Uganda must be permitted to develop

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.

2 comments

  1. While see your point…somewhat…its abit more complex than that…Many African countries are caught between the dark ages and the 21st century. Imagine being stuck in the dark ages but have options of leaving from time to time to a better world…Its is good if the people from the other world are able to come in every now and then to rescue us. it would help even more if the people from the 21st century did not sell arms to those in the dark ages…then we would be able to sort ourselves out by taking the good we learnt from the other world and leave the bad.

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  2. Completely agree with the point about petitions.
    Not sure that the point about our culture and generation being so tolerant and free from religious and other hatred can be made so highly- see for example the new sectarian laws to be introduced to combat the problems in Scotland.
    Whilst the point can be made that to force our ideas about culture on a different society does raise issues where for example a right to freedom of sexuality is concerned vs freedom of religion, what would the considerations be if a racial or religious genocide was taking place? Would the non-interventionist approach still hold? And if not, why not?
    Very interesting stuff!

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