22 November 2012

On Uganda

It is by no means a walk through a park full of rainbows to be gay in most of America, but there are still places around the world where the hand of repression is much more severe for LGBT persons. One such place that has been in the news periodically is the east African nation of Uganda. Since 2009, a legislative bill has surfaced periodically that threatens severe and sweeping penalties associated with homosexuality. The “Kill the Gays bill”, as it is also known, appears to be back on the table at the close of 2012.

I had heard of this bill before, but only today had I taken some time to learn more about the language of the legislation and its history in the context of Ugandan politics. A detailed discussion of the content of the bill and its evolution can be found on the Box Turtle Bulletin website, but here is a very brief synopsis of the alarming points:

- Homosexual acts are punishable with significant prison sentences, or in certain cases, by death.
- Homosexual acts are very broadly defined, so actions very far removed what most people would define as an overtly sexual act might be considered offenses under the language of the legislation.
- Parents, teachers, medical professionals or others who do not report people suspected of homosexual activity can be fined or jailed.
- Ugandan nationals who commit any of the acts encompassed by the legislation while abroad can be extradited back to Uganda for trial.
- Oppression of homosexuals in Uganda could increase even further in the future because the bill gives authority to an “Ethics and Integrity Minister” in the government (currently an anti-gay former Catholic priest) to create regulations to enforce the law.

It is clear in reading about this proposed legislation that it amounts to wholesale oppression of LGB persons and a potential witch-hunt of gay people and their supporters. It appears to be part of a broader problem of homophobia in Uganda, according to this Wikipedia summary.

While I do not generally think that one nation should interfere in the culture or politics of another, egregious violations of human rights are a different matter. Half way around the world, we might have little influence over the course of these events in Uganda, but perhaps adding our voices to the outcry over this legislation may help prevent enactment of this extreme legislation. A few ideas:

Write or call the US Ambassador to Uganda, Scott DeLisi.
- Write to the Ugandian Parliament Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, a strong supporter of this bill: rakadaga@parliament.go.ug
- Sign this on-line petition to urge the Ugandian President to veto any anti-gay bill passed by parliament.
- Write to your representatives in the senate or house to encourage the US to place diplomatic pressure on Uganda to protect human rights. Since we give monetary aid to Uganda, we have some leverage.

I am fortunate to live in a time and place where my very safety and mental wellbeing is largely protected from these shameful displays of hate and discrimination. Everyone deserves to be freed from oppression based on who they love.

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