Tradition,and Human Rights in Uganda’s ‘Gay Death Penalty’€

1.How ‘normal’ or ‘traditional’ is heterosexuality in Africa?Where do ideas of ‘normal’ come from?

Heterosexualityis a traditional culture in Africa because it existed in manycommunities in the pre-colonial era (Cheney, 2012, p. 81). SeveralUgandan communities, such as Banyore, Baganda, Langi, and Iteso,practiced sodomy. Cheney (2012, p. 80) provides that Mwanga executedsome his male assistants in 1888 because they refused to engage inhomosexual acts. The boys had converted to Catholicism, whichcondemned the practice, therefore, they turned down Mwanga’sadvances.

Furthermore,heterosexuality is traditional in the African communities because theArab merchants introduced it before the missionaries came to Africa.The Arab traders had come to Africa several centuries before theChristian missionaries. However, missionaries condemnedheterosexuality. In fact, Mwanga executed his pageboys because theyrefused to engage in the heterosexuality after they converted toCatholicism (Cheney, 2012, p. 81).

Theidea of heterosexuality being ‘normal’ in Africa originates fromthe fact that many people, especially, high school students haveattempted it. Moreover, Africans did not have beliefs and taboos thatassociated homosexuality with mental illnesses or sin. Only thecommunities that had adopted either Christianity or Islam faith hadpolicies that condemned the acts (Cheney, 2012, p. 81).

2.What is ‘moral panic,’ how is it created and maintained(particularly by social media)?

Accordingto Stanley Cohen, a British criminologist, moral panic is a processthat involves creating intense awareness of a situation andintroducing restrictions that are intended to restrain the furtherspread of the issue. Moral panic can be created through illustratinga given matter as a significant contravention of the set standards ofbelief. Social media maintains moral panic through establishingreactive strategies of discipline, surveillance, and regulation. Theideologies related to a situation are repeatedly discussed in a bidto influence many people to support the matter (Cheney, 2012, p. 81).

3.How does the issue of colonialism factor into the perception ofhomosexuality in Africa today? What colonial influences areunacknowledged?

Inthe modern Africa, colonialism is blamed as the source ofheterosexuality, which is considered un-African. The policymakersdismiss legalizing homosexuality as a western culture that can neverbe accepted in the continent. Nonetheless, Africans support theChristianity view of the issue. Christianity condemnsheterosexuality, just like in many African societies (Cheney, 2012,p. 84).

4.How does political legislation reflect globalizing forces in Africamore than indigenous practices? Whose interests are served?

Politicallegislations reflects globalizing force in Africa because the statesare passing laws that are based on Christian morals, whichdiscourages heterosexuality. On the contrary, the indigenouspractices encouraged homosexuality. Despite that, there are stillcampaigns for the recognition of the gay rights many African nationsprefer to adopt the anti-gays policies recommended by variousadvocates such as the Christian organizations (Cheney, 2012, p. 90).

Theharsh anti-heterosexual laws that are enacted by the politicians areintended to enhance the politicians’ political agendas. Theycapitalize on the issue of creating moral panics that in turn enhancehuman rights exceptionalism and fertility biopolitics. Since theissue is controversial, politicians remain are in the limelight,where they can advance their political career. In a nutshell, thelegislations serve the politicians’ personal interest (Cheney,2012, p. 81).


Cheney,K. (2012). Locating neocolonialism, “tradition,” and human rightsin uganda’s “gay

deathpenalty.” AfricanStudies Review,55(2), 77–95.