NYT Calls For Withdrawal of Funding from Uganda if “Gay Hate Bill” Moves Forward


This morning, a New York Times Editorial joins calls by many in the human rights community for the US to withdraw international development funds from the government of Uganda if it passes legislation that would, among other things, impose the death sentence for homosexual behavior and make family, community members, clergy and others "accessories of crime" if they do not "report" homosexual behavior.

The United States
and others, writes the Times, "need to make clear to the Ugandan government that such
barbarism is intolerable and will make it an international pariah."

Stigma, discrimination, and violence against lesbian, gay and transgender persons is part of a much broader set of social marginalization in Uganda.

As the Times notes:

Corruption and repression — including violence against women and children and abuse of prisoners — are rife in Uganda. According to
The Times’s Jeffrey Gettleman, officially sanctioned homophobia is
particularly acute. Gay Ugandans are tormented with beatings,
blackmail, death threats and what has been described as “correctional
rape.”

While in many settings discrimination is often heavily veiled by socially acceptable language and dissembling, in Uganda hatred for homosexual persons is blatant even among government officials. 

“Homosexuals can forget about
human rights,” James Nsaba Buturo, who holds the cynically titled
position of minister of ethics and integrity, said recently.

[R]ight now, concludes the Times:

the American government, and others, should make clear to
Uganda that if this legislation becomes law, it will lose millions of
dollars in foreign aid and be shunned globally.

I have to agree. 

Some in the global AIDS community have argued that withdrawing funding from Uganda will endanger those people suffering from AIDS-related illnesses who have gained access to anti-retroviral therapies as a result of US funding, and that withdrawing such aid will put their lives at risk by reducing funding for essential medicines. 

But the reality is much more complex–and the leverage the United States holds much greater than usually portrayed. 

For one thing, the US provides direct bilateral assistance to the government of Yoweri Museveni in many areas, including HIV and AIDS programs, food programs, and military assistance, among other streams of funding.  Moreover, the US provides a great deal of its assistance both through international technical agencies and through non-governmental organizations on the ground in the country, through grants and agreements that originate from the Department of State and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

The U.S. could in fact channel more aid–for ARVs and for other health programs–more directly through international agencies and NGOs than through direct bilateral assistance to the Musevenis, untold amounts of which have in any case been used by both President Museveni and by his wife Janet Museveni to fund the growth of the very fundamentalist movements in Uganda now responsible for the legislation in question.  Janet Museveni, for example, has used U.S. funding for prevention of HIV infections among women and girls to launch "virginity campaigns," and hold "virgin parades" in the streets of Uganda.  Much of what we send to Uganda as bilateral assistance is long overdue for review in any case.  

Moreover, the sheer amount of aid from the US going directly to the Musevenis has helped support not only rabid anti-homosexual activity, but other forms of discrimination, denial of essential health services for women, intimidation of political opponents, questionable election practices, and more generally a government that is, as the Times points out, prone to massive corruption and repression.  Those who spoke out against the government, like my colleague Beatrice Were, were intimidated, harrassed, and threatened with death.

Money talks.  It was loud enough during the Bush Administration for Museveni to rewrite the history of his own once-successful HIV and AIDS campaign from its comprehensive approach to HIV prevention in the nineties to one that portrayed Uganda as a poster child for abstinence-only programs, a shift made solely to promote the agenda of evangelical christian groups in the US and in Uganda, resulting in an increase in HIV infections in a country once lauded around the world for its success in stemming the spread of HIV. For this, Uganda was rewarded with hundreds of millions of dollars of funding from Bush under PEPFAR.  

If this Obama Administration is serious about change, then witholding money for the Musevenis unless this bill is shelved, and re-directing funding such that essential health services are delivered through more accountable international agencies is one place to start.  

 

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  • mickaka

    Any aid cuts to Uganda over the bill will not deter (members of parliament) MPs from passing the bill into law.
    It is revealing that support to Uganda literally translated means abiding with the givers regardless of what Ugandans themselves think.
    We rather do without your handouts and preserve Uganda’s longest standing morals.
    The people of Uganda existed and survived before the US came in to give support and will continue to survive with or without handouts from abroad.
    After all, we ordinary Ugandans never see your over-hyped “aid” (used to fight your war on terror)-which is stolen by our corrupt leaders and your politicians…

  • jodi-jacobson

    So in this instance you are saying that it is "moral" to advocate for the stigmatization of, discrimination against, and killing of fellow human beings because they were born with a different sexual identity than your own?

     

     

  • lbauer42

    Yes, we in the US will keep our morals, and I feel pretty good about not giving such a country any aid.  Yeah, they existed before we ever sent aid, so I’m cool with with stopping.

  • harry834

    It is revealing that support to Uganda literally translated means abiding with the givers regardless of what Ugandans themselves think.

    And doesn’t the evaluation of 
    "what Ugandans think" include those Ugandans that have been hunted and tortured by their society, police, and soon this new law?

    It should be enough that gay Ugandans will be treated this way, but the family and friends of gay Ugandans will face penalties too.

  • mickaka

    Am a Ugandan and am surprised at the amount of furore generated by the bill. Yes, it’s a BILL. A private Member’s Bill to be exact. It means that the views therein are an individual’s views and that parliament will first debate them.
    In almost all democracies Members of Parliament have a right to propose legislation. Don’t you believe in democracy?  What is wrong with Ugandans discussing this issue? Didn’t you put this issue under a vote in NYC and california?

    If you don’t believe in democracy, you can cut your ‘aid’. China is lurking somewhere around and watching with keen interest.

    It sounds like  American totalitarian liberal activists lead by Rachael Maddow who see
    themselves as "more civilized, more educated, or more aware" than the
    natives are once again trying to force their norms and values onto the
    African continent. Haven’t you learned anything from your previous meddling
    into African affairs?

  • ahunt

    Haven’t you learned anything from your previous meddling
    into African affairs?

     

    Clearly not…or we might not be having this discussion.

     

    Perhaps you ought to view the withdrawal of all financial assistance as an unwillingness to meddle in Ugandan affairs.

  • jodi-jacobson

    Yes, of course I believe in democracy and human rights, a central tenet of which is not to allow majority rule or discrimination against a minority and vice versa.  In other words, the protection and promotion of basic, fundamental human rights as recognized in many international agreements, and to which Uganda is a signatory, are a critical aspect of any real democracy.

     

    The issue here is not whether some lone, ideologically-driven fundamentalist legislator might propose a bill such as this; yes we have such backward thinkers in our own country and yes there are unfortunately a number of these in our own Congress.  The real issue is why more educated Ugandans in the government and across society are not speaking out vociferously against this bill; why we are constantly reminded that "the majority of Ugandans support it," and why so many are so willing to engage in the further marginalization and discrimination and villainization of a whole class of persons.   Why are so many people in the country trafficking in misinformation and rumor about people who are different simply in that they are not heterosexual?

     

    And more to the point, what exactly is "moral" about all of that?  The word "moral" is used rather widely to condone a great deal of hatred, support bad policy and perpetuate stereotypes.  The reality is that these are the "morals" of people who feel their power is threatened or who seek power at the hands of others….as happens when the Catholic Church seeks to deny women essential services or when evangelical fundamentalists in Africa and the United States hide behind morality to spread hatred.

     

    It isn’t to me about whether there should be debate.  It is that I see very little actual debate, but rather a great deal of hate-mongering based on misinformation, rumor, ideology and sheer hatred of those who are different from you for no other reason than that they are different from you.

     

    And to be very honest, I don’t consider the Museveni government–based on recent history–to be a model of democratic principles or to support open debate, so I would suggest there is at best a limited definition here of what democracy entails and at worst a twisting of the fundamental meeting of democracy to meet a rather radical and, in my own view, immoral agenda of perpetuating hatred for narrow ideological and religious purposes….most of the time based on and also perpetuating ignorance and fear.

     

    With best wishes,

     

    Jodi

  • crowepps

    Perhaps the withdrawal of the aid will give Ugandans an opportunity to get rid of those corrupt leaders, so it sounds like a win-win solution all around.

  • crowepps

    In almost all democracies Members of Parliament have a right to propose legislation. Don’t you believe in democracy?  What is wrong with Ugandans discussing this issue? Didn’t you put this issue under a vote in NYC and california?

    In almost all democracies when representatives propose legislation the people and the press scrutinize it closely and hold heated debates about it.  The votes in New York and California were about whether gays should be allow to MARRY, not whether they should be executed.

  • crowepps

    It is revealing that support to Uganda literally translated means abiding with the givers regardless of what Ugandans themselves think.

    I cannot believe that anybody thought for even a second that such support would come without any strings.  Surely it’s understood that the person who pays the musicians gets to choose what tune they will pay.

     

    When your country gets over 40% of its income by appealing to the pity of strangers, it is wise to remain pitiable — donations dry up when the image is instead that of intolerant religious fanatics attempting to foment an anti-gay Inquisition.

  • mickaka

     Your understanding of democracy and human rights is flawed. So after allowing gays, next is bestiality, pedophilia ? Human right to sleep with your dog, cat, horse etc…?  Next we shall see thieves and corrupt officials saying …Am naturally dishonest, I have a human right to steal .Where is the limit?

    The West presents its culture as universal–using terms as human rights, universal freedom, global war on terror etc….The assumption is that other societies can only become civilized if they abandon their cultures and embrace the Western ethos. Behind this agenda there is race, racism and racialism….this is intended to subjugate non Western peoples. On the surface, it appears to be just homosexuality but there is a deeper meaning…a cultural and racial war. 

    Have you ever heard Europeans or Americans condemn Saudi Arabia or Asian countries for their laws against homosexuality? ( they are even
    more harsh). Why do Western countries specifically point out African countries? Why is the West so obsessed with homosexuality in Africa
    yet we have more pressing problems like lack of education, clean water, poor health, poverty etc… This is pure RACISM with a colonial mentality. Why care about homosexuality so much but ignore the welfare of the people?

    We, Ugandans like 95% of the other countries in the world believe that homosexuality involves practices that are dangerous and high risk to the human body which is designed for heterosexual functions.

    American totalitarian liberal activists  want to blame American conservatives for the attitudes of the vast majority of the world against the public practice of homosexual behaviors rather than face the fact that the values held American liberals put them squarely among a very small minority.

     Apart from the usual bashing of other countries, I would have loved to see comments on Guatanamo, Abu Ghrab, Banghram..( Americas torture chambers)..then invading other countries, sending drones that kill innocent civilians.., secret prisons around the world, the US refusal to sign the international convention on land mines, selling weapons to militias around the world etc etc……No sensible country takes the US seriously on human rights …a country that developed from slave labor and committing genocide against native Indians.

     

    Regards From Uganda

  • ahunt

    So after allowing gays, next is bestiality, pedophilia ? Human right to
    sleep with your dog, cat, horse etc…?  Next we shall see thieves and
    corrupt officials saying …Am naturally dishonest, I have a human
    right to steal .Where is the limit?

     

    I just can’t take the shot…so instead I will point out that since homosexuality is NOT pedophilia/ bestiality/thievery/political corruption…but rather a normal and healthy state of being…your conclusions are completely irrational.

  • emma

    Hi Mickaka,
    I think I can understand your resentment of American neo-colonialism. I’m a white person living in a colonial, genocidal settler state (Australia), and I resent it, and I haven’t suffered from it in the way that most countries in Africa have.

     

    And I agree with you that the ‘liberal’ media in places like the US and Australia have been astonishingly silent (with a few exceptions) on war crimes committed by their previous government and probably their current one. Plus there’s the fact that they’re bombing four countries now (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and now Yemen) and funding Israel’s massacres of Palestinians. And, as you point out, the human rights abuses, including torture, at Guantanamo, Bagram and Abu Ghraib. I agree that hearing Americans preach to other countries about human rights is difficult to take seriously.

     

    BUT. This bullshit hypocrisy does not mean there is no merit in the idea, the concept, the goal of respecting the rights of all human beings. We certainly haven’t got there, but I still think it’s an ideal worth working towards. I also think it’s tremendously unfair to make gay Ugandan people pay with their lives for the human rights abuses, imperialism and hypocrisy of much of the West.

     

    Furthermore, ultra-conservative, gay-hating Christianity is itself a product of Western imperialism. You may find this article to be an interesting read. Please do have a look; it is quite fascinating – or was to me, at least.

     

    EDIT: Just to be clear, I very much disagree with Mickaka’s views on homosexuality. I think the post raised some good points, however, and I wanted to focus more on those.

  • harry834

     

    to make gay Ugandan people pay with their lives

     

    A major point Mickaka. We’re asking you to please not ignore this.

  • harry834

    Please, I’m being serious.

    If two people were homosexual, but also consenting legal adults, not having sex with animals, working with their doctor to practice safer sex (like we all should, with condoms and testing) would you still deem them worthy of punishment?

  • harry834

    When your country gets over 40% of its income by appealing to the pity of strangers, it is wise to remain pitiable

    "to remain pitiable"?
    Crowepps, I know you support aid to countries, and only in cases like these that involve horrible human rights abuses, do you support taking it away (I support that too), but the sentence you chose has a bad ring to it.

  • crowepps

    It may have a bad ring, but it’s also realistic.  Foreign Aid comes out of the pockets of Americans and while Americans overwhelmingly support aid for desperate people out of pity/compassion, even when that desperation is created by the failures of their own government/society as in case, it seems pretty counter productive to me for a member of the society benefiting from that aid to argue that he/his society should be able to rely on that pity/compassion while at the same time having none themselves for their fellow citizens.  Having defined themselves as haters and killers, especially against the families of gays, the pity/compassion will quickly evaporate.

     

    It’s even more counterproductive to further assert that "we ordinary Ugandans never see your over-hyped "aid" (used to fight your war on terror)-which is stolen by our corrupt leaders".  Why should we send more money to his corrupt leaders?  Especially if it will be used for a war on gays?

     

    And of course it’s ironic that the man is objecting to American liberal protests against anti-gay discrimination when the fact is that the big push against gay Ugandans was generated and is being fueled by ‘American totalitarian conservative activists…who see themselves as more moral and more aware" than the natives, once again trying to force their norms and values onto the African continent’.

  • harry834

    overwhelmingly support aid for desperate people out of pity/compassion,
    even when that desperation is created by the failures of their own
    government/society as in case…Having
    defined themselves as haters and killers, especially against the families of gays, the pity/compassion will quickly evaporate.

    That aid without condescenting language (“wise to remain pitiable”) should be available, even for problems they might have created themselves…but only up until they start hurting other people – this standard I agree with you on.

    They do lose their right to verbal sympathy and financial aid once they start hurting others. Yes.