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Comment: Why Uganda’s homophobic legislation must be stopped

Daniel Edward Pitt December 6, 2009
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Blogger Daniel Edward Pitt’s personal take on the horrors that could be unleashed by Uganda’s proposed anti-gay legislation.

I wish to express my moral outrage at the piece of proposed legislation under consideration in Uganda. It was proposed on 13 October 2009 by Member of Parliament David Bahati and would, if enacted, broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality in Uganda, including introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, who are HIV-positive, or who engage in sexual acts with those under 18, introducing extradition for those engaging in same-sex sexual relations outside Uganda, and penalising individuals, companies, media organisations, or NGOs who support LGBT rights.

This piece of despicable homophobic propaganda has caused much shock and anger in the Western world, except of course by Christian right-wing fundamentalist rednecks who support the bill unequivocally. One claimed that the impetus for the bill was a lot of external interference from European and American gay activists attempting to do in Uganda what they’ve done around the world – homosexualise that society.

As a young, gay man I have grown to become sick of how regressive conservatives try to ram their archaic, invalid beliefs and religions down our throats every second of the day. And now this has come, I think it’s about time we fought back against the injustice of the ignorance, intolerance, hatred and division they are attempting to impose on every corner of everyday social life.

It gets even worse – if passed, the bill will require authorities who are aware of anyone who is offending this act to report them within 24 hours. If an individual does not do so he or she “commit[s] an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 250 currency points or imprisonment not exceeding three years.” Currently, Uganda criminalizes homosexual sexual relations for being “against the order of nature,” in keeping with the traditional common law treatment of buggery.

This goes much further than many people realize though; if the rights of LGBT people are still contravened by diabolical, narrow-minded theocratic dictators in Uganda, could it spread to the rest of the world? Britain has been slow on the uptake when it comes to equality – and as for America there are still laws actively ENCOURAGING discrimination in some states. This devastating news is a blow to international equality, diversity and ultimately social justice; so why isn’t the Western world doing enough to stop this monstrosity of a bill to occur?

On 3 December 2009 the Swedish government said that it would revoke its $50 million development aid to Uganda if the bill passes, calling it “appalling.” Sweden had a long-term relationship with Uganda. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt stated that he “thought and hoped we had started to share common values and understanding.” The Ugandan government has stated that the aid cuts would not deter the passing of the bill, and that it will not compromise.

So what can we do exactly? This seems to be a Catch-22 situation in many terms; if we do nothing then the marginalization of LGBT people will continue. But if we speak up about this we could potentially exacerbate the situation. We cannot stand by idly and let this brutal genocide occur though – did we stand by when fifteen million were killed in the holocaust for being Jewish, gay, lesbian, disabled, mentally ill etc. as it was simply “Germany’s Problem” that they were living under a fascist dictatorship? No we didn’t. Why should we allow the current Ugandan government to set an example for international extremist hatred of minorities? How long will it be until Western society is influenced by this, indoctrinated and blinded by the glare of hatred and fear?

The bill itself would create some of the harshest laws in the world related to homosexuality. It would call for the execution of LGBT people who are HIV-positive, and give lifetime prison sentences to other LGBT folks. It would also threaten to throw in jail straight people who do not report suspected LGBT people to government authorities, and set mandatory jail time for anyone who speaks favourably about LGBT rights. It’s kind of like institutionalizing the Salem Witch Trials for the 21st century, on a global level.

So now, it’s a game of geopolitical chicken: will Uganda dare the international community to react harshly toward the country by instituting a bill that runs contrary to human rights? And just how far are foreign countries like Sweden, the U.K., the U.S. and Canada willing to go in order to stop this barbaric bill from becoming law, and leading to what many think will be a gay genocide? The ball, of course is in the court of the Ugandan government. All we can really do is hold our breath whilst praying that the cooling reign of social justice will prevail over the hideous face of prejudice and discrimination.

Daniel Edward Pitt blogs at Heart of a Nation

More: Africa

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