The Ugandan homophobia bill has been ‘shelved’, says the BBC, an action which has been the overwhelmingly vocal desire of the Western political world and it’s foremost figures, ‘some of whom’ the BBC comments, ‘are celebrating ‘victory’.’
It’s the gently suggestive quotation marks that highlight the ambiguity of the phrase, and the guilty implications in the decision to shelve the bill rather than the truimph of a progressive outlook. Since time immemorial, private acts have been thrown to the center of politics, there to take on an embarrassingly public history. There are human rights, and there are crimes of personality.
During a conversation I was having with a friend about a year ago, she was describing watching something having to do with this bill, some scene of parliament, perhaps on television, where a vague but mostly hopeful decision was made against the bill. She recounted how, on receipt of the news in court, a chorus of (white) onlookers cheered. In it she saw a disturbing but all-too-recurrent metaphor for Western patronization. There was the obvious other side of it–too obvious–that a moral clash doesn’t necessarily have to do with a power complex. Western intervention happens, obviously, when the West sees certain threats to its own values mirrored in a much more violent way in cultures outside of itself, and vicariously seeks to correct them. Laws in other countries are changeable, while public opinion, the only boulder that really stands in the way of already supposedly liberal governments, is something we’re powerless to change.
In brief, the current debate in Uganda is complicated, no less so in its most recent overturn. The news is good, but not indicative of good; hopeful, but not inciteful of hope.