LETTER OF THE DAY - Don't mix religion with politics
THE EDITOR, Sir:
And so it was, while many in Jamaica and elsewhere were busy celebrating Emancipation Day, the freedom and right to be who we are, many of our brothers and sisters in Uganda were busy celebrating a different type of emancipation.
The courts in Uganda struck down the anti-gay law imposed by the ruling government which made Uganda one of the most brutal and homophobic places. The anti-gay law, which was originally intended to impose the death penalty, was later revised to life imprisonment.
The law, though extreme compared to ours, where gays could be imprisoned just for being gay in Uganda, in essence isn't much different from Jamaica's. The emphasis in Jamaica is based on actual sexual activity (ignoring consent), and the punishment here is less severe.
The ruling in Uganda has set the tone once again to show that we're indeed living in a changing world, where education is the basis of emancipation, and that values and attitudes towards gays are evolving.
Fighting losing battle
I've said before homophobes are fighting a losing battle. People are entitled to their personal views, but what they are not entitled to do is to impose these views publicly where people's lives could be endangered, or their human rights could be violated. Although a small step for Uganda's LGBT community, it is a giant step in the right direction.
The Ugandan anti-gay law created much controversy and resulted in international outcry against the Ugandan government, tarnishing relations, especially with the West. And, although the ruling could possibly be appealed, a natural recourse in the law, it is likely that Uganda's Government, which is tightly controlled by President Yoweri Museveni, a former guerrilla fighter who has been ruling for close to three decades, must be having second thoughts.
The ruling could also be a wake-up call for those in Jamaica who support the archaic buggery law which could imprison persons up to 10 years. It is interesting to note that Uganda's anti-gay movement began only a couple years ago when American fundamentalist preachers went to Uganda and worked closely with legislators there to draft a bill that called for putting gays to death!
Our own fundamentalist church leaders, who are often labelled 'the local Taliban Church', should also take note. Religion is personal. We worship privately in groups, and we have the right to choose our churches, our faith, where, when and how we worship.
When we start to mix the business of religion with the business of the State, history shows this never works. Slavery was once endorsed by religion, for example! This is why the State should always separate itself from the Church, especially when it comes to drafting legislation and protecting human rights!