Moral Panics Essay

1828 words - 8 pages

Throughout history, homosexuals have been persecuted relentlessly for their supposed immoral and grossly indecent behaviour. December 20th, 2013 saw the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act-2014 (previously noted as “Kill the Gays Act” by Barry Malone, 2011) being passed with a hefty penalty of life imprisonment for individuals found guilty of same-sex relations. Crippling economic sanctions placed on the country, local newspapers “outing 200 top gays” (Fry, M: 2014) and the associated international outrage all leads to the pertinent question: Is Uganda experiencing a moral panic? Drawing from Stanley Cohen’s definition of moral panics, the issue of homosexuality in Uganda will be contextualized. ...view middle of the document...

Essentially, the creations of moral panics are tools utilized by governments and the media to maintain social order.
The issues of “deviance” and “perceived deviances” are intricately woven into the fabric of moral panics. Moral panics involve the identification of a subversive minority engaging in “deviant” behavior- behavior that is a recognized violation of social and cultural norms.(sociology textbook). Approximately 500 000 gay indivuals live in Uganda, a country with a total population of 31 million (source) . Laws accepted by the government of Uganda, criminalized homosexuality on 24th February 2014. These laws are fragments of British colonials who deemed the behaviour “unnatural” for the Ugandan population, effectively raising the “concern” regarding homosexuality. Furthermore, any behaviour not adhering to the social norm of heterosexuality is therefore classified as deviant behaviour. According to a Ugandan reporter “Africans see homosexuality as being both un-African and un-Christian" (Dana Huges: 2009) Uganda, along with numerous other African countries deem the act of homosexuality as a distinct form of “otherness. It must, however, be noted that this “deviance” of homosexuality and its associated punishment are not always applicable to all sectors of society. For example, the governments of South Africa and Namibia are the only official supporters of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights in Africa. This interpretation of homosexuality in Uganda, by society, in an unfavorable way is therefore referred to as a “perceived” deviance.
David Kato was, perhaps, the most outspoken advocate for LGTB rights in Uganda ( Jeffery Gentlemen; 2011) . Kato, one of 100 men, had their names and photographs published in a Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone, which appealed their execution as homosexuals. The photos, published under the headline of “Hang Them” (Xan Rice; 2011) included the individuals’ addresses (CNN November 2010) . On the 26th of January 2011, Kato was beaten to death with a hammer. (McKay,Robert 27 Jan 2011) . The case of David Kato, highlights two distinct features of moral panics : Hostility and Consensus. Gays in Uganda, like many other African countries, currently face an environment of physical abuse, vandalism to their property, blackmail, death threats, and "correctional rape” (Jeffery Gentlemen, Xan Rice) . A clear divide has been drawn in Uganda- those who aide and abet homosexuality and those who persecuted and are staunch supporters of the Anti-Gay bill. Secondly, majority of the Ugandan society accept that homosexuals pose a real threat to their society. An illustration of this is when local villagers refuse to bury the remains of openly homosexual individuals or those accused of being homosexual, within the ancestral village graves. (reuter. 2011) Thus, the near moral panic in Uganda has become a powerful tool for maintaining the social order by stigmatizing the homosexual identity and defining...

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