President Museveni justified his accession to the homosexuality bill on the basis that he sought and got scientific opinions from scientists the world over and in particular Ugandan scientists affiliated to the departments of genetics, the school of medicine and the ministry of health. Apparently the scientists were unanimous in their conclusion that homosexuality is not genetic but behavioural. There is another bill for which the president did not seek the opinion of scientist – the anti-pornography bill -which he has accented to and has signed into law.
Moreover, these two laws are related in the sense that the one on homosexuality is about what excites one into wanting sexual relations with another, in this case a person of the same sex; and the one on anti-pornography is also about the same thing ‘sexually exciting’ others – particular women dressed in a certain way deemed sexually exciting by men. Two different processes – one based on so-called empirical data and the other on (I am still trying to figure out) data – have given us similar laws – legislation of our behaviour.
So, why the two different processes? But then again come to think of it, are ‘scientific’ opinions necessarily superior and infallible? Well, for me the following email joke doing the rounds provides profound learning:
“Late fall and the Indians on a remote reservation in North Dakota asked their new chief if the coming winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was a chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets. When he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the winter was going to be like. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he told his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect firewood to be prepared. But, being a practical leader, after several days, he got an idea. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, ‘Is the coming winter going to be cold?’ ‘It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold,’ the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more firewood in order to be prepared. A week later, he called the National Weather Service again. ‘Does it still look like it is going to be a very cold winter?’ ‘Yes,’ the man at National Weather Service again replied, ‘it’s going to be a very cold winter.’ The chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of firewood they could find. Two weeks later, the chief called the National Weather Service again. ‘Are you absolutely sure that the winter is going to be very cold?’ ‘Absolutely,’ the man replied. ‘It’s looking more and more like it is going to be one of the coldest winters we’ve ever seen.’ ‘How can you be so sure?’ the chief asked. The weatherman replied, ‘The Indians are collecting a shitload of firewood’.”
For purposes of clarity, I am a woman who likes to dress in a manner that pleases me first and then others – if it pleases others it is okay and if does not it is also okay. What pleases me, most likely I learned through the way that I have been socialised. When I dress up I am primarily thinking about what pleases me the most and what might please the ones that matter to me – I am most certainly not thinking about every single Ugandan’s likes and dislikes. I am aware that I am beautiful and that men and possibly women find me attractive. Men’s attraction to me is both scientific – biological make up and it is behavioural – socialisation make up. I was born a woman and that men will find me attractive is inevitable, it is beyond my control, especially when it comes to dress codes. For some men, certain fashions that I wear make me more attractive to them, even though they are long dresses and for others it is mini-skirts. I should not be put in the position, as the ant-pornography law has done, of guessing what dress style will be sexually exciting for each and every man in Uganda, for it is an endeavour in futility.
Profound learning from the North Darkota Indians is that basing laws on the behaviour of people without fully investigating why they are behaving that way is a fantastic recipe for inappropriate laws and in the case of the anti-pornography law – harmful laws; men behaving badly does not form a basis for legislation – apparently several women in Uganda have since been assaulted by men for wearing ‘sexually exciting clothing’.
For all those members of Uganda’s parliament who saw it fit to waste our resources on such legislation you have made Uganda worse off – the resources could have been better spent on refurbishing Mulago referral hospital and other medical facilities countrywide and we would not have had to borrow money to do so. In addition to making the place that I live dangerous – uncultured men on the rampage – you have made me and the future generations of Ugandans more indebted thus keeping us in the vicious cycle of poverty.