans, fully supporting these facts as well as a portrayal of the spread of anti-homosexuality sentiment among Ugandans through an initial chain of religious actors: This can be viewed at this link:


These talks inspired the development of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, a Private Member’s bill, introduced into Parliament by MP Hon. David Bahati. The bill, which became known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” was first introduced in November 2009, and called for the death penalty, prison sentences for so called ‘promotion of homosexuality’, and a 4 years prison term for anyone failing to report a known homosexual within 24 hours of finding out about their sexuality. The mere introduction of such a Bill created fear in the LGBTI community, as now even families and friends of LGBTI people or those perceived as such could be placed at risk of criminalization and the resulting violence, ostracization and loss of freedom.


The ramifications were terrifying as people realized this could impact even professional and scholastic relationships, such as with teachers, professors, counsellors, doctors, landlords etc. This was harshly criticized in the international community. It became clear that this new legislation could close down human rights organizations seeking to protect LGBT people as well as HIV clinics that served LGBT people.


What followed amounted to a notably significant rise in the anti-homosexual sentiment in Uganda. A Ugandan tabloid, “Rolling Stone” in 2010 published the pictures of known LGBT activists and community members, alongside the caption “Hang Them.” This exposure was not only lethal to the individuals exposed, but also was seen to bring shame upon the families of the gays and lesbians who were exposed. This resulted in a heightened consciousness about detecting LGBT people and led to a ‘witch hunt,’ causing much terror among LGBT people. Many of those who were exposed (outed) had to go into hiding, losing livelihood and homes. Some were able to or chose to leave Uganda, many still languishing in refugee camps without solutions, others resettled abroad.


The Bill Passed in December 2013, Was signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda's dictator of 33 years, in February of 2014, and then nullified by five Judges on the Constitutional Court in August of that same year, based on a technicality, a lack of quorum for a Private Member Bill, and never tested for its constitutionality. Now during March 2023, a decade later, a similar Bill is back, introduced again as a private member's bill this time by MP BASALIRWA ASUMAN, who is bragging his anti-homo-prowess in all forms of media, enticing and promoting hunts, closure of organizations, further violence and a mass exodus of Uganda's gay community. It is likely to pass a Parliament where 95% of MP's are vehemently anti-gay.


This can be further read via my three articles here:


Ugandan Parliament Motion for A New "Kill the Gays Bill"


Analyzing the Harsh New Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill


HRAPF ANALYSIS of Uganda's New Anti-Homosexuality Bill


This Bill, when enacted and attested to by Museveni, will be tested by the Constitutional Court and it will hopefully be on the merits, not merely on a technicality, like the previous time. I do not see any path to affirming its Constitutionality as I still have hope that the Ugandan Courts are way more educated, schooled and sensible than the Parliamentarians, who in seeking votes by a populace influenced by the Lively form of Christianity, and so deeply entrenched in the symbiotic relationship between pastors and parliamentarians. After all THAT brings the votes. For as long as the zealots of the world continue to lose ground globally, where NO religion ought to topple a Constitution, gays will continue to be the pawn of scapegoating for politicians deflecting from corruption and incompetence. Indeed, the perfect symbiosis between religion that seeks to usurp and politicians who seek power and justification for dictatorships.

By MELANIE NATHAN ©2023 Copyright Melanie Nathan. Please cite accordingly: Article by Melanie Nathan, African Human Rights Coalition, Country Conditions Expert for LGBTQI+ Asylum Seekers, March 15, 2023, http://www.AfricanHRC.org/news


PICTURE ©2023 Copyright Melanie Nathan Ugandan Refugees who have fled the violent Anti-LGBTQI persecution in their home country.



Sourced: -Article : “In Scathing Ruling, Court Affirms SMUG’s Charges Against U.S. Anti- Gay Extremist Scott Lively While dismissing on Jurisdictional Ground.” Historic Case Has Broken New Legal Ground, Documented Lively’s Campaign of Persecution in Uganda https://ccrjustice.org/home/press-center/press-releases/scathing-ruling-court-affirms-smug-s-charges-against-us-anti-gay -Gettleman, Jeffrey (January 3, 2010). “Americans’ Role Seen in Uganda Anti-Gay Push”. The New York Times. p. A1., http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html - Meet the American Pastor Behind Uganda’s Anti-Gay Crackdown”. Mother Jones. March 10, 2014. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/03/scott-lively-anti-gay-law-uganda/ -You Tube, Vice Report: A Prayer for Uganda | Kidneyville (VICE on HBO: Season 3, Episode 10): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS4HvHALY0s -The barrister: “The Tenacity of British Colonial Laws in the Lives of Sexual Minorities in the Commonwealth”, By Treva Braun, Legal Director, Human Dignity Trust, 2017. http://www.humandignitytrust.org/uploaded/British_Colonial_Laws_-_TB_-_Barrister.pdf -This Alien Legacy, The Origins of “Sodomy” Laws in British Colonialism https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/lgbt1208_web.pdf

-Alsop, Zoe (Dec 10, 2009). “Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: Inspired by the U.S”. TIME Magazine. http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1946645,00.html - Helping Hand For Homophobia From U.S. Christians”. Inter Press Service. 2009-11-11. http://www.ipsnews.net/2009/11/uganda-helping-hand-for-homophobia-from-us-christians/, retrieved December 7, 2017; Xan Rice in Kampala (29 November 2009). “Uganda considers death sentence for gay sex in bill before parliament”. The Guardian. London, UK. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/29/uganda-death-sentence-gay-sex Retrieved December 07, 2017. -Democracy Now: Anti-Gay Fervor in Uganda Tied to Right-Wing US Evangelicals Amy Goodman interviews Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family, https://www.democracynow.org/2010/10/21/anti_gay_fervor_in_uganda_tied


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