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Ladislus Rwakafuzi, a human rights and constitutional lawyer was the man representing the gay activists in Uganda.
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First published: June 16, 2011
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You might remember that homosexuals in Uganda have won two landmark cases in Uganda’s courts of law. One was the case against the goverment by Ivan Oyo and Victor Mukasa, after policemen raided and tortured two lesbians living together. In another recent case on publishing and “shaming” gays by a local tabloid, the judge ruled in favour of petitioners that all Ugandans enjoy the same right to privacy and it is wrong to publish pictures and names of alleged homosexuals.
Ladislus Rwakafuzi, a human rights and constitutional lawyer was the man representing the gay activists on both cases. We interviewed him about the current debates about homosexuality and the Anti Homosexuality bill currently before the Uganda Parliament.
What are your views on homosexuality?
For me, my take on this practice is that there are people who seem to be inclined to be attracted to persons of the same sex. It seems to be in their mind and in my opinion; they should be left to do what they want in their own privacy because we cannot control adults who have not injured anybody’s peace. It does not make sense to begin interfering in the activities of such adults.
Apart from the fact of that privacy, which everybody craves for, there is also a fact that the so-called nature or natural way is not really defined because people are very different. The first case I handled in 2006 involved one of my clients, who for orientation purposes, was a man. She was a male, her voice was deep, she almost had no breasts but her passport reads that she is a woman. So these are peculiarities over which society has no claim. There’s nothing society can do about it.
A human being is born into the world as an individual with his or her own peculiar circumstances and it becomes very wrong for the wider society to impose its own do’s and don’ts on such a person. That person has his or her own feelings, motivated by his or her own hormones. So my view is that society should stop the arrogance of arrogating itself the right of imposing behavior on other people. In my opinion, where a person acts without harming the public good, that person should be left to do what he or she wants.
So are you saying no alarm bells should be sounded by the Ugandan society on homosexuality?
There is no need for concern because homosexuality has been there since time immemorial during biblical times, about 6,000 years ago. So it means this weakness in humanity has been there. Scientists have said that they have even seen it in cows, goats and insects... So these things are there. In my opinion, societies that are more developed have come to accept these phenomena and they just regulate it so that in case you want to have a relationship with a person of the same sex, it should be by consent and should be between people who are adults and in their privacy.
In 2009, Ndorwa West MP, Hon. David Bahati tabled the Anti Homosexuality bill. What are your thoughts on this proposed legislation?
His bill is a non starter. It will never see the floor of Parliament. It was killed right from the word go. We campaigned against it and we succeeded. It will not be enacted into law; that’s my opinion.
What are some of the concerns in the bill?
First of all, the bill was giving a broad definition of homosexuality, including persons like me who just sympathize with such activities so such people would be punished for speaking favorably and not against the practice. The bill was really a very serious interference in people’s privacy. The law on defiling minors had already been amended and that law was catering for situations of defilement where it was same sex... so that fact this had already been dealt with. So why introduce another law to deal with adults who are consenting?
We have fought it and we succeeded. I think the whole international community did not agree with this proposed law and even the President, I think, also realized that it does not make sense to begin regulating things over which he has no control. How can you regulate adults? They can meet anywhere they want.
What is your view on the international community's reaction to the bill?
I think the international community, on the other hand, over reacted because it was not necessary to go too far. For us here, our own intellectuals had already said that the bill was not worth it and we had already persuaded government to shelve it. You know that kind of arrogance makes people feel bad. Saying you will not give aid is going too far.
I do not support that kind of arrogance from the international community. There were a lot of intellectuals throughout the world who wanted the government to reconsider its views on homosexuality and their views were persuasive. I think it is what made the government become reluctant on enacting the bill into law. It was not the fear of cutting aid and that kind of thing... We have our oil anyway.
There have been reports that a lot of money is being injected by the pro-homosexuality movement, especially in schools and higher institutions of learning...
I have heard about it in newspapers and broadcast but I have not seen it though I can also say that the international community is willing to sponsor issues dealing with homosexuality. For example, if you wanted to represent clients who have been arrested on account of their sexual orientation, the donor community is more willing to come to your aid as their lawyers than in cases of torture. So that is the problem... and for me as an all round human rights lawyer, I find it very uncomfortable because human rights should be indivisible and all should be protected.
Finally, Mr. Rwakafuzi, in your opinion, why should homosexuality be tolerated in the country, well knowing it is outlawed?
We should learn tolerance of other people’s orientation and be understanding and know that some of those practices have been there and they will always be there. As long as they are not harmful to us, we should let things be. First of all, to be humble enough to say maybe we are different people... we think and react differently... maybe that’s why it is there... and that is one of the first steps in building an all inclusive society.
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First published: June 16, 2011
Olive Eyotaru Yemima is a graduate of Mass Communication. She first worked with Ultimate Media in 2005 as an intern and returned in 2007 as a features writer.
A Ugandan talented creative writer, Eyotaru now writes for both the local and international media and continues to shine in the media every day that passes.