Fox Odoi-Oywelowo was one of two Uganda MPs who voted against the bill. (Photo: NBS network)
Uganda's parliament recently passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023, which includes prison terms for gay people in that country. A group of Ugandan mothers of LGBTQ+ individuals wrote an open letter in defense of their children.
Originally published in Monitor.
What You Need to Know
It is our understanding that the Anti-gay rhetoric and messaging is targeted to demean and dehumanize our children, even as it is guised as a form of protection of children from ‘recruitment’ and a morality war.
In the last few months, we, as parents of LGBTQ+ Ugandans, have watched in trepidation and deepening concern, as religious fundamentalists, publicly elected officials, and anti-gay lobbyists have organised a dangerous movement against our adult children.
It is our understanding that the Anti-gay rhetoric and messaging is targeted to demean and dehumanize our children, even as it is guised as a form of protection of children from ‘recruitment’ and a morality war. We strongly reiterate that one cannot seek to protect children from an invisible enemy by launching and sustaining a dangerous anti-gay messaging and campaign that is inadvertently putting other people’s children at risk. This is offensive at so many levels because it strips Ugandan citizens that identify as LGBTQ+ of their constitutional rights.
We have watched our children be vilified, disparaged, and publicly castigatedthat is, verbally threatened, physically targeted, and abused for who they are and for whom they love, based on unsubstantiated, false, and unchecked allegations, such as the ‘recruitment of children and erosion of Ugandan culture’, all in an attempt to misrepresent facts and manipulate the fears of fellow Ugandans. No parent should ever be put in such a position as we find ourselves today least of all by a legislative body elected by Ugandans to represent and pass laws that protect all Ugandans. We have always loved our children, and this did not change when we learned that they are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex respectively.
Religious fundamentalists continue to condemn our children as outcasts and criminals who are destined for imprisonment through the mainstream and social media. It has been horrific to watch this form of hate speech against our children.
We monitor the media every day with bated breath, with heavy hearts, with a burden of fear that has been forced upon us by the country, a fear of our children going to jail for many years simply for being different, being different is not a crime.
As Parents of LGBTQ+ individuals, we are not ‘promoters’ of any agenda; we are Ugandan mothers, who have had to overcome many of our own biases to fully understand, accept, and love our children. We have always known that our children are “different”-from a young age and, in many ways, tried to turn them onto the path that we felt would be safer, a path of conformity to a norm that we now understand is not innate to LGBTQ+ children.
We tried all means necessary, including prayer, recrimination, and different forms of punishments to force them onto the path that we selfishly thought would be right for them, and us.
In the process of doing so, we were inadvertently threatening to take away the only refuge that a child has: a safe and loving home, free from violence, unrealistic expectations, and hate.
All our children, no matter their age, sexual orientation and gender identity, need and deserve our love. This is the very basis of what a family unit is about. Home is more than just structures, it’s a safe haven and refuge of love, learning, and belonging. Just like our children did not choose to be LGBTQ+, we too did not choose to be parents of LGBTQ+ children, but we have chosen to love our children for who they are. As parents, we all desire and work to ensure that our children are healthy, well-educated, successful, and fulfilled in both their professional and personal lives. We fear that our children are going to be targets of mob violence; which is a direct consequence of living in a country whose legislators are recklessly legalizing homophobia and transphobia with this Anti-Homosexuality law. We know this to be true: Our children are not sinners; they are children of God! Our children are not outcasts. Our children are not punching bags; our children are not enemies of the state. Our children are not disgusting. Our children are not any of the derogatory names they have been tethered with; our children are not criminals or anti-government. Our children are more than their sexuality and gender identity. Our children are Ugandan citizens, just like you and me! Our children are outstanding citizens of this great nation, and valuable contributors to this country. Our children are your neighbors, employers, educators, casual laborers and employees, government officials, legislators, and local leaders. Our children are ingrained in every facet of the Ugandan Society. They are part of the beating heart of Uganda: Our blood and future.
As mothers, we can no longer stand on the sidelines and watch as our children continue to be bashed and threatened in such a dangerous and deliberate manner. We request you, our cherished President not to assent to Anti- Homosexuality Bill, and we ask that you instead task Parliament to enact laws that protect all Children from all forms of violence and discrimination.