Homosexuality in Uganda is not a European Import. Christianity is.

I have asked many Ugandans why there is such strong homophobia in this country. Nearly every answer I get is some variation on “it isn’t part of our culture. It was brought here by Europeans, and they are trying to recruit young people to become gay.”

The irony is that homosexuality existed here long before Europeans had ever set foot on the African continent and it is, in fact, Christianity, a true European import, that has demonized homosexuals.

An article in the Guardian titled African myths about homosexuality, written by a man from Zimbabwe, cites pre-colonial homosexual activity in present-day Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina-Faso, Camaroon, Angola, and Benin. In fact, he points out that in Angola, homosexuality was common until the Portugese criminalized it.

Homosexuality was not brought here by Europeans.  Christianity, and its attendant moral code, was.

The Christian Church is the new colonial power in sub-Saharan Africa. The European national powers laid the original and important groundwork for the advances of the church into all facets of life here.  They taught Africans to feel ashamed of their cultures and traditional religions, and left a vacuum when local people did not reap the financial benefits of secular “development.” It was then very easy for the church to step in and fill the void. The control of the church here is far more powerful and complete than that of any of the European powers of the 19th and 20th centuries because it has been welcomed with open arms. There is no “opposition” or “underground movement” against it.

So here are my questions:

  • Why are Africans so quick to renounce their traditional cultures and accept a European-introduced religion that strictly defines how they should live and who they should hate, even while the worst thing people can say here about homosexuality is that it was “brought here by Europeans?”
  • Why the fear around homosexuality? What is the basis for someone to feel personally threatened by the existence of gay people? It is one thing to not like the fact that some people are gay – there are lots of people in the world that I don’t like, too – but what pushes it over the edge to make it seem ok to kill somebody just because you don’t like how they live their lives?
  • How can anyone who is even mildly intelligent believe that people in the West are sending money over here to “recruit” people to become gay? Are you serious?!? The only money coming over here is coming from American Christian evangelicals to promote anti-gay hatred. OK – so maybe that was more an opinion than a question, but it seems that lots of people actually believe this, and I really don’t understand it.

Mark D. Jordahl – Kampala

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About Mark D. Jordahl

Mark Jordahl is a writer, trip leader and naturalist who has lived much of the last 7 years in Uganda and currently calls Colorado home.
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15 Responses to Homosexuality in Uganda is not a European Import. Christianity is.

  1. Pingback: Uganda: Homosexuality not a European concept · Global Voices

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  3. Erin says:

    I have also spent a lot of time in Uganda and had many of the same frustrations as you. I was deeply saddened to hear of the death of Mr. Kato, and I can only hope that some form of social change and/or awareness can come out of his death though I know it is unlikely.

    Like you, I have had many of the same frustrating conversations about homosexuality being a European import that often lead nowhere. I wish I had an answer for some of your questions, but I’m just as baffled.

    One thing I can add, is that my argument usually consists of reasoning that whether you agree with homosexuality or not, it has absolutely no affect on your life unless you make it have an affect. So why get so worked up about it? Just let people be because it really doesn’t affect your life. In response to this argument, I have been told that they believe homosexuality is unnatural and that life in Uganda is very communal. So if there is a homosexual in the community, it becomes a community issue. The uproar, my friend argued, is because Ugandans aren’t nearly as individualistic as Americans and cannot just let someone live how they will. Of course, I still disagree with this argument, but maybe it can help shed some light on the issue.

    • Mark D. Jordahl says:

      Thanks for your thoughts, Erin. I think you (and your Ugandan friends) have a good point about communalism here. However, homosexuals DO get killed in the individualistic United States as well, by people who go out of their way to target gay people who aren’t even necessarily members of their community. There just seems to be some weird, deep-seated fear around it. Maybe if we could figure out the root cause of hatred, we could figure out a vaccine for it.

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  10. Amooti says:

    just imagine two men married and then wanting to adopted a child !! In the first place don’t they know biologically they can’t have children. One of the purpose of marriage is to have children. In African society children continue your linage. If your purpose is to control population then please there better ways to do it

    • Mark D. Jordahl says:

      A lot of women and men are infertile and are thus unable to have babies. In order for them to “carry on their lineage” as you say, or even just in order to give a home to a child in need, they adopt. Is adoption in those cases wrong because they are biologically unable to have children?

      And, for that matter, is raising children strictly a biological imperative? I have found fathering to be one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done. Why shouldn’t people who can’t have children of their own still have the opportunity to experience it?

      Thanks for your thoughts.

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