patient serif;”>David Healy considers the impact of Uganda’s Anti Homosexual Bill and how our government may respond

Two weeks ago many celebrated the re-election of Barack Obama, the first US President to endorse same sex marriage. Many also celebrated the successful passing of same sex marriage bills in the states of Maryland, Maine and Washington (the first time in American history that same sex marriage bills have being passed by popular vote). As many in America basked in what was triumphed as the turning tide towards inclusion and respect for those who identify as homosexual, news emerged from another part of the world that shook the gay and lesbian community.

                Last week the parliament of Uganda announced that it was to press ahead with its controversial ‘Kill The Gays’ bill. The Anti Homosexual Bill in Uganda was first mooted in 2009 as a way of “protecting against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity on the people of Uganda”. When the bill was announced it drew wide spread condemnation both within Uganda and from around the world, with many countries such as the UK threatening to pull their foreign aid programs out of the country. Prominent political figures rose up against the Bill; Obama described it as ‘odious’ while Canadian politician John Baird called it ‘vile, abhorrent, and an offence to decency’.

               Speaking last week at the announcement that the bill would come into law before the end of the year the speaker of the Ugandan parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, asked the parliament to look at the bill as an “early christmas gift” to the people of Uganda.

“Anyone found guilty of ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’ is to be executed.”

               So, what ‘presents’ does Ms Kadaga see St Nicholas bringing to Ugandan homosexuals this year? The Anti Homosexual Bill is divided into two parts: ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’ or ‘The Offence of Homosexuality’.

Aggravated Homosexuality’ is defined as homosexual acts committed by a person who is HIV-positive, an authority figure, someone who administers intoxicating substances, acts committed on minors or people with disabilities and repeat offenders. Anyone found guilty of ‘Aggravated Homosexuality’ is to be executed.

The Offence of Homosexuality’ includes same-sex sexual acts, involvement in a same-sex marriage, or an attempt to commit aggravated homosexuality. The bill also includes penalties for, companies, media organisations, or NGOs that know of gay people or support LGBT rights. Those who are found guilty of any of the above face life imprisonment.

               The ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill vilifies gay and lesbian people in Uganda portraying them as paedophiles, drug dealers, carriers of disease and as people who abuse the most vulnerable in society. It is an attempt to distort the perception of the gay and lesbian community within Uganda’s 31 million population in an attempt to dissuade any person or group from supporting the gay and lesbian portion of that population, which is estimated at half a million. This has become known as the cleansing of Ugandan homosexuals.

               This is not the first time Uganda has being linked negatively with LGBT rights, rather, the Bill merely highlights Uganda’s continuing attack on gay and lesbian people and abuse of the human rights of its own citizens. This has been going on for some time.

               In October 2011 a Ugandan tabloid magazine posted the names, addresses and pictures of Uganda’s ‘Top 100 Gay & Lesbians’. Depicted alongside the article was a large banner reading ‘HANG THEM’. Less than 3 months later one of the people included in the list, activist David Kato, was found dead in his home having been bludgeoned with a hammer in broad day light. The Ugandan authorities deemed the incident a ‘robbery’. Others on the list were attacked and stoned on account of their perceived sexual orientation. Separate news outlets in Uganda have stated that suicide bombings in the country were linked to homosexuality and that the gay agenda in Uganda threatened the nation’s stability.

“Homosexuality is outlawed in 38 different African States”

               Many are shocked by the conditions that the LGBT community in Uganda is subjected to, however, Uganda is merely a cog in the wheel of Sub Saharan Africa’s homophobic environment. Homosexuality is outlawed in 38 different African States with only South Africa supporting it’s LGBT citizens and recognising same sex marriage. In some countries African men suspected of homosexuality are flogged in public or stoned to death whilst 89% or more of Africans find homosexuality ‘morally unacceptable’. It is the latter point that helps explain the origins of such extreme homophobia in modern day Africa.

In the western world homosexuality and religion have clashed for many decades with Christianity and Islam having particular issue with the idea of the ‘freedom of love’. It is the common consensus of many that the influence of evangelical Americans is having a negative impact by stoking up homophobic hatred and discontent towards the homosexual community in Africa. Increasingly American Christians are heading to Africa and actively promoting an anti homosexual stance within African governments. Ironically, this coincides with a transformation in support for the LGBT community in the western world where even a majority of citizens in conservative nations such as Ireland now favour same sex marriage and equal rights for LGBT citizens in general. This is largely due to the loosening of the roots of homophobia in the western world where these same religious arguments that we are seen in Africa have lost relevance and favour with many.

“Pressure will come on An Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to withhold funding from a country which in essence is preparing to legislate for and carry out a cleansing of it’s own citizens.”

               Uganda was once one of the most impoverished nations in the world, however, thanks in part to international funding and aid investment, child mortality rates, child birth death rates, and incidence of HIV contraction have all fallen. Foreign aid is not all about money but also about making sure the struggling nation develops not only its infrastructure but also its fair and just self-governance. Funding a corrupt regime that proliferates the alienation of basic human rights is not a successful product of foreign aid investment. Ireland recently pulled its foreign aid program in Uganda following the misappropriation of €4million of Irish funding. This aid funding will not continue until all irregularities in the accounts are ironed out and the missing money is found. Pressure will come on An Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore to withhold funding from a country which in essence is preparing to legislate for and carry out a cleansing of it’s own citizens.

Public discontent towards Uganda within the western world is higher than ever before with many commenting that the country’s parliament would be better served dealing with issues such as the millions in rural Uganda who are starving today, and with the political corruption which has recently come to the fore. In a time when Irish people are living in poverty due to the recession many will see the anti-homosexuality bill as another reason for Ireland to spend money on the starving in it’s own country rather than in a nation which shows no respect to many of it’s own citizens. Causing further hardship for your own people is not the role of any government and Uganda is no exception to this rule.

               Many strides have being taken in recent times in relation to LGBT equality, however these have being limited mainly to the developed world. More needs to be done by countries such as Ireland that help fund these nations in order to stop the unjust violence and slaughter of people based on their sexuality. Someone may also want to explain the idea of Christmas to Ms Kadaga, I somehow think she has gotten the wrong end of the stick when it comes to getting into the Christmas spirit, otherwise her family better be weary when opening her presents.