Monday September 24, 2012.
Dear Mr. Allison,
Forgive the use of WordPress to do this but I couldn’t find an email address for you so, I figured, you won’t mind if I put this on my blog and tag you or something.
Hello, my name is Emmanuel and I’m from Uganda. Yep, that little backwater up north from you, which is the setting for your article of September 20, 2012. The one here: http://dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-09-20-high-drama-as-uganda-cracks-down-on-obnoxious-gay-rights-play. You are a gifted writer and I like your sense of humour, I especially loved the piece on Zim’s new hangman, Tsvangirai’s marital problems (we would call that ‘ish’ here) and of course Comrade Bob’s foot in mouth references to Jamaica, and Jamaicans. Brilliant stuff really.
So, anyway, why am I writing you? Mostly because as a resident of this beautiful if somewhat frustrating to live in country (corruption, rigged elections, broken down healthcare, fake ass roads, electricity outages, spiralling cost of living – you get the idea) I feel you have done us a disservice in how you present some of the facts in your story. Here’s what I mean:
- David Cecil was arrested because he broke the law and staged a play in violation of the Media Council’s directive to hold off on staging the play until they had reviewed the script. He was not arrested for staging a play about the ish of a gay man in Uganda. On that we’re agreed, you say as much in your article. Please note that the Media Council had not made a decision yet, though now it is highly doubtful that they will formally approve the screening of the play. If you read some of the comments on Mr. Cecil’s arrest here http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/British+producer+arrested+over+play+about+gay+man/-/688334/1506468/-/i3a3ydz/-/index.html you will see that most, not all, of the ire is directed at a Mzungu (that’s “white person” to you) who’s thumbing his nose at our laws. My castle, my rules you see.
- David Kato (may he rest in peace) was murdered by his lover after a domestic quarrel because the lover didn’t want to have sex. That was the murderer’s confession, which you can read about here http://www.monitor.co.ug/News/National/-/688334/1270664/-/bgvjh8z/-/index.html He was not murdered for being gay or because he had been outed by the defunct local newspaper you referred to (it was a trashy tabloid to be honest, even by our ridiculously low standards). In the neighbourhood he lived in, Mukono town, he was known to be gay. The only reason the poor fellow’s murder made the international news was because he was, well, gay. A bit like Nelson Mandela being famous here (prison sentence and all) because he is black and Billy Nair or Ahmed Kathrada who served the same jail time being unknown, here, because they aren’t black. People in relationships sometimes kill each other, gay or not.
- Speaking of which, I don’t know where you’re getting your information but Ugandans as a whole don’t really care what other people get up to in the privacy of their bedrooms. What I do (or don’t do) with my wife is our business and I don’t wanna know what my neighbour does with his. If I’m wrong the comments on this will set me right (and I should hope there will be comments, one way or the other). Most of us attended boarding schools for our high school education, most of which were single-sex schools. Inevitably, there were chaps who were sweet on other chaps, ditto for the girls’ schools. While I will not mention any names, I always had my suspicions about one or two fellows. Now, we’re all grown up and these chaps are living their lives, doing their thing, getting their freak on …. In a country of 30 million or so people, only one person has been killed because (according to mostly white/Western press) he was gay. Shall we surmise that South Africans are a racist/xenophobic bunch because y’all set on fire and killed that Mozambican immigrant a few years ago? I don’t think so and I know this for a fact because I have a few South African friends (for some reason all of them white) and relatives who’ve gone to or are attending school down there.
- If you still don’t believe me, come visit me, I live in Jinja, a really small town and we have not killed any gay people yet and that’s not because we don’t have them – from dudes in full-on drag to homosexual couples that refer to themselves and are widely viewed as ‘spouses’. They can be found winding down after a long day at one popular hang out or another. Now, in a provincial town like Jinja, where everybody and their granny knows everyone else who grew up there, wouldn’t homosexuals be in big trouble if we Ugandans were a bloodthirsty, homophobic lot? How many people does your research tell you have been killed in Jinja for being gay? We have gay people. We live with them. It’s no biggie and it’s not new. In this country, sex in general is a private matter. Don’t let the liberals in Kampala fool you. We like to keep our private business private. Yes, there are extremists among us – just as you have your Julius Malema’s, Dr. Pieter Mulder and Eugene Terre’Blanche (R.I.P) – but please do not label us all homophobic. We have way too many ish to care what people do with other people in their bedrooms. Unless it involves children. And HIV/AIDS.
- Which brings me nicely to the legislation. Your country once forbade unions between white women and black men. Y’all got that law changed. My country, in a penal code inherited from the British, our former, some say still colonial masters, illegalised same sex unions. Now you might not know this but the Parliament of Uganda is filled with selfish incompetent idiots and yes-men/women for the ruling party as well as a scattering of opposition parties. Yes, there are exceptions, how else will the rule be proved? But, unless they are increasing their already generous pay packages or taking bribes to remove Presidential term limits, they honestly don’t get much done. Our President is even on the record as saying gay people can do their thing as long as they do it “quietly” http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gw_q009WQGzAQimjE26_gAl7w-hQ?docId=CNG.47f2a70edd199bd5e9cf2b9b75b34b83.8a1 .
Now, consider a Parliament, that in its current and previous lives, has failed to legislate on things as important as the Domestic Relations Bill, which would provide for among other things, the rights of women to marital equality and property et cetera. Consider that and tell me: do you honestly think that Parliament would have the time – forget the balls – to repeal legislation against same-sex unions? I don’t think so.
- It was never the intention of the Uganda Government to “Hang them” as you say. I’ll summarise for you, the details are on Wikipedia. A Member of Parliament, Hon. David Bahati (also a fervent Born Again Christian) brought a private members Bill seeking to introduce the death penalty for gay sex involving a minor and gay sex where one partner knowingly transmitted HIV. Sex, any sex, involving a minor is known as Defilement here and everyone takes a very dim view of people who have sex with children. A Ugandan minor is one below 18 years. The legislation to which this ‘Hang Them’ theory is attached simply asks that anyone having homosexual relations with a minor, or knowingly infecting another homosexual with HIV should face the death penalty. If anything, it is a law PROTECTING homosexuals.
- “Hang them… This was also the Ugandan government’s plan, until an international outcry forced them to drop the death penalty provision in their proposed anti-homosexuality legislation.” Dude, the international outcry happened after the President told Bahati to chill and the Attorney General informed Parliament that the Penal Code already criminalized and punished homosexuality. All this stuff is available online, I found the references whilst sitting in my pyjama bottoms on my bed in the provincial town of Jinja. Dude, you live in the RSA, African first world, surely, you can do a bit of research!
- Now, to the personal. My Bible teaches me that sex should be between a man and a woman. It also teaches me that being gay is a sin. It also exhorts me to love the sinner and hate the sin. Lord knows I am not perfect and I do try to be a good Christian. Most Ugandans will tell you the same, see here http://www.monitor.co.ug/artsculture/Reviews/-/691232/1279912/-/64lofz/-/index.html even the ones who go to church during the day and the witchdoctor (sangoma to you) at night. So, for me, being gay is a personal struggle with one’s God or gods. I’ve got my own struggles, you deal with your own ish is what I say. I recognise in the RSA you are super liberal and stuff but up here, we are not, okay? It is what it is.
P.S. You really should come visit Uganda. Lonely Planet thinks we’re the bees knees, again, please see here http://www.lonelyplanet.com/uganda/travel-tips-and-articles/76859