Say it loud and say it proud: Free to love

2014-03-02 14:00

Uganda is one of 37 countries in Africa that have made homosexuality a crime and this week it toughened the penalties against gay people.

President Yoweri Museveni had nothing positive to say about this apparently terrifying threat – the homosexual menace – facing his country as he signed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law on Monday.

To hear Museveni speak, you’d think there was no greater challenge facing Uganda, nor any other African country where it’s illegal to love, cuddle or have sex with somebody of the same sex.

Never mind unemployment, poverty or the pressing daily need to bolster education, infrastructure or the healthcare system: Get rid of gay people and Uganda will be on the road to redemption – or at least, that’s what Museveni and his ultraconservative allies, some of whom are powerful right wing American evangelists, would have us believe.

With a scrawl of the pen, Museveni made “aggravated homosexuality” a criminal offence.

It’s a pity we can’t criminalise aggravated bigotry.

This week, the world condemned Museveni and Uganda. South Africa joined in, but in the muted tones we have taken on our continent. Gone are the days of Nelson Mandela taking a high road and speaking out about rights abuses in Nigeria.

There is no muscular peer review as promised by a revitalised African Union, where we are each our brothers keepers.

We are back in the era of quiet diplomacy of the moribund and mothballed Organisation of African Unity.

The freedom to love is as fundamental as the freedom to breathe. South Africa has embodied this in our fine Constitution. There’s no reason not to preach it louder on a global stage.

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