Friday, 8 August 2014

Interview With Lawyer Who Fought The Uganda Anti-Gay Bill

Lawyer Nicholas Opiyo (smiling) and some of his legal team. (source)
There is a fascinating short interview over at Time with Ugandan human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo, who lead the case against the government's draconian anti-homosexuality law passed earlier this year. As I wrote earlier today, the Attorney General has just filed a call for appeal of this latest court ruling and it was Opiyo who broke the news on his Twitter feed earlier today.

Lawyer Who Led Challenge of Uganda’s Anti-Gay Law: ‘Long, Long Way to Go’

The interview, much like the documentary God Loves Uganda, demonstrates the role certain US evangelicals have had in totally mucking up the situation and making a big deal out of homosexuality where there really wasn't one before.
There has been a growing influence of American evangelical ideologies in the policies of government in Uganda. The examples are plenty in Uganda—in the HIV/AIDS campaign, Uganda was praised for its response to the HIV/AIDS campaign because it had the message for condom use. When the Christian evangelists got a foothold in influencing government, the policies changed from condom use to abstinence and being faithful. Condoms were “by-the-way;” that was the influence of what we call in Uganda people who are saved. If you look at the laws that have passed since then, whether it is a media law or an NGO law, it has a strong element of public morality. That’s new, what seems to be in my view, a moralization of the legislation process. They have a strong foothold in government mainly because the Pentecostal movement is a big movement. They have numbers, they have young people, and they have a huge following. Politicians like numbers.
He also addresses the situation in Uganda about non-Christians and atheists and how the country is sliding away from its official secular nature.
Not every Ugandan is Christian. Not every Ugandan subscribes to the moral values. We’re supposed to be a secular state, but we are drifting away from being a secular state to a state driven largely by religious values and thinking, and that for me is a huge downside. What happens to people who don’t believe in those values? What happens to atheists? What happens to Muslims? It creates a society where there is a majority that wants to impose their values and systems onto the whole community.
The link is strong to US evangelicals and before their arrival on the scene, Ugandans were more concerned with more practical and much higher priority things, like food and education. Frankly, it seems to me like this whole anti-homosexuality thing is just one big diversion set up to remove attention from government performance on worthwhile goals.
The people who advocated for the AHA were motivated by, financed by, American evangelicals. It’s an American group driving this debate at home. This debate was not a popular debate. It was not an issue in Uganda because people in Uganda are struggling about food, employment, medical care, access to medical services, education—these are the things that occupy the people in my village, in my town. Not homosexuality—that was a non-issue. This issue was put in the national debate because of the influence of the American evangelical movement. The Americans brought this to our country they’ve got to sort themselves out back home, here, to ensure that the radical American preachers don’t spread hatred across the world.
Well, amen to that.

I'll be posting more on this later this weekend. Right now, as things are, I think it could take years if not decades to reverse the damage done in such a short time.

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