Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Homosexuality: Like Terrorism, A Disease, “Spreading Like Wild Fire”

Ugandan newspaper editor Giles Muhami has some pretty horrendous things to say about homosexuality: that it’s similar to terrorism, that it’s a disease, and that it’s “spreading like wild fire.” Be sure to protect your kids.

Muhami recently printed a newspaper article in his Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone (not to be affiliated with the U.S. magazine of the same name) that calls for gays and lesbians to be hanged.

For mainstream media to promote hatred and violence against any human is deplorable. In my travels through central and western Africa, I have listened to hatred and ignorant ideas about gays and lesbians; it’s even worse to see anti-gay opinions published in African newspapers as fact, irresponsible journalism unconcerned with the privacy of the gay and lesbian Africans named in these articles.

But even more than privacy or social ill, the negative reporting is a matter of safety for gay and lesbians. At least four people have been attacked since the article was published:

Carrying the headline “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos,” the article came out just days before the one year anniversary of the introduction of a controversial bill in parliament that would make homosexuality, which is illegal in Uganda, punishable by death in some cases.

I had thought the Bahati Bill–anti-gay legislation introduced by David Bahati, a member of the Ugandan parliament–had died down. Apparently, the hate against LGBT Ugandans (and supported by evangelical churches in the U.S.) is as present as ever.

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Filed under: gay rights, hate, homophobia, world, , , , , , ,

Gay Couple in Malawi Pardoned

Heartening news from eastern Africa: the president of Malawi has pardoned the gay couple who were sentenced to 14 years of hard labor.

The BBC reports that President Bingu Wu Mutharika announced the pardon during a visit by UN head Ban ki-Moon. Mutharika seemed to enact the pardon with a sense of duty and under international pressure, still hewing to his country’s discriminatory culture:

“These boys committed a crime against our culture, our religion and our laws,” he said after meeting Mr Ban.

“However, as the head of state I hereby pardon them and therefore ask for their immediate release with no conditions.”

Whether a political move or out of humanitarian largesse, the release of Monjeza and Chimbalanga is welcome news. Perhaps the win for human rights in Malawi will affect the virulently homophobic culture in other African nations.

On a related note, Current television broadcast a fantastic documentary about the anti-homosexual legislation in Uganda called Missionaries of Hate. A thorough, well-researched piece of investigative journalism that I highly recommend.

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Filed under: africa, gay rights, global justice, world, , , , , , , , , , ,

Stripping Human Rights in Malawi

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I’m horrified by the news that Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga were sentenced today to 14 years of hard labor for being gay. In Malawi, homosexuality is against the law.

I’m horrified–in place of the sadness I used to feel–because the judge in Malawi who sentenced them was so vitriolic and hateful in his sentencing. Perhaps reflecting public sentiment, Judge Nyakwawa Usiwa-Usiwa said that he wanted to protect the public “from people like you”. Human rights advocates around the world have condemned the act; a U.S. State department official said that the United States was “deeply disappointed” with the conviction.

Many countries on the African continent have searing, anti-gay laws. In Uganda, the proposed law that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by death is stalled in parliament. In Nigeria, a college student was clubbed to death because he was gay. And in 36 countries in Africa, being gay is not only a social taboo, it is a crime.

Reminds me, of course, of Oscar Wilde’s sentencing to hard labor more than a century ago for the same crime. With Malawi’s legal stance on homosexuality, what are the implications for gay rights–much less human rights–for other nations in the African continent?

Filed under: africa, gay rights, social justice, , , , , , ,

Celebrating Women in Uganda

Photos: Esther Havens

Do you take drinking water for granted?

There’s some interesting charitable work in Uganda organized by a non-profit called “Charity: Water” that I just learned about. I caught one of their PSA’s on the Internet the other day, and what interested me was the way it imagined a scenario in which Westerners had to obtain potable water like millions in developing nations: with a yellow water jug, carried across city blocks, traffic, miles–each and every day.

The PSA shows Western families and businesspeople dragging the ubiquitious yellow jugs that you see everywhere in Uganda and Rwanda through the streets of a city like New York. Equally shocking is the dirty water poured into a clean glass at the table of one of these privileged families.

1.1 billion people don’t have access to clean drinking water.

Charity: Water’s blog captures much of their daily work, now in Haiti, but one of my favorite posts celebrates the women in northern Uganda who are managing their own water well (over there, it’s called a “bore hole”). I love the way that these photos by the photographer Esther Havens captures the joy and power of these women.

Especially appropriate given it’s International Women’s Month.

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Learn more about how you can help communities like these here.

Filed under: global justice, water, , , , , ,

Archbishop Tutu Says No to Hate

“Hate has no place in the house of God,” writes Archbishop Desmond Tutu in today’s Washington Post.

“No one should be excluded from our love, our compassion or our concern because of race or gender, faith or ethnicity — or because of their sexual orientation.”

A rising hatred of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered Africans has led to increased violence in communities across Uganda, Kenya, and Senegal (to name only a few). Tutu, the legendary peacemaker from South Africa and recipient of the Nobel Prize, affirms the humanity of all people:

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people are part of so many families. They are part of the human family. They are part of God’s family. And of course they are part of the African family.

And what does Tutu say to those who live by dogma, who deny homosexuality because it goes against God’s will?

Show me where Christ said “Love thy fellow man, except for the gay ones.” Gay people, too, are made in my God’s image. I would never worship a homophobic God.

Such a loving and necessary statement from a man of great faith.

Filed under: global justice, religion, , , , , , , ,

Publications

BIOGRAPHY

RECENT PUBLICATIONS
» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
June 2019
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About Me

Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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