Ugandan “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality” Surfaces

Jim Burroway

February 15th, 2014

Ugandan Ministry of Health’s “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality”, dated February 10, 2014. Click to download (PDF: 2MB/12 pages).

Warren Throckmorton has obtained a copy of the Ugandan Ministry of Health’s “Scientific Statement on Homosexuality.” He has also posted a Uganda State House press release announcing President Yoweri Museveni’s intention of giving his assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that was passed by Parliament last December without a proper quorum.

Soon after Parliament acted, Museveni scolded Speaker Rebecca Kadaga in a letter for rushing to pass the bill, saying that it was important to find a “scientifically correct solution.” He then ordered a local team of doctors to report back to him on whether homosexuality was genetic. This question appears to be the sole factor in Museveni’s mind on the question of whether people are “born gay,” to the exclusion of very broad range of identified biological, non-genetic factors which have surfaced in the scientific literature over the past three decades. The “Scientific Statement” provided by local doctors barely scratches the surface of the genetic question before dismissing it. It does not explore the many studies addressing laterality, brain structures, pre-natal hormones, maternal immunological responses, etc., which suggest multiple and varying biological foundations for homosexuality later in life. The report however states:

Ultimately, all sexual functions are determined by genes and their interactions with the environment. Thus the causes of homosexuality can be traced to biological, social, environmental, psychological or a combination of them. These influence each other. Reparative therapies to change people’s sexual practices have not proven successful and their scientific validity has remained questionable.

The report then goes on to dedicate more than two pages to the question of whether homosexuality can be “learned or unlearned.” That section again reiterates, “The conclusion from the current body of scientific evidence is that there is no single gene responsible for homosexuality and there is no anatomical or physiological data that can fully explain its occurrence.”

This is true, if one were to expect there to be a single point explanation to explain every individual’s sexuality. In fact, researchers are studying the question from the basis of multiple potential factors, and they uniformly dismiss that fallacy outright. What the hundreds of studies identifying multiple biological foundations for homosexuality suggest is that there are multiple pathways to different expressions of sexuality, and some of those pathways or combinations of pathways may be present in some individuals, while other individuals may be the product of other factors, including different biological factors. In other words, there appears to be multiple biological foundations, rather than a single, clean explanation for homosexuality for every individual. This report fails to recognize the complexity of the question that is recognized in virtually every piece of published research on the subject.

Instead, the report dismisses known biological and physiological data and devotes considerable space in identifying what it contends to be environmental factors in the development of homosexuality:

Psychosocial causes of homosexuality imply that it may be learned through experiences in life. Previous disastrous heterosexual encounters (e.g. erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation) may lead to aversion towards homosexual intercourse. A chance homosexual encounter in early life may be associated with sexual pleasure leading to homosexual relationships being associated with pleasure. The increasing influence of Western culture provides homosexuality as a choice one can make, it’s therefore seen as a socially acceptable option for a few. In conclusion, homosexual tendencies can be taken up based on the person’s judgement on what is pleasurable for them. Why this happens to some people is  not clear, Whereas some homosexuals may take up the behaviour as an open choice, for others it may be due to indoctrination, In summary, homosexuality has no clear cut cause, several factors are involved which differ from individual to individual. It is not a disease that has a treatment. [Emphasis in the original]

The report states that “the essence of homosexuality would be an antithesis for the Darwinian evolution of sex in species largely because homosexuality does not offer an opportunity for the self-propagation of the species,” a common argument posed by anti-gay activists. It continues:

This has been a critical and fundamental argument by some scholars against the non-genetic basis of homosexuality, However, the counterargument has been for group survival, that some individuals in a group not overburdened by reproduction responsibilities would be available to give a hand to weak members of the group (e.g, the elderly and children) as happens in social animals. In our view, at least from existing knowledge and literature, there is no basis for a single, definitive structural genetic basis of homosexuality.

That said, the influence of the largely unstudied processes of epigenetics — which involves non-structural modifications of the genetic code, and represent one of the ways by which we learn many of our acquired traits that we can even pass on to our off-springs, cannot be ruled out.

The report then concludes with an argument for “the need to regulate sexualities”:

Throughout the world, human activity is regulated to ‘safeguard citizens, especially the weak and vulnerable, against the dangers inherent in human activities. Thus human sexuality also needs to be regulated especially as it is the core of the family and hence the nation. At anyone time rules and regulations are based on the current prevailing knowledge and understanding of what is to be regulated. This knowledge and understanding may change depending on the times and circumstances. Today the world has come to the realization that indeed homosexuality is a minority sexual expression practiced by some few members of the community. But, like heterosexuality, it needs to be regulated. No country, in the world today, has come up with a successful way to regulate human sexuality, hence the daily scandals and rapes of this world including sexual and gender based violence or human trafficking for sex. That vulnerable populations (including children, minorities, refugees, the poor, the elderly, mentally ill etc) need to be protected against sexual (and other) exploitations is not in question. African cultures had contained sexual vices. May be we need to revisit them to contain the present explosion of overt and coercive homosexual activity with the exploitation of our young children.

This report appears to have given Museveni the justification he feels he needs to give his assent to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  According to the press release from State House, Museveni spoke on the decision before the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) caucus “amidst ululations and clapping by NRM members of parliament”:

The President emphasized that this is a job for the scientists before reading out a letter from USA scientist about the same debate. (Letter from US scientists to be sent to the media ASAP) “The authorities are these ones, the University Medical School and medical authorities. And since they have put this in writing…me my job is finished. The most important thing is on the three where there is no debate. On the promotion/recruitment of homosexuals no debate; mercenary homosexuals no debate and exhibitionism not debate. Leadership is not a joke. Don’t just sit there because somebody is calling you Your Excellency, Honourable and you think you are a God. You are just a servant and a servant does his best to do the right thing. That is why I want a scientific answer not a political answer. Let the scientists answer this. And according to the way they have answered it, if they mislead us they are the ones who are responsible,” he said.

A final draft of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has not been publicly released. According to multiple reports when the bill was passed by Parliament last December, it will impose a life sentence on anyone who is found to be in a gay relationship or who is a “repeat offender” of any other portion of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Other provisions include criminal penalties for providing lodgings or services to gay people, officiating a same-sex wedding ceremony, or advocated for or on behalf of LGBT people. Museveni has also reportedly told his caucus that he supports a constitutional revision to prevent suspects charged under the nation’s sodomy laws from being released on bail before trial.

Update: You can read the NRM’s press release about the report here.

Sam R

February 15th, 2014

The report goes all over the place and ends up by saying ‘Today the world has come to the realization that indeed
homosexuality is a minority sexual expression practiced by some few members of the community. But, like heterosexuality, it needs to be regulated.’

So homosexuality and heterosexuality need to be regulated. Quite. How about having gender-neutral laws which prohibit all non-consensual sex or sex with minors? Then there is no need for laws against homosexuality.

My suspicion is that Museveni’s actual views are as reported before (convoluted though they were). But Mr M is a master of realpolitik, he does not want to be overtaken on the right by Madam Speaker. By indicating that he was reluctant to sign the bill, he flew a kite and tested public opinion. Now he sees that there is overwhelming public support for the bill – inside and outside his party. So he drums up some cod-scientific explanation which justifies his change of tack.

And if he has to change his mind again, I am sure he will find other scientists to back him up, and then God help the original scientists who gave him the original advice. ‘ “if they mislead us they are the ones who are responsible,” he said.’

Mr M is a great political survivor. Personally I suspect he does not give a damn about homosexual issues, one way or another. However, whatever his motivations, if the bill comes into force, and is enforced, then any resutling persecution of suspects under this act, are on his head. The additional move towards denying bail for suspects of same-sex ‘offences’ is even more worrying.


February 15th, 2014

This once again shows that the label “scientist” doesn’t mean much and that there an untold number of quacks in all fields. Especially the soft sciences where it’s easy to make up shit.

Mark F.

February 15th, 2014

A few thoughts

1. I’m very skeptical of the “gay uncle” theory. There does not seem to be much hard evidence for it, and the effect on survival rates would have to be significant for it to be seriously considered.

2. My view is that gay men have always had reproduction rates above the replacement level due to social pressure. That would be enough to keep the genetic component going, IMHO. Ironically, “gay liberation” could significantly reduce the number of gay men as so many fewer now have biological children.

3. We do know there is a connection between more effeminate behavior and homosexuality in men. Something happens to our brains at an early age to cause this.(Yes, I am aware that there are gay men who were jocks in high school, and are hyper masculine. It’s just a general observation. I was the guy picked last for the sports teams, like so many other gay men, and I probably would have liked to play with Barbie Dolls if my parents had allowed it.)


February 15th, 2014

Thus human sexuality also needs to be regulated especially as it is the core of the family and hence the nation.

So Museveni backs a law that will demand mandatory reporting of family members on threat of life imprisonment.

The core of the family – conveniently reductive thinking that supports dividing families against themselves. Apparently only the core matters. The body of the fruit can be discarded.

The argument seems to be that because the state regulates some things, there’s every reason for it to regulate absolutely anything. And what regulation it is.

How fortunate for Museveni that a whole load of sciency waffle kinda sorta justifies breaking out the regulatory sledge hammer.


February 15th, 2014

As a professor of human genetics, I am shocked by the level of ignornace displayed by so called medical and scientific “experts” from Uganda. These so called “experts” display a level of professional scinetific understanding that is more characteristic of the 12th century thinking of the Dark Ages than the enlightened scholars of the 21st century. It is no wonder that many in the civilized world continue to view Africa as a backwards continent. These self-proclaimed “experts” from Uganda are an embarrassment to all thinking people from Africa.


February 16th, 2014

It seems most reporters are reporting on the press release by the government and not the actual findings of the report. It has serious flaws, but here are its findings:

a) There is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality
b) Homosexuality is not a disease
c) Homosexuality is not an abnormality
d) In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual
e) Homosexuality can be influenced by environmental factors (e.g. culture, religion, information, peer pressure)

Press release version:

-There is no definitive gene responsible for homosexuality.
-Homosexuality is not a disease but merely an abnormal behavior which may be learned through experience in life.
-In every society, there is a small number of people with homosexual tendencies.
-Homosexuality can be influenced by environmental factors such as culture, religion and peer pressure among others.
-The practice needs regulation like any other human behavior especially to protect the vulnerable.
-There is need for further studies to address sexuality in the African context.


February 17th, 2014

Phillip is right on. This reads more like it was written by politicians with scientific phrasing specifically geared to mitigate the President’s fears and encourage him to sign the bill. It is too uncanny that it says everything the President needed it to say. I have never before seen a scientific report so cleanly offering the desired solution to a specific dilemma, even in one bought and paid for by the oil companies or Koch brothers.

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