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Humanism in Uganda

Watch Humanists International's Kato Mukasa describe the experience of being a humanist in Uganda
Being a humanist to me means being a person that puts human beings first being a person that doesn’t look at humans in terms of their religions, in terms of their tribes, in terms of their races. A person looks at people because they are human beings like you and who put their values, their interests, their purposes in life, about life, and outlook first. It’s being sociable, it’s being a person concerned with human rights, a person concerned with the entire humanity, not in terms of their agenda, not in terms of the types of backgrounds but because there are humans and because you respect the values humans should stand for.
Being a humanist in Uganda is quite a challenge especially because being humanist is also equated to being an unbeliever because a humanist, apart from putting people first, at the same time, you don’t promote any gods. I’m in a country where people are extremely religious, extremely superstitious, people believe in all sorts of gods, people believe in all sorts of myths and superstitions so a humanist in Uganda is looked at as an infidel by some people, is looked at as a Satanist by some other people, is looked at as a pagan. There are dangers involved because a humanist is going to promote values, is going to promote aspects of things or practices that sometimes are contrary to the common belief that are
contrary to common practice.
For example, a common humanist is going to say: Why should you hate a homosexual? Why don’t you love a homosexual like you love your brother and sister? Why should you hate a prostitute? Why should you hate a person because you don’t agree with them? Why don’t you find a way of tolerating them, accepting them, allowing them to be what they are so that all of you can co-exist? A humanist is going to preach unity, is going to preach love, is going to preach tolerance which sometimes some other faiths don’t accept.
We are campaigning for a free society. We are campaigning for a secular society. We are campaigning for a tolerant society. We are campaigning for an accountable country, accountable leadership, accountable human beings. What we are campaigning for is a society that puts critical thinking first, not gods first, not faith first, not superstitions first.
So these are things we campaign for: an open society, a society that accommodates, that is tolerant for each and every person. Including human rights, the right of women to inherit land in my country, the right of women to not go through female genital mutilation, for example. The right of prostitutes to have rights, to negotiate safe sex, to use condoms. One of our targets has been to teach people to be tolerant with homosexuals in my country. I live in a country and like much of Africa, where homosexuality is criminal and even supporting those who are homosexual is criminal. We have been able to fight the anti-homosexual law which became an act a few years ago in my country.
Able to go to Parliament with other actors and we campaigned against the law, and the law was quashed about three years ago in Uganda. We’ve been able to campaign for secular education in our country by opening up the first humanist schools in Africa. We have over 13 humanist schools in Uganda where we are teaching children religion because it’s compulsory but also critical thinking as part of the menu so that they are having a balanced kind of view in terms of education.
Once people are informed from the ground, from the grassroots, they’ll be able to empower themselves through poverty, they’ll be able to raise children who are able to think for themselves, who would ask questions, and we believe that the moment we have a society of humanists, people loving each other regardless of their skin colour, regardless of their race, regardless of their sexuality, what we have is a society that is free, equal, and purposeful, and helpful for everyone, not for individuals. A country working for everyone not just individuals with power but it can be serving everyone regardless of who they are, and a country responsible for the environment, for today, and for tomorrow, and for a better future.

Kato Mukasa is the founding Chairperson of the Humanists Association for Leadership, Equity and Accountability (HALEA), started in 2008, past Chair of the African Working Group of Young Humanists International, and currently the Chair of the Uganda Humanists Association (UHASSO) and Director at Pearl Vocational Training College, where he trains students in Humanist studies and Critical Thinking. He is a board member of Humanists International.

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Humanist Lives, with Alice Roberts

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