Tag Archives: gay rights

The smokescreen of science. Homosexuality in Uganda.

Rainbow_flag_and_blue_skies
President Museveni of Uganda has agreed to sign the now notorious ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ which could impose a lifetime jail sentence on anyone who commits homosexual acts.

What is curious about this latest crackdown though is the justification that the President has adopted to justify the signing of the bill.

A State House statement released last Sunday quoted Museveni as saying that ‘there is no scientific proof yet that people are homosexuals by genetics’

It goes onto to quote Museveni further saying that ‘It is on the strength of that I am going to sign the bill. I know we are going to have a big battle with the outside groups about this, but I will tell them what our scientists have to say.’

For a lack of a better word, curious…

The scientific committee, which included respected health professionals and scientists, set up to advise the President on this, concluded with 6 points:

The following are summaries of their observations;

  1. There is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality.
  2. Homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behavior which may be learned through experiences in life.
  3. In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexuality tendencies.
  4. Homosexuality can be influenced by environmental factors e.g. culture, religion and peer pressure among others.
  5. The practice needs regulation like any other human behavior especially to protect the vulnerable.
  6. There is need for further studies to address sexuality in the African context.

The Executive Director of the Uganda Media Centre and Spokesperson for the Government of Uganda, Ofwono Opondo, summarised the report findings saying:

https://twitter.com/OfwonoOpondo/status/434374029030719489

These conclusions represent some spurious claims intermixed with a sprinkling of loose language and half-truths that allow for differing interpretations to emerge from this ‘science’.

Take point one for example, ‘There is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality’. A negative statement that may well be true. But in this context it has been used by the government to justify the positive opposite ‘that homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle choice’ – a statement which flies in the face of the majority of available scientific studies on the matter.

The BBC for example yesterday published an article looking at how a genetic tendency to homosexuality sits with Darwinian concepts of evolution. In this article it starts by asserting that the idea homosexuality has biological origins has become the ‘scientific orthodoxy’. The article goes onto say that whilst there is no ‘definitive gene’ that determines sexuality, it is thought that there are alleles – or groups of genes – that sometimes codes for homosexual orientation.

The same BBC article quotes Qazi Rahman who offers a reasonable summary saying, ‘it’s the media that oversimplifies genetic theories of sexuality, with their reports of the discovery of “the gay gene”. Genetically speaking, Rahman believes that sexuality involves tens or perhaps hundreds of alleles that will probably take decades to uncover.’

Although the exact nature of the biological determinants of sexuality remain unknown, it is widely accepted that sexual orientation is determined, at least in part, by your pre-existing biology. Something that the report fails to mention.

The same pattern can be drawn from the other five conclusions. Loose language and scientific half-truths being interpreted for ideological and political purposes. Point 2 for example – if you take the word abnormal without moral judgement (scientifically) to literally mean, differing from the norm, then of course homosexuality can be considered abnormal (in the same way fishing could be considered an ‘abnormal activity’). But, in the context of this debate it is understood, and intentionally conflated with, other ‘abnormal’ practices that hold near universal condemnation such as rape and paedophilia ensuring that it is interpreted with a pre-existing moral framework (very unscientific).

Indeed, it should be noted that whilst Museveni’s interest in the science behind homosexuality is quite new, his eagerness to condemn and discriminate against homosexuals though is far from it. To give just one example, it was clear he needed no science to back up his popular, if insulting and simply wrong, statement that ‘women become lesbians because of “sexual starvation” when they failed to marry’.

In short, though the science behind sexuality in Uganda is simply being used as a smokescreen here to further a populist political and ideological agenda.

Indeed, it seems hard to disagree with Edwin Sesange’s summary: ‘The strange thing about the scientists’ report from Uganda’s Ministry of Health about the origin of homosexuality, is that much of it was right. But what was left out, the way the words were twisted, the flaws in the scientists’ conclusions, make it false…In fact, the report…is little more than science providing political cover for Museveni. It allows him to sign the bill, gain political popularity at home, dismiss criticism from the international community and blame it all on the scientists if his decision is wrong’.

Of course, there is one way for this scientific report to hold credibility. Publish it!

If it were to be published in a scientific journal and face a peer-review process then it might hold some weight. Until that happens we can assume that the science remains a smokescreen for a wider political and ideological move against the LGBT community in Uganda.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Human rights, sexuality, Uganda

Google pins its rainbow colours to the mast

googleOver a billion people visit Google every day. Today they will be met by Google’s protest over the violations of gay rights in Russia as the Winter Olympics get underway.

In case the rainbow doodle left you in any doubt, Google then quote the Olympic Charter underneath that states that “every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport without discrimination of any kind”.

Left Foot Forward today have given us ‘5 good reasons why LGBT activists are protesting against Russia‘ – many of which result in the Olympic Charter being little more than an aspiration for an openly gay athletes in Russia.

Google were joined by Channel 4 who also turned their logo rainbow for the day. The TV channel stated that they wanted to wish good luck to all athletes competing at the Games – gay or straight.

Channel 4 rainbow logo for Sochi Winter Olympics
Hynd’s Blog tips its metaphorical hat to Google, Channel 4 and the transformative power of sport.

Leave a comment

Filed under Russia, sexuality, Sport

UKIP, “the laziest party in Europe” – didn’t we already know this though?

In a rare example of accountability, the Mirror has today branded UKIP the ‘laziest party in Europe’.

The story highlights the far-right party’s voting record, the worse of any political party in Europe. UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage it reports, has the 5th to worst voting record out of all 752 Members of the European Parliament.

Two of the politicians that fared worse than Farage were his UKIP colleagues Godfrey Bloom and UKIP’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall. UKIP MEPs missed approximately a third of all votes they were expected to attend.

Quite rightly, Conservative MEP leader Richard Ashworth condemned this voting record saying, “UKIP bank the salary, pocket the expenses, but don’t turn up to do the work. They let their country down.”

The problem though rests in the fact that this article represents an exception to the rule. It represents a rare example of holding our elected representatives in Brussels to account.

Think about, when was the last time you read a story about a vote in the European Parliament compared to a story about a vote in the UK parliament?

The only reason this story has appeared in our national press now, is because of the impact UKIP is currently enjoying on our national UK politics.

Indeed, the almost exact same story was ignored by our press back in 2010 when Labour MEP Mary Honeyball blogged about UKIP’s voting record.

This situation though, of what is happening in Brussels being ignored by the majority of the British media, is nothing new. Let me give you an example.

In 2011 the then Tory (now UKIP) MEP, Roger Helmer, tweeted overtly homophobic comments (and indeed dismissed the whole notion of homophobia as, “a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions”). These outrageous comments were picked up, but only by online blogs such as Liberal Conspiracy*.

Take though the recent comments by Tory MP David Davies (he commented that parents “wouldn’t want gay children”). On this occasion, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The BBC and Mirror all picked up on these comments.

One comment made by a MP, the other by a MEP.

In the last few years Tory MEPs have voted against opposition to the death penalty, against basic measures to combat climate change and against women’s rights. Where is the public and media outrage?

UKIP embarrassing Britain in Brussels is nothing new, but because of their success in the recent elections, our papers now deem it newsworthy!

*This comment in no way means to belittle online blogs such as Liberal Conspiracy which holds a readership comparable to much of the mainstream media. But the comment aims to highlight the different editorial standards blogs and traditional papers hold. 

2 Comments

Filed under EU politics, Far-right politics, Media, Politics

Who is David Cameron? A gay rights activist? Possibly…

Who is David Cameron? In his keynote speech at the Conservative Party conference Cameron stated clearly that he backed gay marriage. Does this make him a gay rights activist?

In the past he has been caught short when asked about various gay rights issues. There has been at best, an unclear narrative up to now about where Cameron sits on gay rights. The problem that I and millions of other Brits have is trying to distinguish what or who Mr Cameron is, and how much of what he says he believes and how much of it is just bluff. So who is David Cameron?

In his keynote speech Mr Cameron said,

I stood before a Conservative conference once and I said it shouldn’t matter whether commitment was between a man and a woman, a man and another man or a woman and a woman. You applauded me for that. Five years on, we’re consulting on legalising gay marriage. And to anyone who has reservations, I say this: Yes, it’s about equality, but it’s also about something else: commitment. Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us; that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and support each other. So I don’t support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative. I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative.

These are not empty word either, it would appear that this government is acting on lgbt issues. Last month for example ministers announced a consultation that would be held on how to introduce same-sex marriage before 2015.

Yet regardless of this evidence to his credit, he has been repeatedly caught out on gay rights issues. Is this because he is the leader of a group of deeply homophobic MPs/MEPs? Not to mention the company that the Conservatives keep in their European Parliament grouping. Or, is it because his commitment to equality is based on a race to the middle moderate ground to win the popular vote? Gay rights is no longer radical!

On this, I am willing to give him credit. I do honestly believe him when he says he backs gay marriage. I feel that this is something that he is personally committed to. Unfortunately he has the pleasure of being the leader of the likes of Roger Helmer and other notorious homophobes. Maybe some party discipline is in order here?

In answer, who is David Cameron? Foremost he is a politician, someone willing to say, behave and act in a certain manner to win popular support. Is this the polar opposite of being a gay rights activist? No. I might be wrong but I get the feeling that on this issue Cameron is on board – it just also happens to politically useful.

3 Comments

Filed under Politics, sexuality