This week the Science Inside celebrates its 16th show by looking back at some of the best interviews and stories from the last few shows. Uganda’s ban on homosexuality, a way to study space if you’re blind, an update on those still obsessed with the Oscar Pistorious trial and the “Rising Star Expedition”, which looks at the famous fossil-finding excursion.
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Wits University has released a statement regarding the anti-homosexuality laws that have recently been passed in Nigeria and Uganda. The statement is reproduced in full below.
“MESSAGE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE VICE-CHANCELLOR AND PRINCIPAL
DATE: MONDAY, 3 MARCH 2014
STATEMENT FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND PERTAINING TO ANTI-HOMOSEXUALITY LEGISLATION IN AFRICA
The University of the Witwatersrand notes with dismay and concern recent legislation in Nigeria and Uganda that criminalises women and men who express themselves through relationships other than those defined as heterosexual. It also decries the targeted violence that has accompanied this legislation in these and other countries.
While academic debates may focus on the extent to which human sexuality is a result of nature or nurture, or whether it is inherent to Western or African culture, the reality is that diversity in terms of sexual orientation is part of the recorded history of virtually all societies.
Tolerance and acceptance of such diversity has not been easily secured, but those nations that have afforded equal rights to sexual minorities alongside a multitude of other diverse identities can justifiably claim the benefits of an equitable and just environment for their citizens who live in, and actively contribute to an inclusive and productive state.
The University of the Witwatersrand values diversity and believes that its student and staff body should reflect a multiplicity of race, gender, socio-economic background, urban and rural geographic origin, culture, ethnicity, disability, religion, national origin and sexual orientation.
Indeed it believes that everyone has a role to play in furthering human development and that diversity can only enhance learning and the generation human knowledge. Such principles are the foundation of university policies and are underpinned by values enshrined within the constitution of South Africa.
It is the University’s view that recent legislation in Africa and elsewhere that seeks to criminalise sexual minorities, runs counter to these values and in addition contravenes key articles contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is apparent that these legislations are driven, not by a desire to address true criminality but rather are projected by an incomplete understanding of human sexuality compounded by an orchestrated campaign of hate towards vulnerable groups.
South Africans understand only too well the damaging legacy that hate founded on institutionalised prejudice can deliver and that while the seeds of hate are easy to sow, they can take generations to uproot once they have spread and taken hold. Leadership carries with it a huge responsibility, not least of which is protection of minority rights from the ebb and flow of opinion amongst the “moral majority”.
The University (that counts amongst its staff and students, thinkers from across the continent of Africa), stands with other academic institutions in urging leaders to reflect carefully on what they have allowed to pass and points out that history will judge harshly those who are responsible for imprisoning others as a result of whom they love.
We strongly urge that these laws be rescinded and encourage others who value the sanctity of Universal Human Rights to call for the same.”
Justice Edwin Cameron meets and greets well-wishers at the launch of his book Justice this week.Photo: Luca Kotton.
by Luca Kotton and Roxanne Joseph
Being gay or even supporting gay rights is now illegal in Uganda and can lead to life imprisonment.
Less than a week ago, President Yoweri Museveni signed the anti-homosexuality bill into law and since then, the onslaught from both local and international communities alike has been significant.
The act “prohibits any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; prohibits the promotion or recognition of such relations and to provide for other related matters.”
First drafted in 2009, the bill originally proposed the death penalty, but was later amended to life imprisonment because of international pressure.
Having sex with someone of the same gender, marrying someone of the same gender and touching someone of the same gender with “intent” to engage in a sexual act will land you in prison for the rest of your life. Officiating a same-gender marriage, aiding or counselling an LGBTI individual, offering premises or supplies to an LGBTI individual and directing a company or NGO that supports LGBTI rights leads to prison time of five to seven years.
Despite the watered down version of the bill coming into law, several countries – including Sweden, Denmark, Norway, the US and the UK – have pulled financial aid from Uganda, one of the world’s poorest nations (as classified by the World Bank).
South Africa’s Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke said “oppressors like (Ugandan President Yoweri) Museveni should not be allowed to flourish.”
Speaking at the launch of Justice Edwin Cameron’s book Justice, on Thursday night, Moseneke added his voice to the condemnation of Uganda’s recently signed Bill. Cameron is one of South Africa’s most prominent gay rights activists and a colleague of Moseneke at the Constitutional Court. [Read an extract from Cameron’s newest book here.]
No official condemnation of Uganda’s anti-homosexuality act has yet been issued by the South African government.