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By Steven Hussey

When an Ugandan tabloid sparked international outrage last year for publishing the names of alleged homosexuals under the banner “Hang them!” in The Rolling Stone, editor Giles Muhame thought he was fulfilling a moral duty. He was stopping homosexuals from “ravaging the moral fabric of [Uganda]” and “recruiting children to homosexuality”, whatever that might mean. He denied that his actions could in any way incite violence against those he “outed”.

Needless to say, he was wrong. And now he’s got blood on his hands.

David Kato, one of the brave gay-rights activists outed in The Rolling Stone, was recently beaten to death by an unknown attacker. This, after a Ugandan court ordered the tabloid to stop their abuse because several victims had been attacked, and after Uganda introduced an evangelically-inspired controversial anti-homosexuality bill.

In a country with the motto “For God and my country”, one would expect somewhat holier conduct from such a godly nation. What happened to the “hate the sin, love the sinner” policy for those that suffer from religious affliction? In any case, how does the political and religious belief that homosexuality is sinful give one the right to introduce laws that would lock such sinners away for life or even put them to death? Why should your belief in the unverifiable give you a licence to attack others with your ideological artillery and subject them to the misery that stems from it?

To declare that Ugandan homophobia reeks of hypocrisy is an understatement. By the conservative Christian convictions to which Ugandan legislation clearly subscribe, fornication, too, is a grave sin. So is adultery, masturbation and divorce. Where are the Ugandan bills aiming to criminalise these? Where are the tabloid headlines listing the names of the divorced or those that enjoy the odd shower jack? In the name of morality, bigoted Ugandans like so many God-fearing societies singled out homosexuality — usually a private and benign expression of love between men or women — among all other religious prohibitions without justification, and in so doing incited hatred for their fellow man that would make their Jesus cringe.

I can only imagine the dramatic irony witnessed by the God Ugandans serve so militantly, of this tragic Othello enacted with real blood. In valiantly taking a stand against the “evils” of homosexuality (I am yet to notice the “evil” gay people have wreaked in the world), Ugandans have instead dwarfed it with an entirely new and bloodthirsty evil: that of encouraging murder, violence and intolerance. Who is in greater need of redemption, haughty Uganda? The gay men and women that try to live quietly in love, minding their own business, or the religious zealots that spit and throw stones at them? In trying to protect children from becoming aware of the quite natural phenomenon of gay love, young Ugandans are instead subjected to a cruel society that teaches them it is okay to slander against, assault and even kill people based on their deviance from the primitive opinions of an ancient text. Uganda, you are foolish crusaders blind to your own wrongdoing. In fighting sin, your own sin exceeds that which you seek to fight.

Please could someone explain this conundrum to me: if the religious believe that homosexuals are doomed to eternal hellfire, why be bothered to punish such colourful people here on earth? Why speed them on to an infernal afterlife if you believe their eternal suffering surpasses any torture of human invention? One can only attribute such witch-hunts to sadistic satisfaction. It is malevolence clothed in doctrine and moral “duty”.

It is not God alone who judges? Is it not the Christian duty to calmly talk things over and bring peace (Luke 17:3), rather than rioting with torches and pitchforks?

Let those without sin cast the first stone.

Steven is a 2010 Mandela Rhodes Scholar and a genetics/biotechnology postgraduate at the University of Pretoria. He enjoys discussing and debating issues of gender, gender expression and sexuality, in addition to communicating scientific knowledge to the wider public.

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  • Mandela Rhodes Scholars who feature on this page are all recipients of The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and are members of The Mandela Rhodes Community. The Mandela Rhodes Community was started by recipients of the scholarship, and is a growing network of young African leaders in different sectors. The Mandela Rhodes Community is comprised of students and professionals from various backgrounds, fields of study and areas of interest. Their commonality is the set of guiding principles instilled through The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship program: education, leadership, reconciliation, and social entrepreneurship. All members of The Mandela Rhodes Community have displayed some form of involvement in each of these domains. The Community has the purpose of mobilising its members and partners to collaborate in establishing a growing network of engaged and active leaders through dialogue and project support [The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship is open to all African students and allows for postgraduate studies at any institution in South Africa. See The Mandela Rhodes Foundation for further details.]

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Mandela Rhodes Scholars

Mandela Rhodes Scholars who feature on this page are all recipients of The Mandela Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, and are members...

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