Sunday, January 10, 2010

Ok with Violence, as Long as It's Not Against Gays

If you know anyone concerned with GLBT rights; or Africa; or just in Uganda; it's possible you have heard of the proposed legislation in the Ugandan parliament to criminalize homosexuality if not with the death penalty, then at least with life imprisonment. In face, even you are not aligned with any of the aforementioned focus groups you have probably heard of the legislation because Western media is all over it and the massive violation of human rights such legislation would be. There is a Facebook group concerning the issue; you can find countless blogs; or perhaps you read this particular New York Times article, which raised alarm over the possible increase of lynchings in a country where "mobs beat people to death for infractions as minor as stealing shoes."
What a violent, hate-filled country. Nevermind that such "mobs" and massive public disapproval of thievery actually make Uganda one of the safest countries in East Africa (if not the entire continent), especially for foreigners.
But such misconstrued and out-of-place comments are only to be expected from a Western media that, while completely entranced by the idea of anti-homosexuality legislation, manages to totally ignore episodes of actual violence. Last September, as those in Uganda may remember, the capital and surrounding areas were racked by riots for three days; the president made public addresses from Entebbe airport, ready to flee should the violence noticeably turn against him; people actually did die. Stemming from fairly legitimate complaints of the Banyala people against the intrusions of the Baganda kingdom, Bagandans rose up in violent support of their Kabaka (king). (The Independent gives a fairly good historical account.) Though the travel guides wave such incidents aside (in order to assuage foreign travellers) these riots were particularly demonstrative of the potential chaos that could erupt following the 2011 elections.
And how much media attention did this draw - Western media attention?
If this has left you confused, don't worry - the answer is close to nothing. No BBC blips, no international note in the NY Times, not even any blogs. Yes, and other such media outlets gave extensive coverage, for obvious reasons, but where was the Western media when the violence was only Africans against Africans? Why do all these reporters and bloggers only speak up when gays and lesbians are under attack? Do Africans, just as themselves, capture so little Western attention? For those Ugandans who claim that homosexuailty is a Western import, such lopsided coverage only serves to strengthen their belief.

To summarize: it's totally OK for Africans to attack and kill one another, as long as the victim isn't a homosexual.

And that's called human rights.


  1. Very intriguing post.

    I imagine that the anti-homosexual legislation got press for a number of reasons. First, hello, it is about sex. As the cliche goes, sex sells. Perhaps, too, there was the thought that homosexuals, crazy deviants that they are, are more relatable. Most people know LGBT person, so they might feel more invested in that story. I also suspect that Westerners have an idea that riots on African capitols is an everyday occurrence, nothing for us to waste precious airtime on, especially not when it could otherwise be dedicated to Lindsay Lohan. Finally, since gay rights is the hot-button issue nationally, I think this was an extension of that.

    Sorry to go on and on, those were just some thoughts that popped into my head while reading your post.

  2. It's likely true that many Westerners do believe riots in Africa are common, which is the reason I find it so frustrating. I do get laughs from newspaper headlines about the "Homo Bill" though, so it's not all bad.