MY DREAM IS TO BECOME AN INTERNATIONAL political economist with emphasis on modern engines of global economic growth – the emerging markets. This profession requires critical political and economic analysis, without biases. Well, at least that’s my opinion. Even on the issue of same-sex marriage I will try by all means not to be biased. Right at the outset, let me be clear, let me be crystal clear; that I’m for gay rights. I believe no-one should be discriminated against nor denied an opportunity to love, because of his sexual orientation. But undeniably, the issue of same-sex marriage is complex when you critically think about it.

We all know that the President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, signed the bill that criminalizes homosexuality in his nation last Monday. There’s been outrage on this move by Museveni. President Obama has described the bill a “step backward”. It’s not only Uganda that has recently banned homosexuality. Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, also signed a similar bill early this year. In fact, homosexuality is a criminal act in most African countries. It wouldn’t, or will not be, easy to convince these countries to withdraw these laws.

President Museveni signs the anti-gay bill last in Kampala early this week (Photo: EPA)
President Museveni signs the anti-gay bill in Kampala early this week. (Photo: EPA)

In most African countries, the citizens are overwhelmingly against gay rights and believe that homosexuality is immoral. Given this reality and a push by people like us for a recognition and respect of gay rights, I think the issue of homosexuality becomes very complex. When I seriously ponder about it, many questions arise.  How do we bring our societies to modern world, where homosexuality deserves recognition?

Usually, when we talk of democracy we normally refer to the “rule of the majority”. For example, as we head to national elections, if the African National Congress (ANC) wins the election with a sweeping victory and gets  a two-thirds majority; that gives them the right to change the constitution. They will change it, even though there will surely be multitudes against that decision. Jacob Zuma will be described the “democratically-elected” president, even though many of us may have not voted for him. But because in our societies the “rule of the majority” prevails, we’ll have to accept the outcome.

Research Picture

The picture above shows that almost everybody disapproves of same-sex marriage in Nigeria. So isn’t it democratic that Nigeria banned homosexuality given the fact that more than 96% (estimation) of Nigerians disapprove of same-sex marriage? In Uganda as well, as shown on the picture, almost everybody disapproves of homosexuality. So doesn’t the concept of democracy apply to homosexuality? If it doesn’t, then clearly we the people should come to terms with the fact that the normal rule of democracy is not always equally applicable to all the situations. Perhaps even some reputable dictionaries need to eject the current definition of democracy, which is the “rule of the majority”.

In most countries around the world, same-sex marriage remains illegal. This is the case even in many states in America. It’s going to take time for the majority of the people to accept this reality and live side by side with the gay. It will not be in my life time.

When the South African government legalized same-sex marriage in November 2006, it had introduced something very taboo (judging by polls) and very much anathema to most South Africans. For sure, if it had held a referendum on this issue, the outcome would surely be a disapproval.  Even today, there are many stories we hear about involving brutal assault on gays. Why? Why is it difficult for people to embrace gays in their communities? Well, that difficulty is indicative of the fact that homosexuality hasn’t really sinked in to most South Africans – sadly. I can assure you, even if you could do a polling today, more people would disapprove of the same-sex marriage. Yet it is legal. So there are many constitutional rights that most of us do not necessarily agree with.

As much as we apply the rule of democracy that I mentioned above, we the people need to come to our senses. Do we really have to jail, condemn or kill those whose partners are of the same sex? If so, based on what? Some say homosexuality is a disgrace to African culture. But culture is just a lifestyle that evolves over time. I’m not well-versed on the history of homosexuality, but what if it precedes African modernity? And we are just unaware.

I, personally, do not have a problem with same-sex marriage. If a man chooses to marry another man, then what does that have to do with me? Why should I deny one his right to love? I believe in “being free to choose” as long as one’s “choice” does not impact the third party without his or her consent. I’ve uttered these words repeatedly.

It’s likely I missed something on this article. But the bottom line is that it seems we’ll have to continue educating our citizens on human rights. That these human rights extend to gays; that we shouldn’t discriminate against someone because of his or her sexual orientation. We can never go backward and reverse the pro-gay laws already passed. Our laws must be enforced to equally protect everyone’s rights. Again, we cannot take a step backward.

Phumlani M. UMajozi is a Professional Business Analyst, a Policy Analyst at Independent Entrepreneurship Group, and Youth Coordinator at Free Market Foundation South Africa.