Tushabe, assistant professor of women’s studies, has been active in researching Ugandan politics and policies in regard to gender equality. Tushabe’s work explores the assumption that sexuality is a characteristic of all human beings and, indeed, has become a “fundamental aspect of individual identity” to the extent that it now defines a person’s essence. Departing from this premise, she elaborates the imbrication of sexuality discourse in human rights language and how this language impacts colonized peoples whose sense of humanity has been erased by colonialism.
In her recent article, “Politics of Change: The Notion of ‘Giving’ and Feminist Struggle in Uganda,” Tushabe problematizes the “no change” paradigm in Uganda’s politics and the notion of “giving” power to women, showing how this approach has weakened gender activism for shared and decentralized power, influential public opinion, democracy and accountability.
Focusing on Uganda’s politics under the leadership of president Yoweri Museveni since 1986, Tushabe explicates various ways in which women are positioned to remain locked in colonial-patriarchal institutions. Despite official policies of gender equity and a supposed ethic of accountability on the part of the government, Tushabe reveals that the presence of women at all levels of government does little to ameliorate decentralized power in Uganda. She proposes alternative transformative routes, ones that remain attentive to differences of people’s gender, class, region and age and insist on full governmental accountability as governments attempt to increase political participation and improving standards of living. This article appeared in the collection Regime Change and Succession Politics in Africa: Five Decades of Misrule, edited by Maurice N. Amutabi and Shadrack W. Nansong’o and published by Routledge Press.
This fall, Tushabe was also awarded a Big 12 Fellowship to visit the University of Texas, Austin to share her research on historical and current constructions of homosexuality, and to develop an international conference and corresponding co-edited anthology on African sexualities. There she presented a portion of her research in a public forum open to the University of Texas campus community.
The presentation is part of Tushabe’s book, Decolonizing Homosexuality in Uganda, which develops a decolonial methodology to understand the social, linguistic, legislative, moral and epistemic formations in indigenous Uganda resulting from the colonial construction of homosexuality since 1879 to present.
Tushabe and colleagues at the University of Texas are addressing the real-world policy consequences of such understanding. In 2009, Uganda’s parliament introduced Bill No. 18, which criminalizes a person who knows about and does not report to the state police anyone who identifies as gay, lesbian or transgender. The bill seeks to institutionalize a death penalty for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Nigeria, Senegal, Cameron, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Malawi have similar draconian laws. Tushabe and colleagues are organizing a conference to examine these legislative moves and movements to retain and regain sexual freedoms in Africa. The conference will lead to publication of an anthology on the topic.