POPULATION: 33.4 million
LIFE EXPECTANCY: 52.98 years
ETHNIC GROUPS: Baganda 16.9%, Banyakole 9.5%, Basoga 8.4%, Bakiga 6.9%, Iteso 6.4%, Langi 6.1%, Acholi 4.7%, Bagisu 4.6%, Lugbara 4.2%, Bunyoro 2.7%, other 29.6% (2002 census)
RELIGIONS:Roman Catholic 41.9%, Protestant 42% (Anglican 35.9%, Pentecostal 4.6%, Seventh Day Adventist 1.5%), Muslim 12.1%, other 3.1%, none 0.9% (2002 census)
LANGUAGES:English is the official language. Other major languages spoken are Ganda or Luganda, other Niger-Congo languages, Nilo-Saharan languages, Swahili and Arabic
Last week, Ugandan gay rights campaigner David Kato was beaten to death in his home. Police have now arrested two men in conjunction with his killing and the official statement is that robbery was the motive; however, it is highly likely that David was the victim of an anti-homosexual hate crime. There have been several articles written about David’s death, and the article I read on the BBC’s website (here) both saddened and infuriated me. It also spurred me on to look deeper into this issue.
A leading newspaper in Uganda “Rolling Stone” had been continually publishing photographs accompanied by the names and addresses of people known to be or suspected of being homosexual with the headline “Hang them”. Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda and ‘perpetrators’ face up to 14 years in prison if found guilty. David was one of the people whose privacy was grossly invaded by having his photograph and personal details printed in 2009/10, but he did not sit in silence; he sued the newspaper. David was an activist. He knew he was putting himself in danger by speaking out so openly as he did on many occasions, but the cause was worth it for him. David was one of the founding members of SMUG, Sexual Minorities Uganda, a coalition of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex human rights organizations.
It is no secret that homophobia is rife in many black communities worldwide. As with many forms of gender discrimination, religious ideology and notions of gender are at the core. In the case of Uganda, homosexual ‘acts’ have been illegal for many years, but the recent witch-hunt is a new phenomenon that was arguably instigated by a visit to Uganda by American Evangelical priests in 2009, who had the sole purpose of ‘informing’ Ugandans of the ‘dangers’ of homosexuality. I encourage you to watch the excellent documentary filmed by Vanguard (here) in which the American and Ugandan priests and public officials who are demonizing homosexuality are interviewed about their beliefs and the consequences of their actions.
Uganda is a deeply religious country with only 0.9% of the population not declaring affiliation to any particular religion. As a direct or indirect consequence of the visit by the American Evangelicals, the Ugandan authorities drafted an Anti-Homosexuality Bill which among other things actually proposes the death sentence for some ‘homosexual crimes’. 450,000 signatures have been gathered in a petition against the bill (click here to read/sign the petition), however the signatures are from people all around the world which is positive as it shows the breadth of the dismay at such laws across cultures and nations, but as one journalist wrote, it would probably be taken more seriously by the Ugandan authorities if the signatures were from Ugandans themselves. The leading anti-gay Evangelical priest in Uganda states emphatically in the Vanguard documentary that the Bill is Ugandan initiative and has nothing to do with the visit by the Americans; and perhaps unsurprisingly, the American Evangelical priests also profess that the bill and subsequent hate crimes have nothing to do with them.
The actions of the American Evangelical priests could be seen as moral imperialism – something that the some power holders in the West seem to be intent on trying to achieve even though many of their societies were built and have prospered through slavery and/or genocide, and continue to thrive under globalization on the backs of the poor and disadvantaged in developing countries. It may also be true that they were simply ‘doing their job’ so-to-speak, and sincerely meant no harm to come to homosexual Ugandans. One of the priests stressed, “I don’t spread hate”. Maybe, but when you enter into a culture that is not you own and preach sermons that are ‘ok’ to preach in your home country having no idea what the consequences may be in that culture, you are playing with fire. The consequences proved to be fatal for David Kato. He and other homosexual people in Uganda are the ones getting burned.
The word homosexualized is being used by these Evangelical priests to describe what is happening to the youth. They are preaching that homosexuals are paedophiles, and that they recruit young people; that homosexuality is a choice. (Hopefully) Needless to say, anybody who has spoken to a gay man will tell you that the latter is not true, at least not for everyone. If suggesting that homosexual people are paedophiles and that they take advantage of young people is not spreading hate, then I really don’t know what is.
Uganda info: http://www.visituganda.com/about-uganda/facts-history/ , https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/ug.html
Interview with David Kato: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/30/weekinreview/30gettleman.html?_r=1&ref=world
SMUG on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=31968877859
Many traditional Ugandan dishes are cooked in a banana leaf – not exactly an easy thing to find in Copenhagen (I'm lucky if I can find a tasty banana!). The groundnut (peanut is a type of groundnut) is a key ingredient used in Uganda and so, I am going to attempt another simple stew made with peanuts rather than the peanut butter suggested in this recipe for Groundnut Stew. Shopping and eating tomorrow – I'll keep you posted …