Uganda social work association calls for prohibition on homosexuality

The President of the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda (NASWU), Charles Tuhaise, sent this statement from their organization this morning. Mr. Tuhaise is also a researcher for Uganda’s Parliamentary Research Service. I referred to him in this prior post on the purpose of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In contrast to Martin Ssempa’s distortions of the bill, Mr. Tuhaise is clear that the bill intends to prohibit homosexuality, saying

…you have read the Bill and know that its object is to outlaw all same-sex sexual conduct. The question of “consenting adults” therefore does not arise. All same-sex sexual conduct is proscribed under the Bill.

Thus, even though adults may give consent, the intent of the bill is to make such consent illegal. In the following document, the NASWU, led by Mr. Tuhaise supports comprehensive prohibition.

The NASWU is affiliated with the International Federation of Social Workers. Mr Tuhaise told me that the IASW is aware of the document which has generated support and criticism. I fully expect that IASW as well as most mental health organizations will issue critical statements soon.

The statement is lengthy and will commence in full after the break. I am not putting this in block quotes because some of the formatting will be lost. I will comment further on this statement in another post.  



March 23, 2010

1.      Understanding the role of the Social Work Profession:

The National Association of Social Workers of Uganda was established in 1973 to promote the Social Work profession in Uganda .

The Social Work profession exists to promote the well-being of individuals, groups, families, communities and entire nations, through integrated application of knowledge and professional skills to enhance social functioning. Social Work deals with many situations in a state of “dysfunction” and its goal is to restore “social functioning”, defined as “the ability of individuals, groups, organizations, communities and nations to interact in the normal or usual or expected way in society”. Since its emergence as a professional occupation around 1900, Social Work has helped nations to solve such problems as Poverty, Alcoholism, Crime, Delinquency, Prostitution, Child abuse and neglect, Domestic violence, Family breakdown, Mental Ill-health, to mention but a few.

NASWU has noted that on October 14, 2009, Ndwora County West MP, Hon. David Bahati presented in the Parliament of Uganda a Private Member’s Bill titled: The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. The object of the Bill is: “to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (1) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (2) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any non-governmental organization inside or outside the country”.

Following the tabling of the Bill, a local and international debate has erupted. Views have been expressed in support of the Bill or against the Bill. Such views range from those that welcome the Bill as good and timely to those which question the basis of the Bill. Some of the views disapprove certain provisions in the Bill but agree that the Bill is necessary, while others see the whole idea of this Bill as persecution and violation of the rights of people who regard themselves as homosexual and wish to attain total acceptance in society.

Because this issue falls a great deal in the purview of the Social Work profession, NASWU has deemed it necessary to respond and provide professional guidance in the on-going debate. The purpose of this statement is to ensure that Uganda and other nations in Africa and around the world develop appropriate policy responses to the issue of homosexuality. Professional ethics demand that professional bodies like NASWU provide guidance that is free of political influence; because when wrong policies are developed based on politically-based positions, it is members of the public who suffer or miss out on the good life they could have enjoyed. Ethical practice also demands that where professional errors have been made in the past, they be recognized so that corrective action can be taken for the greater good of society.

2.      What do we learn from History?

In this regard, NASWU would like to inform the public that the issue of homosexuality, i.e., the practice of sexual behavior between persons of the same gender, although it has occurred in some societies for millennia, it has been discouraged in most societies as abnormal and harmful behavior with potential to spread in the population once tolerated. In all societies throughout history, it has been self-evident that the normal pattern for human beings as well as for all living organisms in general is for males to unite sexually with females, whether reproduction was a goal for such union or not. In fact, until 1973, the American Psychological Association (APA) listed homosexuality among abnormal conditions requiring the clinical intervention of Psychologists.

However, following widespread circulation of literature developed by Biologist Alfred Kinsey in his studies of human sexuality (Sexual Behavior in the Human Male – 1948) and (Sexual Behavior in the Human Female – 1953) in which he claimed that up to 10% of American society was homosexual, the views of American society towards homosexuality began to change. Kinsey also claimed that it was harmful for people to exercise sexual restraint and encouraged American youth to be sexually active in any manner they wanted, including practicing bi-sexuality. Kinsey invented the term “sexual orientation” which legitimized homosexuality and bisexuality and equated these practices with heterosexuality. It was several years later that Kinsey’s studies were refuted as fraudulent, because empirical evidence showed that those claiming to be homosexual in America at the time were no more than 2% of the population. Kinsey had intentionally skewed his data to support his “political” views about homosexuality and he clearly had intention to create political clout for the homosexual movement. Indeed, the social activism that resulted from Kinsey’s fraudulent claims about homosexuality put so much pressure on the American Psychological Association (APA) that it eventually removed homosexuality from the list of abnormal conditions (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – DSM) in 1972, largely due to the picketing and protests staged at its professional meetings.

In spite of this stand by the American Psychological Association, scientific studies over millennia have consistently showed that there is no genetic basis for homosexual behavior. All authoritative scientific studies, including studies of twins, reject the view that homosexuality is genetic or innate. It is therefore wrong to compare homosexuality with immutable (unchangeable) characteristics like skin color or gender or physical disability, which the individual has no control over. Homosexuality belongs to the category of other disapproved behaviors that humans in most societies recognize as self-evidently abnormal and harmful and require everybody to learn the discipline of avoiding. These norms and values are also often codified into laws that all members of society are expected to observe.

3.      Social Work has responsibility to help individuals overcome behavior difficulties:

Given this background of homosexuality as a behavior-management problem, NASWU would like to inform the public that a key function of the Social Work Profession is to assist individuals experiencing difficulties in behavior. Social Workers (especially those who have trained in Clinical Social Work) are usually equipped with counseling skills to assist individuals experiencing irregular behavior patterns including same-sex attraction, and where necessary, referral to other professionals like clinical psychologists or religious leaders (where spiritual intervention is understood and accepted by the client) may be done. Where these interventions have been done properly and ethically, hundreds of people have overcome homosexuality and achieved appropriate social functioning.

NASWU, however, regrets that because of the misinformation and political activism that began in the late 1940s and 1950s, some professional bodies today have taken political positions on the issue of homosexuality to avoid conflict with certain powerful activist groups that have emerged from the gay-movement. Because of the stance taken by some professional bodies, many clients experiencing same-sex attraction are not given proper information and advice about homosexual attraction and its potential to be overcome.

NASWU calls upon all professional organizations worldwide to restore ethical practice by adopting a principled stand on the issue of homosexuality and by putting in place safeguards against political influence in professional decisions.

4.      Understanding how human behavior operates:

In considering the phenomenon of homosexuality, there is need to consider how the dynamics of human behavior affect this issue:

1)       In behavior management, indulgence in a given behavior conditions an organism to continue exhibiting such behavior with greater intensity, especially where the behavior is accompanied by a powerful reinforcer such as orgasm, which occurs during sexual behavior. Non-indulgence in a given behavior on the other hand, results in a process called “extinction” in which an organism gradually looses the tendency to exhibit certain behavior responses. These patterns have been studied and verified by social and behavioral scientists. Persons experiencing same-sex temptations would therefore be strongly advised to NOT indulge such temptations, but to resist and direct sexual behavior to opposite sex persons.

2)       When behavior achieves social acceptance and legal approval, it easily spreads through the process of social learning, experimentation and modeling. This most likely explains why homosexual practice is more prevalent in societies where legal approval and social acceptance are higher. This also explains why throughout history, nations have used the law to prevent or curtail the spread of undesirable behavior.

3)       Human behavior may be influenced at the spiritual level. Human beings are composed of three main parts, namely: the body, the soul and the spirit. A human’s spirit can either be empty or inhabited by a good (or holy) or bad (or evil) spirit. These spiritual forces are capable of influencing human behavior beyond the voluntary control of the person possessed by them. This is why, in the New Testament Bible, Jesus cast out evil demonic forces from people exhibiting what psychologists would term “schizophrenia”, and the affected persons immediately recovered normal behavior patterns. Demonic activity can be violent or latent as in the case of Mary Magdalene, a woman whose work as a prostitute had demonic link, until she met Jesus. For this reason, Social Work should include the study of the spiritual dimension of life and how it may be applied to promote well-being and social functioning.

4)       Human behavior can be influenced at the level of the soul. The soul consists of the “Mind”, the “Will” and the “Emotions”. When individuals understand with their mind the justification for not behaving in a certain way, that strengthens their ability to exercise their “Will” to “reign-in” their emotions, which are often difficult to control.

5.      The question of human rights:

From the professional standpoint, when clients come to a professional practitioner, be it a doctor, a lawyer or a Social Worker, they have a right to be given accurate information about the matter troubling them. The professional practitioner must not withhold any information pertinent to the matter at hand, because professional help exists to assist clients make informed choices. Therefore, the tendency to argue that same-sex attraction is an innate condition and that persons who experience such attraction have a human right to engage in homosexuality, obscures vital information clients should be given and amounts to professional misconduct. In civilized society, attraction to somebody or anything, of itself, does not legitimize indulgence of that attraction. A right to indulgence must be assessed on whether natural, health, social and cultural considerations would judge that indulgence as justified.

Alfred Kinsey’s argument of ‘sexual orientation’ is a misnomer because it is based on the “attraction principle”. But, based on this argument, a married man who feels attracted to other women [as universally happens] would be justified to claim that “adultery” is his sexual orientation. Or a thief could claim that “shop-lifting” is their orientation. Or “violent anger” could pass as an “orientation” and be excusable. Based on the “attraction” argument, there is no reason to legislate against pedophiles who claim that their orientation is to have sexual relations with children and that children have capacity to consent such relations. The truth is that in real life, human beings may feel attraction to all kinds of things, but these attractions must be subjected to natural, health, social and cultural considerations to decide what is permissible or not. Only animals can live life basing on instinct, but humans must subject their behavior to reason, which animals are incapable of. Human society is inconceivable without each person learning how to exercise restraint on “attractions” and consciously choosing to behave in acceptable ways. The “restraint principle” is what makes human society livable.

On the question of consenting adults and what harm they constitute, this argument denies the connectedness of society. In systems analysis, society is like an organism with different parts but all of them connected together. The behavior of my neighbors, for example, is part of my children’s socialization system. What each individual does reverberates throughout society. That is why it was thought in United States that gays could do their thing if they wanted, but when it came to marriage, this right is being resisted because it involves changing society’s collective beliefs and practice such as what children should be taught in school, whether parents or the church can teach against homosexuality, whether a house or hotel owner could refuse to rent to a gay couple based on their beliefs or conscience, etc. For these reasons, in all 31 of 50 states where gay-marriage has come up for referendum vote in US, it has been resisted. It is delusional and unsustainable, however, to allow the population to practice a behavior which they cannot consummate as marriage. Any restrictions on same-sex marriage must first involve restrictions on homosexual behavior itself.

Human rights standards will be satisfied when Social Work practitioners exercise the ethical responsibility to give full and accurate information to persons experiencing same-sex thoughts and attractions, that homosexual thoughts and attraction are part of a range of thoughts and feelings that may occur to people in varying degrees of intensity, but the proper response is not to indulge and reinforce such thoughts and feelings. Instead, when resisted, such thoughts and feelings gradually reduce in intensity until they are no longer of significant social concern. All humans must resist and overcome feelings of one kind or other. Traditionally, the law is an additional means of helping us with behavior management.

The Social Work profession must apologize for any mishandling of the issue of homosexuality in the past and resolve to provide professional guidance to clients that is free of political or other considerations.

6.      Homosexuality and Public Health risk:

Homosexual practice is associated with serious public health risks that our under-developed health systems are ill-equipped to handle. Even in developed countries, citizens are resisting the tax-burden originating from runaway healthcare costs.

Male Homosexuality is associated with rapid spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) like HIV and Hepatitis B and C. Because of heightened risk of disease among Men who have sex with Men (MSM), the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy prohibits blood donation by Men who have sex with men. Drug-resistant infections like rectal gonorrhea and complications like fecal incontinence would be rare in the public health system without the practice of anal sexual intercourse, but school children in Uganda are beginning to present with these rare diseases due to involvement in homosexual activity (as argued by Hon. Obua Ogwal in the Parliamentary debate on the Anti-homosexuality Bill, 2009 when he talked of a newspaper report of a school boy found with rotting anal orifice after involvement in homosexual activity). Some rectal infections may be drug resistant and complications like fecal incontinence require expensive specialist surgery:

Penicillin is ineffective at treating rectal gonorrhea: this is because other bacteria within the rectum produce ?-lactamases that destroy penicillin. All current treatments are less effective at treating gonorrhea of the throat, so the patient must be rechecked by throat swab 72 hours or more after being given treatment, and then retreated if the throat swab is still positive.” [Wikipedia]


“Fecal incontinence is the loss of regular control of the bowels. Involuntary excretion and leaking are common occurrences for those affected…. One study among 14 anoreceptive homosexual men and ten non-anoreceptive heterosexual men showed that anoreceptive homosexual men have decreased anal canal resting pressure relative to non-anoreceptive heterosexual men and no associated fecal incontinence. Another study among forty anoreceptive homosexual men and ten non-anoreceptive heterosexual men found a very significant increase in fecal incontinence (fourteen, or 35% amongst the anoreceptive men, and one, or 10% in the non-anoreceptive sample) amongst the anoreceptive sample”. [Wikipedia]

These diseases constitute preventable health crisis that any government must act early to prevent. It is noteworthy that anal and oral sexual intercourse may result in unique strains of gonorrhea (rectal or throat gonorrhea) that are resistant to ordinary anti-gonorrhea treatment. This is probably proof that nature abhors abuse (“abuse” is a grammatical construct: abuse = abnormal use):

Homosexual practices are also known to expose an individual to varied and extreme risks to their physical and psychological health. These scientific findings strongly justify state legal measures that prohibit sexual conduct against the self-evident natural pattern, because there are harmful public health consequences of unnatural sexual conduct which the state is justified to take measures to prevent.

Secondly, given that the risk of HIV infection is so much higher among male homosexuals, increased practice of homosexuality and bi-sexuality threatens to reverse the commendable progress Uganda has made against HIV/AIDS, of reducing infection rates from 18% to today’s national average of about 6%. Bi-sexuality is a particularly risky practice because it creates a disease transfer linkage from a high risk population to the general population. These preventable health threats partly justify legal measures to prevent the spread of homosexual behavior.

7.      NASWU’s specific guidance on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009:

We conclude this statement with the following guidance about the proposed Anti-homosexuality Bill, 2009:

Our independent findings show that this Bill was necessitated by extraordinary developments in Uganda and around the world which have been widely documented and reported in the media, including:

a)      increasing incidents of homosexual abuse of children and youth by people exercising power and influence over them like teachers, pastors, parents etc. A recent report shows this. Uganda: Child Abuse rampant.;

b)      recruitment of youth into homosexual practice with inducements including money. (Homosexual admits recruiting students).  While Uganda has a law that currently prohibits sexual “acts against the order of nature”, this law is not comprehensive enough to cover the promoters of these acts. 

c)      promotion of homosexuality by some organizations, including a pro-gay book by UNICEF circulated in schools without seeking permission of the Ministry of Education; (UNICEF Book supports teen homosexuality). The draft law seeks to stop promotion and further recruitment of unsuspecting children and youth into homosexuality.

d)      creation of organizations whose sole purpose is to promote homosexuality in Uganda ; (e.g. (Sexual Minorities Uganda); (Integrity Uganda); (Freedom and Roam Uganda)

e)      government-led campaigns at the UN led by some countries like France and Brazil to secure a UN General Assembly resolution imposing homosexuality as an internationally protected human right. For example, on November 18th 2008, France and Netherlands initiated a campaign which seeks to use the UN to push homosexuality on other nations of the world.

f)        the mistake in western society, where the issue of homosexuality was handled lightly as a minor, private issue, but these societies are waking up too late on realizing that the matter affects how their entire society is ran, what children are taught at school and literally what everybody “must believe and practice”. This waking-up is for example seen in anti-gay-marriage campaigns in United States, where US citizens are fighting to retain traditional family values against stiff competition from gay-activists in 31 states where the matter has come up for a referendum vote, winning such ballot battles by the skin of their teeth. As expected, these countries are stuck with a huge population of their citizens that has been recruited into homosexual practice over decades of tolerance to the practice, that has seen the rise of powerful, well-funded organizations that regularly misinform children and youth about homosexuality and recruit them into their ranks. This discontented population is justifiably angry against a society that allowed them to practice behavior they cannot fully celebrate as marriage and is demanding equality for self-evident disordered and harmful behavior. This represents mismanagement of human behavior by public institutions in these countries, because legal safeguards were not put in place early enough to prevent the spread of homosexuality and related practices.

Given the aforementioned information about homosexuality and human behavior and these developments in Uganda and internationally, we advise as follows:

  1. NASWU rejects the view that same-sex attraction is an innate “orientation”, rather, it is part of a range of feelings individuals ought to learn to bring under control as they mature;
  2. There is justification for Uganda to put in place appropriate legislation to comprehensively prohibit homosexuality;
  3. The Anti-homosexuality Bill has drafting errors in the way some offences and penalties are conceived, that should be corrected before its passage;
  4. The clause requiring mandatory reporting of all known homosexual offences should be amended to exempt disclosure made in counseling situations, in organizations licensed to offer same-sex counseling services, to encourage those experiencing same-sex attractions to seek professional help on behavior management. To be licensed, such counseling organizations must sign an undertaking not to dispense pro-homosexual advice to their clients.
  5. The Parliament of Uganda is acclaimed worldwide for writing some of the best laws in the world. The Anti-homosexuality Bill will go through the established scrutiny that all bills undergo before they become law. As in previous instances, an appropriate law will emerge from this process that even other countries may want to emulate. Members of the public as well as Social Workers should express their views to the concerned committee in Parliament to ensure that their views inform the law-making process.

///(end of statement)

Watch the blog for further comments on this statement as well as reaction from the international mental health community.

HT – Alan Chambers…

9 thoughts on “Uganda social work association calls for prohibition on homosexuality”

  1. we are now living in a pluralistic world where the confinement of issues to singular aspects nolonger holds value,we must learn to begin arguing with definitions and explore the world in which we are part and response for.Which marriage is blessed in church on ground that the coupels must have achild and what happens if they donot?Shame on Charles Tuhaise and Uganda as awhole.Respect human rights

  2. Further to my previous post, I should add that Charles Tuhaise has been replaced as president of the National Association of Social Work Uganda. The new leadership explicitly does not support the legislation and regards the earlier statement as Tuhaise’s personal views.

  3. As the chair of the International Federation of Social Workers ethics committee, I must point out that the position of the IFSW has not changed since 2010. The Federation, which represents social work professionals internationally continues to oppose in the strongest terms the NASWU’s involvement in this bill.

  4. The public statement of the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda (NASWU) about homosexuality is disturbing both in terms of intent as well as of facts (e.g., ALL reputable studies have reputed genetic influences on homosexuality – a statement which is unsustainable in the scientific literature). Mark Hatzenbuehler, et al., (1,2) recently published two studies in the American Journal of Public Health which documented increases in psychopathology within the gay and lesbian population when American states passed legislation which was considered antagonistic to them (such as defense of marriage laws prohibiting gay marriages). The two studies provided concrete evidence for the assertion that institutionalized prejudice harms the mental health of the people who are targeted by that prejudice.

    The NASWU phrases its targeting as an “apolitical” stance which is focused on what is best for people in a structured society. The NASWU stance, however, is disingenuous and clearly carries an animus which is unacceptable in modern day mental health circles. The stance cannot help but harm the mental health of the lesbian and gay populations in Uganda. The “illness model” of homosexuality which the NASWU is touting, was popular in the first half of the 20th century but has long since been discarded by mental health professionals in the United States as scientifically unsound and ultimately harmful. In my experience, few mental health professionals currently view homosexuality as a choice and even fewer believe that homosexuals are “recruited” into homosexuality by other homosexuals.

    The question that needs to be asked is why Uganda is so defiantly challenging Western society on the issue of homosexuality by proposing draconian legislation which imposes long prison sentences — and even death sentences. While the proposed legislation calls for the death of any gay person who is HIV positive and engages in gay sex, the same legislation presumably has not been proposed for straight HIV positive people. (In Africa, HIV is spread predominantly through straight sex.) While the defiance might be seen simply as an expression of a culture that is predominantly Christian (84%) with a religious tradition of proscribing homosexual behavior, I believe the defiance has other roots.

    Since Uganda’s independence from Britain in 1962, the country has gone through many governments and coups. The horrific and psychotically sadistic carnage of Idi Amin in the 1970s still dominates the memory of many Western people. Child slavery and child soldiers are still a problem in parts of Uganda where rebel groups forage. I believe that Uganda is seeking self respect. By cloaking themselves in Biblical passages, some Ugandans are saying in effect, “The rest of the World has become unholy, but Uganda is exemplary because it stands with God.” By scapegoating a relatively insignificant minority in Uganda, Uganda is able to make a strong international statement about how it sees itself among other nations which it perceives as looking down on Uganda as primitive and immoral. Gays and lesbians are immaterial to that statement and are easily sacrificed by the Uganda majority which is struggling so fervently to achieve a better sense of self-esteem in the World arena. Such secondary agendas are often at the root of the intransigence of groups which seemed to be unaffected by reason and rational thought. I believe that the solution to fighting the brutal laws against gays and lesbian in Uganda ultimately is not found in the challenging of the law, but rather in a long term effort to help Uganda achieve self respect so that it does not need to scapegoat any of its minorities.

    David L. Scasta, M.D., DFAPA

    Hatzenbuehler, ML, McLaughlin KA, Keyes KM, and Hasin DS. The Impact of institutional discrimination on psychiatric disorders in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: A prospective study. American Journal of Public Health. March 2010 (Vol. 100; No. 3), Pp 452-459.

    2 Hatzenbuehler ML, Keyes KM, Hasin DS. State-level policies and psychiatric morbidity in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. American Journal of Public Health. 2009, Dec; 99(12):2275-81. Epub 2009 Oct 15.

  5. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual is published by the American Psychiatric Association, not the American Psychological Association. The psychiatrists removed sexual orientation from the DSM; the psychologists supported that decision in 1973.

  6. social workers throwing demons and evil spirits from ancient middle eastern fables into the legislative process… did these people go to school or learn anything from their work, at all?

    The Parliament of Uganda is acclaimed worldwide for writing some of the best laws in the world.

    These are social workers, bragging about laws in a country where “attempted suicide” is still a crime.

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