tdot39 (40)Michael Madill, The Daily Monitor, Monday October 19th
Do you know the fear which arrives with the knock on the door in the middle of the night?  If you were an outspoken opponent of any government from 1962 until today you felt it even if it never happened to you.  Do you know the terror of women who lived through the civil war in Luweero or LRA atrocities in the north?  They went out every day knowing they faced rape and murder, suffering because they were women.

If you are a gay man or woman living in Uganda today, then you carry the same burden of persecution for your identity.  You risk death or torture or public humiliation at the hands of a community blinded by hate and religious dogma.  Your plight is about to worsen, since another bill making you illegal will soon pass into law.

Gay people are not the only ones who should fear the new bill criminalising homosexuality.  Measures which make who you are a crime are easy to manipulate.  It’s easy to persecute gay people in Uganda because they are a very small group which has no political or mainstream social support.

If you think those two groups deserve what they get, then recall the days not so long ago when you felt unfairly targeted for what you are.  The last 47 years were not kind to many of us.  So it is astonishing that we seem to have learned nothing about the importance of diversity to stability and development.

How will the new law be enforced?  Arrests and prosecutions will almost always result from denunciations.  Since you can’t tell a gay man or woman just by looking, everyone is at risk.  This puts power into the hands of the snitch, the aggrieved spouse or employee, the wronged friend or election opponent.  Once you are branded, the stigma and its judicial consequences will be hard to shake.  Are you prepared to suffer imprisonment and possibly physical violence because someone says the
y saw you commit an act or saw your name in an e-mail list?

If the odious bill on the table in Parliament is permitted to join its brethren in the law books, then it is fair to ask, who’s next?  Gay people don’t pose a threat to the government, but they are an easy scapegoat for inflaming public anger which itself can be manipulated against other groups which are a threat.  An election is coming soon, and there is little an embattled government likes better than to divert attention from its troubles or to neutralise its opponents.

Uganda would not be 47 years old if it were not for the contributions of all its people, whatever their identity.  We saw the affects of the expulsion of Asians in the 1970s.  We still feel the weight of discrimination against Northerners today.  Yet we so easily slip into the habit of hating those who are different.  

Repression is an expedient.  Today it is cheap and easy to make laws against gay people.  Tomorrow it may be cheap and easy to make laws against elections.  Today the majority participates because it can, and it hands the government increments of power and social control.  Tomorrow, when the government is stronger, the majority may not be able to resist if the government decides sterner measures are required to ensure peace, prosperity or social cohesion.

The reason we should all fear the easy hatred of legitimised gay bashing is that it puts the country on a path away from democracy.  The ease with which this bill is likely to become law will mark another step away from real pluralism.  The creeping fascism of social purification begins with the easiest pickings but never stops, and its result is always tyranny.

mmadill@oakton.edu

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