Moral Panics

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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. This essay serves to define the concepts of moral panics, deviance and perceived deviance, while applying the elements of the moral panic against the perceived deviance of homosexuality in Uganda. Secondly, both the moral entrepreneur and folk devil will be defined and the role of the two agents will be examined. Lastly, the relationship between homosexuality, individuals and socialization will be explored. Moral panics refer to the deliberate sensationalization of an event or action, by the media or government, which threatens interests and societal values. Stanley Cohen, in his work, Folk Devils and Moral Panics. (1987) defined the concept as an erratic episode which subjects society to sessions of mass hysteria; comprising of grossly exaggerated events applied exclusively to issues that proceeds significantly from the dominant norms and values of society. According to Goode and Ben-Yehuda, moral panic consists of the following distinct features: Concern – the awareness that the behaviour of an individual or certain group of indivuals will... ... middle of paper ... ...i-Homosexual Act in 2014 greatly stigmatizes homosexual behaviour and in the instance of David Kato, this stigmatization has led to his persecution as a perceived deviant. This blatant discrimination of homosexuals in Uganda results in their dehumanisation, self-hatred and violence towards homosexuals. As this cycle continues the promotion status quo is upheld by major institutions in Uganda and individuals will eventually become socialized to the point where they homosexuals are regarded as pariahs. The negative stereotypes towards homosexuals in Uganda are primarily, a result of homophobia in the country, which can be compared to prejudices such as sexism and racism. This negative socialization of homosexuals in Uganda can only be changed if societies are exposed to alternatives to the current prejudicial attitudes toward homosexuality and LGBT rights in Uganda.

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