Uganda: Follow the Money
I don’t know that I can say it any plainer than that: we need to follow the money. Barney Frank gets it:
“I was pleased when the Financial Services Committee overwhelmingly, in a bipartisan way, voted in favor of my amendment urging the Secretary of the Treasury to oppose any financial assistance from multilateral development institutions to countries that persecute people on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or religious beliefs. In the discussion of the amendment I offered, I specifically mentioned the deeply troubling case of Uganda, which is now considering legislation to legally deprive people of these basic human rights.”
“If the bill before the Ugandan parliament becomes law, it must be the policy of the United States government to oppose any aid to Uganda from the World Bank, the African Development Bank, or any other international financial institution of which we are a member.”
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been rescheduled for a vote on Friday. And even Martin “graphic poo porn” Ssempa has called for the death penalty to be removed (probably because of the media attention that has caused) and replaced with a 7-year sentence. Because in the end, the forces that are driving this bill aren’t so interested in actually killing and imprisoning LGBT people as they are in a nice little side benefit.
In 2004, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was initiated, committing $15 billion over five years (2003–2008) in aid to combat the spread of HIV internationally. It was later expanded to $48 billion through 2013. In 2009, $285 million went toward combating the spread of HIV in Uganda alone.
Over the years, as the money increased, so has the restrictions that narrow down where it goes. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which administers the fund, instituted a pledge which prevents funding from going to organizations that assist sex workers, for example. Stipulations added under Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations mandate an increasing amount of funding be provided to abstinence-only education, and then ultimately use those restrictions to deny funding to LGBT organizations.
Probably the best examination of what is at stake for proponents of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill that I’ve seen has come from Time Magazine, which reported that of 2009’s $285 million figure spent in Uganda, the only recipient organization which assisted the highest risk group (gay males) was the Most at Risk Populations Network (to the tune of $5000). The remainder went to religious organizations that teach abstinence-only principles. Under the Anti Homosexuality Bill, groups like the Most at Risk Populations Network would be illegal and their leadership could be imprisoned for up to 7 years for “aiding and abetting homosexuality” — thus making the most in-need population completely ineligible for the funding.
PEPFAR is only one of the HIV and aid and development packages available to charities and relief organizations operating in Uganda, and that doesn’t even include direct government aid. Start addressing that funding, and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will evaporate so fast that it will seem like it was all a mirage.
By stirring up anti-gay hysteria and pushing for laws like Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, evangelicals have found an opportunity to have virtually exclusive access to billions of dollars in AIDS-related relief funds — not for condoms, but to proselytize in the guise of abstinence-only education. It is possible that the death penalty was an unintended consequence, although the weak and half-hearted response from American evangelical leaders certainly shows they feel little if any shame about what has developed, and certainly no acceptance of responsibility.
In the process, the Ugandan government found it a way to unite their people against a “common enemy,” and religious extremists like Martin Ssempa seized upon it by burning condoms, subjecting congregations to graphic depictions of anal sex, and conflating homosexuality with pornographic scatophilia in sensationalistic slideshows designed to fervently whip the public into raging mob mentality.
Because panic is power, and charity is big business.
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.
I wonder if he would use a stronger word today.
(crossposted to The Bilerico Project)