We have seen a recent furore in Rwanda concerning a potential bill criminalising homosexuality. This was perhaps cynical reactive reflex to the bill proposed in Uganda that even imposes the death penalty for certain acts.
Maybe out of naivety or prudishness there is no mention of homosexuality in our penal code, it only becomes an issue if it involves underage persons.
That makes us relatively enlightened compared to other African countries albeit by default. I was not in any way bothered about this issue, until I saw a close relative of mine campaigning for gay and lesbian rights. She recently came out as a lesbian but the fact that she has children complicates the matter.
This issue is really complicated; it is about norms verses changes, it is about the rights of the individual verses wider society.
The Uganda bill proposed by David Bahati MP has made it an issue of sovereignty verses aid. A number of Western nations have now threatened to withdraw aid unless Uganda blocks this bill.
These western nations have been desperately looking for a reason to stop aid payments and now they think they can engineer social change in the bargain.
Museveni was facing his biggest crisis with rioting of Baganda federalists, now all is forgotten and people are united against gays.
Having achieved most of their objectives in the west, the Gay movement is shifting its focus to Africa and the developing world. They form a sizable bloc
vote and bring along liberals into any party they vote for. They are now demanding social engineering in exchange for aid and want to see the changes that took centuries in their societies to happen in Africa in moments.
This is the problem with receiving aid, you eventually have to do what the donor asks. The Daily Monitor ran a headline “Minister: We will not bend over for aid.”
The sad fact is that they will have to if they want to live the aid-fuelled lifestyle they have gotten used to.
There is no point legislating on this, we have bigger problems that we need to deal with. Our societies are not yet evolved to have the means of production that can support a gay lifestyle.
The only country in Africa where it is legally acceptable is South Africa, even there it is dead legislation, merely cosmetic to look liberal.
In reality Gay people are killed everyday in South Africa and the law cannot help them because society is still hostile.
We must keep our penal code the way it is, we must not have reactive legislation that is unenforceable. This issue shows us the importance of being self-sufficient, otherwise donors will always tell us what songs to sing.
We should respect all people, but we should also have some privacy and respect with regards to sexual matters.
Africans will never replicate the liberalism of western society where individual freedoms count more than the whole. We should aim to define our own morals and ethics and not have them dictated to us.
Even better we should try to remember our traditional values and not blow in the winds that change everyday.
Rama Isibo is a social commentator