New Internationalist

Don’t throw anti-homophobic stones in glass houses!

In Uganda is… Who is in our hearts of hearts Dan Mosenberg tells us about the ANERELA movement in Uganda, which was begun by Rev. Gideon B. Byamagusha to provide support to religious leaders living with HIV/AIDS. Byamagusha was the first Anglican Bishop to declare his HIV status; there are now some 2,000 religious leaders who have taken the same courageous step. Writing in the Ugandan Monitor, the Rev today takes another courageous step in declaring his position on his Government’s proposed homophobic law, which seeks the death penalty for homosexual acts:

In the present circumstances, young people and adults of Uganda need to be taught to love, treat and pray for homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, trisexuals and nonsexuals as they would do for any other person.

We need not be afraid of each other, because our sexuality is not contagious! We don’t need to treat each other as freaks because of not understanding each other. We need not even to discuss someone’s sexuality except where the sexuality is a threat to their own and other people’s peace, health, wellbeing and prosperity.

Of course we will (rightly or wrongly) continue to argue that we cannot afford to be very permissive to lifestyles that are ‘unnatural’ and ‘unscriptural’. We have the right to argue like that and be listened to! But we cannot continue to argue that we are a deeply God-fearing nation when in the same breath we continue to commit state-inspired, state-protected and state-legislated suicide, genocide and murder.

Dan also reminds us – and we do need reminding – that there are no geographical borders to attacks and murders of LGBT people. Rather than ‘throw stones’ at Uganda, it is necessary and more appropriate to look at homophobia and transphobia in a global context. The number of homophobic attacks in London is on the increase and in September a gay man, Ian Baynham, 62, was murdered in Trafalgar Square, in the centre of London. In Liverpool, trainee police officer James Parkes, had his skull beaten in after being attacked by 20 people. Writing on Transgender Day of Remembrance, Tara Sawyer comments that quite apart from the fact that being transgender is classified as a mental disorder – an act of violence in itself – it is estimated that some 19 trans people are murdered each month.

Various reports have been circulating the internet over the past week on the export of homophobia by the US religious right to Asia and Africa and anywhere they can find an entry with their doctrine of hate, justified by fallacious readings of religious texts. The comments are based on the report by Kapya Kaoma, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia. The report is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, because it places the homophobic project of the religious right in a global context; secondly because Kaoma makes the additional connection between the export of culture and hatred with the dumping of toxic and electronic waste on continental Africa; and thirdly because of Gay Imperalism, the critique of which is presently under attack by Peter Tatchell and Outrage.

‘Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous,’ writes PRA executive director Tarso Luís Ramos in the report’s foreword. ‘Africa’s antigay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the USA.’

I would go much further, adding that the ‘dumping’ of Eurocentricism has been a continuous project since the first landing of Europeans on African soil. Spreading Christianity has always been central to this project. It is also worth noting that the mainstream Anglican Church, led by Archbishop Rowan Williams and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamuhas, has been silent on the proposed Ugandan Bill. Sentamuhas’ silence is particularly disappointing since he has been extremely vocal about Mugabe and Zimbabwe – such inconsistency is hypocritical.

To return to Uganda and Dan’s post, the University of Makerere organized a discussion around the anti-homosexuality bill and the impact it will have on human rights. Activist, lawyer and feminist Sylvia Tamale closed the discussion with the following remarks and call to action:

‘Do we really in our hearts of hearts want our country to be the first on the continent to demand that mothers spy on their children, that teachers refuse to talk about what is, after all, “out there” and that our gay and lesbian citizens are systematically and legally terrorized into suicide? Ladies and gentlemen, you may strongly disagree with the phenomenon of same-sex erotics; you may be repulsed by what you imagine homosexuals do behind their bedroom doors; you may think that all homosexuals deserve to burn in hell. However, it is quite clear that this Bill will cause more problems around the issue of homosexuality than it will solve. I suggest that Hon. Bahati’s bill be quietly forgotten. It is no more or less than an embarrassment to our intelligence, our sense of justice and our hearts.’

Homophobia is a global issue which impacts on everyone, irrespective of their sexuality, gender identities / expressions or sexual preference. The doctrine which fuels homophobia is the same one which fuels all kinds of intolerance and invasions into personal spaces. It is fuelled by the same intolerance around the racist campaign being conducted by the right against President Obama. It is the same one which denies climate change. It is both ‘the stepping stone and stones of violence.

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