In Uganda, the blogger known as the GayUgandan is calling it "the final solution."
Though homosexual acts are already illegal in that country, a new bill would penalize homosexuality with tougher penalties – along the lines of life imprisonment and the death penalty. Yes, you read that right. The "Anti-Homosexuality" Bill imposes stricter definitions for "homosexual behavior", extending the definition according to the blog Box Turtle Bulletin, from sexual activity to "merely touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality", and harsher sentences for what the Ugandan Parliament is calling "aggravated homosexuality." It sounds more like aggravated, fearful heterosexuals with hate in their heart. But "aggravated homosexuality"? What is that?
According to the BBC, "aggravated homosexuality" would warrant the death penalty for "repeat offenders" and includes such "crimes" as having sex when you’re HIV positive, having sex with a partner who has a disability, or when your partner is under 17 years old.
Haute Haiku, writing on Global Voices Online, shares that, "The bill further prohibits adoption by gay couples; any person who
aids, promotes, counsels any acts of homosexuality in any way will face
up to seven years imprisonment, or risk a fine…"
These sorts of sympathizers include friends (who are required to "report" when a gay person comes out to them within 24 hours), NGOs that offer services to gay Ugandans along the lines of HIV prevention, producers and/or distributors of materials geared towards gay Ugandans and – yes – bloggers.
The GayUgandan is a blogger who covers "issues concerning gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual and other sexual minorities in Uganda and Africa" and he writes,
"Oh, the gayuganda blog is one of the things which
are illegal, as per that bill. I am furiously promoting homosexuality
on this blog, complaining about a law like this. So, 5 years in prison,
and my (non existent) bank balance will be set back by 100M Uganda
shillings…! And the people who dare to give us condoms and lubricant
for sex… Or, if you dare to have an HIV prevention programme for
homosexuals in Uganda… or even try to teach safer sex. Well, the
penalties are stiff. Very stiff. Jail, and jail and other things."
Lest you think, says the GayUgandan, that international human rights’ treaties will somehow protect gay Ugandans from this law,
"Oh, someone in Colombia
asked me to run there when things become serious here. You know what, I
will have to give up my citizenship. I cannot be gay, and Ugandan.
Because if I go to Colombia and have sex with my lover, then, even if
it is years afterwards, I will be liable to the punishments so legally
laid out in law…!And, and, and, you are
thinking of the international laws and treaties and conventions that
protect other human beings? They are not going to be protective. Not to
a gay Ugandan. No. Because they are going to be neutralized by the law."
And how will law enforcement know of your illegal acts? Your illegal sexual identity? Michael Madill, writing in The Monitor, an independent publication for Ugandans, warns fellow citizens of the real possibility of Nazi Germany like methods being employed,
"Since you can’t tell a gay man or woman just by looking, everyone is at
risk. This puts power into the hands of the snitch, the aggrieved
spouse or employee, the wronged friend or election opponent. Once you
are branded, the stigma and its judicial consequences will be hard to
shake. Are you prepared to suffer imprisonment and possibly physical
violence because someone says they saw you commit an act or saw your name in an e-mail list?"
Frank Magisha, a gay human rights activist in Uganda interviewed by the BBC,
calls these new laws, "a total abuse of human rights." He says his
organization agrees that if Uganda wants to criminalize sexual
violence, sexual acts with a minor, or having sex with someone without
revealing that you are HIV positive, these laws should be entirely
separate from laws governing sexual orientation in his country.
Magisha tells the BBC that it’s evangelicals in his country
who are spreading anti-gay, hateful propaganda in order to drum up
support for this bill – a bill that seems only to legislate their own, religious dogma.
Bishop Ntgali, head of an Anglican church in Uganda, is quoted in The Christian Science Monitor today, "Homosexuality is a big issue in Africa. The
Bible says that only men of good standing, following the word of Christ
can be leaders of the Church. We disagree with our counterparts in
England and America, who ordain homosexuals as priests."
The Christian Science Monitor also notes that,
"Nowhere is this issue more intense than in Africa, where many see
homosexuality as an affront to the community as a whole. In South
Africa, for instance, it is not uncommon for women thought to be
lesbians to be gang-raped in the belief that they will be "cured" of
The current Ugandan law, along with the harsher one on the table, may be born from the influence of the Ugandan church but some see that they are also influenced by an alliance between a well-known American church-leader and a well-known Ugandan pastor as well. Pastor Rick Warren, best-selling author extraordinaire, leader of the Saddleback Church, is a compatriot of the paranoid, religious-extremist voice of Uganda, Pastor Martin Ssempa. Ssempa, according to Max Blumenthal, engages in outrageous acts in the name of denouncing homosexuality in Uganda:
"Ssempa’s stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and
arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local
newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them."
The Formers Blog’s Debbie Thurman writes of this bill and the not-so-curious connection to American anti-gay church leaders,
The American Church has high-profile folks like Rick Warren touting his
PEACE plan and traveling to Uganda and reportedly lobbying behind the
scenes while also hosting Martin Ssempa at his own Saddleback AIDS
conference in the past. I don’t think Warren can pretend he doesn’t
know what is happening or come off looking as if he doesn’t care. He
ought to be speaking up, and I and others have called on him to do just
Warren’s success at infusing PEPFAR (The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) under President Bush with church- and ideologically-based prevention efforts (focusing on abstinence-only and monogamy as the only prevention behaviors over proven, evidence based HIV and AIDS prevention efforts), is well-known. Pastor Warren and Pastor Ssempra, along with the Saddleback Church, have worked closely with Janet Museveni – Uganda’s First Lady – and former President Bush, to craft U.S. international AIDS prevention plans and efforts in Uganda with Christian ideology. Warren’s and Saddleback Church’s actions thus far, of course, cannot be separated from the strong anti-homosexuality message in Uganda, whether by overt influence or more subtle impart.
As Kathryn Joyce wrote back in January of this year, on RH Reality Check,
Michelle Goldberg noted at Religion Dispatches, one of
Warren’s protégés in Uganda, the rabidly anti-gay pastor Martin Ssempa, has
interpreted Warren’s faith-driven solutions to the HIV/AIDS epidemic by burning
condoms at universities and offering faith-healing to disease-stricken congregants."
There is clearly a connection between these kinds of anti-gay, faith-based HIV and AIDS "prevention" efforts and the homophobic, hate law being considered in Uganda. The stigma associated with being gay in Uganda and the faith-driven ways in which the countries’ leaders, with support from church and government leaders in the United States, attempt to address HIV and AIDS will only lead to more deaths should this new incarnation of the anti-homosexuality bill pass.
The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission is taking action, encouraging people to contact Ugandan government officials demanding the "swift dismissal" of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Their sample letter can be sent to officials in both Uganda and ambassadors in the United States.This is about sexual identity, on one level, but about the rights of all of us to live in accord with who we really are, without fear of retribution. What gay and lesbian people are going through in Uganda should be a red, flashing, ear piercing siren that holocausts and genocides begin with this kind of propaganda, fear-mongering and hate.