Homophobia is the greatest test Humanists are facing today in Uganda. As I write this piece, demonstrators – a bunch of youth led by Uganda’s thieving and hypocritical pastors are – covering the entire Kampala city with vehicles loaded with mega-speakers and hundreds of youth shouting all sorts of insults at the Danish embassy, very near to my office, and all other foreign embassies that have recently come out to speak for tolerance and a need to observe human rights laws.
Two days ago, leading law dons in Uganda held a joint conference with anti-gay legislators and the conference became an arena in which the legislators warned that the law is to be passed and that all of us who in one way or another are promoting human rights and calling for a review of the anti-homosexuality bill were warned of the impending dangers.
It is going to be hard to research, write a book or even be associated with gays as the bill will make such acts criminal. I am writing a book on homosexuality, and data collection on this issue is on-going. With this law, I am keeping my fingers crossed.
We live in a society full of pretence, with hypocritical leaders who will sacrifice the rights of the minority just to get the votes of the majority of ignorant and conservative Ugandans. They close all the doors and avenues of information gathering and sharing. We lack Humanist Members of Parliament (MPs) who dare stand up on the floor of Parliament and call for tolerance and revision on this anti-human bill.
In a country where religion, culture and politics are inseparable and over 40% of the population is ignorant without any formal education, the religious cheats and retrogressive culturalists are prepared to do anything to violate the rights of the minority in the name of following Biblical principles and cultural values. They will suppress reason, and will tolerate no arguments while their ultimate desires are threatened.
The way forward is to rise to this new challenge, we need to have power or at least be part of those who have power. This explains why several HALEA Members including yours truly are going to stand for parliament in Uganda. I will be contesting in Bukoto South Constituency (Masaka) in which 80% are born Catholics and very conservative. We need to influence some of the decisions being made in Uganda, we need to be hard on corruption, we need to advocate for separation of the church and state, we need to promote fundamental human rights, equity and accountability, and we need to speak up. The elections are slated for Feb 2011.
HALEA is currently implementing a youth (teenage) empowerment project around the schools of Kampala. We are currently doing a baseline survey to establish the needs of the teenagers, their challenges and their attitudes towards religion. We shall be organising teenager debates in schools and talk about homosexuality, culture, marriage, leadership, pregnancies and abortion among other topics. The coming year will be hectic but very interesting. We are grateful to the Norwegian Humanist Action for Humanist Rights (HAMU) for piloting this project but more support will be needed.
–Paul Kato Mukasa
Paul Kato Mukasa is founder and Chair of the Humanist Association for Leadership and Accountability, Uganda (HALEA)