Recently, a petition swept the social networks, in opposition to a new Ugandan bill further impinging on the rights of homosexuals in that country. It garnered virtually unanimous support, a true credit to the open-mindedness of our country, and our generation. I’m pleased to say that the hateful bill has not been passed, in part because of these commendable efforts. I must make a confession, however: I didn’t sign the petition.
I didn’t sign the petition because I see Uganda as a younger England. The Roman Empire withdrew from Britain in 410 CE. 1550 years later, the British Empire withdrew its hold on Uganda.
By forcing Uganda to comply with our culture, we deny them one and a half millennia of development time which we made use of ourselves. Over those years, our country has had the liberty to exercise and eventually exorcise its religious fanaticism; we have the privilege of looking back at the crusades and feeling shame, safe in the knowledge that we have learnt from our shared history and know better now.
This is what has made us the strong, moral and open-minded country that we are today; the country whose citizens so readily responded to the suffering of homosexuals abroad. We deny that opportunity to Uganda by forcing their actions. As Anthony Burgess illustrates, a person who is forced to act morally is not acting morally at all. Why should a country be any different? What right do we have to make Uganda our ‘Clockwork Orange’?
Another issue is the methodology of the petitions, which I find to be flawed. Many versions of the petition, for example, proposed to deny aid to Uganda, should the bill be passed. If the UK stopped financial aid to Uganda, this would represent a loss of £70 million annually, in a nation which already has an infant mortality rate of 79.4%. Further, I would suggest that the repercussions of such a move would only foster greater hatred against homosexuals in Uganda, who would inevitably be perceived to be at fault for the reduction in international aid.
Ultimately, we have two choices: we can force Uganda to act in the way that we consider to be right, as we did for 74 years, or we can allow the Ugandans to make that choice for themselves, in the knowledge that they could act with sickening hatred. I couldn’t make that choice; I couldn’t sign or oppose the petition.
While I am happy with the outcome, I can only reflect that this issue was a lot more fraught than people gave it credit for; the road to hell is paved with good petitions.