Same sex sexual self-determination and Ideologies in Uganda, 2009

            

INTRODUCTION:

They say men think about sex something like once every six minutes. You’d think after all that thinking we’d all be experts at actually having sex. Sadly, this is not the case (Michael Thomas Ford, 2004, Ultimate GAY SEX). Same sex sexual self determination in Uganda has sprung into loose organisations for sexual minorities in Uganda. These range from lesbian-only, gay-males only, bisexual –only, LGBTI-Membership and Intersex-only organisations. There are service providers targeting same sex communities by providing legal, health and psychosocial services. Like in any population in other countries, indeed there are same sex Ugandans and credible reports point to some figures and that between 450.0000-1.000.000 in Uganda has been posited as well (Gay Uganda News and Reports Oct-Dec 2009,MARPI, SMUG, Gay and Bisexual Men in Kampala, 2007 and Same sex, sexual behaviour, HIV and Health Care in Uganda, 2005).

SELF-DETERMINATION ENVIRONMENT IN UGANDA:

The gymnasiums, foot ball fields, basket ball courts, beaches, swimming pools and rugby clubs are some of the haunts frequented by many people as spectators. Among these are those who are excited and are emotionally gratified by looking at different bodily physiques for both females and males similar to their sex. This begins the erotic adventures and sexual possibilities of many gay Ugandans followed by internet social networks.

Urban suburbs have low cost affordable housing and in these estates are found recreational centres that are affordable for many young Ugandans. Young children and youths who can afford earning money pull resources to rent most of their rooms. It is in some of these that same sex sexual behaviour is practiced. Busia, Mbale, Kabalagala, Naguru go-down, Kinawattaka, Mbuya, Hoima, Mbarara, Nnyendo, Namungoona, Bwaise and Ggaba are some of the areas where these practices are thriving.

The fabric that seems to enable thriving same sex sexual behaviour is shelter and forms that improve proximity in boarding schools, in homes and other social gathering places. The internet and phones have enabled same sex sexual expression in Uganda. Upcoming organisations catering for same sex oriented and attracted persons have developed social networks at cyber and physical spaces. Some organisations have accessed funds to undergo remarkable organisation development. Others are individual efforts by volunteers who want to conscientise community about same sex sexuality.

The criminal justice and prison system in Uganda is another area where same sex sexual behaviour is thriving. Luzira Rehabilitation Center was built in the colonial era to house 600 in-mates but has 3.000 in-mates. In-mates are congested and packed like sardines. This is because of the backlog of cases, accepting to plead guilty out of frustration in order to serve a less sentence and because of framing ranging from sodomy to defilement (Public Defenders’ Association/African Prisons’ Project/Uganda Christian Lawyers’ Fraternity, 2010 reports). In Uganda’s Constitution Article 28 provides for speedy and fair trial but funds and logistics are the only undoing.

GAY UGANDAN MOVEMENTS AND NO HATE IDEOLOGY:

The year is 1990 and rumours of a bar in Kampala where people who have same sex sexual attraction and orientation can express freely are rife. This seems to be the gay stream drawing many to quench a long closeted thirst. From then on many forms of viable organisations began taking root. To-date, there is a loose coalition in Uganda made up of sexual minorities known as Sexual Minorities Uganda-SMUG. SMUG is formed with a vision for a liberated LGBTI people of Uganda. It led an August 2007 Gay community organisation advocacy drive known as the “let us live in peace” campaign demanding for an end of violation of their rights. In the same year, it led a team of many other gay, transgender, bisexual, intersex and lesbian people to demonstrate at the HIV International Conference held in Kampala’s Hotel Imperial Royale demanding for consideration in the HIV Policies. SMUG is made up of 3 organisations, namely; Integrity Uganda which is dedicated to emphasizing the crucial integration of gender identity and religion among LGBTI people. It provides community outreach programmes for spiritual growth and expression; Icebreakers Uganda-focusing on General LGBTI support, research and coming out counselling and; Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG), dedicated to lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex women’s rights issues. In the early 2000s, many other groups were also formed and the following are some of them: Gay and Lesbian Association-GALA-for bisexual parents; Purity Affirmative Organisation for Transgender Health-PAOTH-for young transgender members; Makerere II Health Action Group-MAK II HAG-for Bwaise Suburban gay, lesbian and bisexual members; SOGIAH-Uganda for promoting a conscientisation on gay self determination through internet and engaging communities in discourse on development, sexuality, orientation, gender identity and health as a strategy in reducing Infections among gay people; Frank and Candy for gay health tips and; Kuchu Living with HIV/AIDS-KULHAS- for gay people living with HIV. All these organisations have impacted on same sex sexuality self determination.

The international community should not be under-represented when it comes to staying the draconian arm that was penning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009 and readying itself to pass the Bill into an Act before the 2011 Elections. This was going to put in place a witch hunt for gay sympathizers and a flooding in prisons of gay people whether real or perceived. This condemnation has shown that Uganda is in the spotlight now (Daily Monitor, December 12, 2009).

ANTI-GAY DRIVES:

Anti-gay ideologies tow the lines of paedophilia, abnormality among gay people (Letter to Editor in Observer, 04 August 2010), or hoodwinking efforts by USA (Ugandan Information Minister, Sunday Monitor July 11, 2010) and are based upon religious and Cultural beliefs and this is consistently covered in one of Uganda’s major daily the New Vision a five year met-analysis attest to this (e.g., from New Vision, 4 March, 2005 to New Vision August 2010); In the old days before colonial law, there was a general laxity when it came to sexual passions and issues of carnal knowledge. In Buganda homesteads, sexual passions went unchecked (Roscoe, 1911). This all changed with the Colonial laws and modern education system in Uganda. The church has upped its anti-gay efforts and the All Africa Bishops Conference re-affirmed their stand against homosexuality (New Vision, Monday, August 30, 2010).

Today, due to scientific evidence and Human Rights movements, sexuality is increasingly becoming a subject that is continuously included in conversations and no longer a taboo topic. But, there is still so much anti-gay campaigns. As a result of the Anti-Homosexual Bill, 2009, there is now much discussion and air time given to homosexuality. Legislators, programme officers, parents and policy makers all seem undecided on how to confront the issue of same sex sexuality (homosexuality) in Uganda. At the same time gay Ugandans are still battling with coming up with an owned social dialect. Even, the labels LGBTIQQ do not ring well with them. They see themselves in a different picture and through a different nomenclature that borrows more from the cultural settings in Uganda. Such terms like; Kuchu, Losha, sister, man, Ndeeba, mukintu, Warid family and Chapatti make more meaning to gay Ugandans (Semugooma, 2005). Through these expressions they feel they are living out the roles of people who are attracted to others of same sex. "Homosexuality or same-sex attractions have been part and parcel of African communities for time immemorial. But the terms 'homosexuality,' 'lesbian,' 'gay' — those are relatively new. And those are terms many Africans attracted to people of the same sex never use or never identify with," (SYLVIA TAMALE, Dec. 2009).


If one bothered to look at the “homosexuals” onion one would peel off layers (of intolerance and negative regard) and find human beings who deserve dignity and understanding. There are men-who-have-sex –with-men (MSM), women-who –have-sex-with-women (WSW) who need to be understood and not ridiculed. These are the terms that apply as well: lesbian (L) are those women who are attracted to fellow women; gay (G) is a term that depicts men who are attracted to men. But it also used in vogue to mean all homosexual people; transgender (T) are people who feel their gender is different from that ascribed by society because of their sex; Intersex (I) who are having atypical genitalia; Queer (Q) is used to mean the prevailing movement and all activities pointing towards an understanding of same sex sexuality and; questioning (Q) refers to the situation or crisis faced by people as they experience same sex sexual emotions. There are counselling issues we need to face. The time to hide our faces in the sand is long gone.


The Gay, contrary to some hate campaigns, are contributing to the country’s economy and are law abiding citizens. They are engaged in formal and informal work in Ugandan companies and organisations. Some Ugandan gay activists are also members of international bodies and are part of efforts that are streamlining health and social issues pertaining to gay self determination and general community development around the world( US hosts top Ugandan gay activist, Sunday Monitor, July 11.2010).




CONCLUSION:

Same sex Community in Uganda is faced with fear, ignorance of rights and uncertainty. Very few sustained interventions target their health (not only the absence of disease but full emotional, mental, cultural, social and spiritual well-being) needs. Most existing interventions are targeting legal rights which are more to do with visibility and breaking silence on same sex sexuality issues. But social and cultural rights which are at daily survival and interactive levels are given half-hearted kick starts. Where they are targeted they are given a veneered gloss and much lip service. Problems among the same sex community should be tackled as a minimum package and should include: health, social-economical, psycho-sexual, Legal and psycho-social issues (HELPS MODEL). This is what any person who seeks understanding of same sex sexuality should know and with that privileged knowledge use it to act informed.


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