Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu – an anti-apartheid struggle icon – has equated Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill to apartheid in a scathing letter addressed to Ugandan lawmakers preparing to vote on the legislation.
The open letter, titled “To Ugandan MPs: God does not discriminate among our family”, was published by Ugandan newspaper the Daily Monitor on Wednesday.
Describing moves to pass the proposed law as “unbelievable”, Tutu wrote that, should it pass, “it will criminalise acts of love between certain categories of people, just as the apartheid government made intimate relations between black and white South Africans a punishable offence”.
He explained that “Members of the apartheid police force charged with the upkeep of ‘morality’ would rush into the bedrooms of suspected offenders to gather evidence, such as warm bed sheets. Those found guilty were arrested, put on trial and punished. What awaits the people of Uganda?”
The 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate went on to say: “One thing that Ugandan legislators should know is that God does not discriminate among members of our family. God does not say black is better than white, or tall is better than short, or football players are better than basketball players, or Christians are better than Muslims… or gay is better than straight…
“The depiction of members of the LGBTI community as crazed and depraved monsters threatening the welfare of children and families is simply untrue, and is reminiscent of what we experienced under apartheid and what the Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis.
“To those who claim that homosexuality is not part of our African culture, you are conveniently ignoring the fact that LGBTI Africans have lived peacefully and productively beside us throughout history,” said Tutu.
He warned that even if the bill has popular support among Ugandans, “it should surely be the moral duty of the custodians of that country to educate its citizens about discrimination and equal rights. Surely, it should be their duty to clarify the fundamental misunderstandings in communities about what it means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex (LGBTI)”.
Tutu argued that while the ideology of racial superiority was once used to justify the colonisation of Africa, “today, we face a new challenge. We must overcome the notion that sexual orientation defines one’s identity or determines one’s station in life – or unjustly elevates one class of people over another.
“It is with supreme sorrow that I witness, to this day, the subjugation and repression of African brothers and sisters whose only crime is the practice of love. Hate, in any form or shape, has no place in the house of God.”
He concluded by urging “the people of Uganda to reject hatred and prejudice. Love comes more naturally to the human heart than hate.”
It remains unclear when the Anti-Homosexuality Bill – which will reportedly impose the death penalty in cases of repeated convictions of homosexuality – will be voted on in parliament. The Speaker of that parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, has promised to see it passed before Christmas.