Uganda passes its Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Uganda has passed its Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009. A Parliamentary spokesperson, Helen Kawesa, has confirmed it. The bill now goes to Ugandan President Yowari Museveni, for a signature. Museveni previously said he was not in favour of the bill, but he can’t stop it constitutionally — only delay it at best. In 2012, Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga had promised to pass the bill as a “Christmas present” to her people, following a vocal exchange with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird at a summit in Quebec City.
The bill gained international notoriety in 2009, becoming commonly known as the “Kill The Gays Bill.” At its inception, the bill contained a death sentence for a number of situations. Proponents of the death sentence characterized it as applying to pedophiles and HIV-positive persons, erasing that it also applied in cases of “serial” homosexuality.
The version that was passed contains a life sentence rather than a death sentence, in these cases. Uganda’s New Vision has published a copy of the text, and reports that an amendment to reduce this to a 14-year sentence was voted down. A coalition of LGBT advocates reports that the life sentence amendment is the only one that had been made to the controversial bill, while the Daily Monitor indicates that MPs also passed a motion to thank the Speaker for the “gift.”
The bill also bans advocacy for LGBT people, and criminalizes anyone who fails to report them to authorities. Provisions (which had been dissected clause-by-clause at Box Turtle Bulletin) include:
- A definition of “homosexuality” which is so vague that almost anyone could be convicted of it;
- A definition of “aggravated homosexuality” which is overly-broad, and includes “serial” offences;
- A weird “intent to commit” clause that could open any physical contact to interpretation;
- A financial incentive for people to accuse others of trying to seduce them;
- The targeting of friends, family and landowners for aiding / abetting LGBT people, for failing to report LGBT people, and for renting a room to LGBT people;
- The criminalization of advocacy for or even defending an LGBT person with a sentence of 5 – 7 years; and
- The criminalization of anyone who fails to report in under 24 hours anyone who is gay, who witnessed a same-sex wedding (it’s unclear if said wedding had to occur in Uganda), who rents a room to a gay person, and more, with a sentence of up to 3 years.
UPDATE: According to Box Turtle Bulletin, some of these clauses may have been amended after all.
Anti-LGBT legislation has become popular in Africa and Russia because of sensitivity to colonialism, which has been exploited by right-wing western organizations. These groups have portrayed affirmation of LGBT people, HIV relief and LGBT-positive education as imposing homosexuality on those nations. Ironically, LGBT people have always existed worldwide — it’s the extreme right homophobic worldview which is in fact being exported to these nations. In Political Research Associates’ report entitled Colonizing African Values – How the U.S. Christian Right is Transforming Sexual Politics in Africa, researchers noted:
“Homophobia proved a powerful rallying point for many established leaders on the continent… These leaders found they could earn easy support from religious factions, while winning nationalist votes for denouncing the West as neocolonial.
Africans working for U.S. rightist groups also lodge the charge. Human Life International’s regional coordinator Emil Hagamu praised the Ugandan parliament as “typically African” for promoting the “Kill the Gays” bill. “It strives to protect African traditional and cultural values against Western encroachment in areas such as homosexuality and same-sex unions…”“
When Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, clashed with Ugandan Parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga at the 2012 Inter-Parliamentary Union conference, it was this claim of colonialism that was threaded through Kadaga’s response. This claim makes it difficult for the international community to support LGBT Ugandans, without further fuelling the hatred toward them and providing seeming validation of the claim of colonialism.
This blogger has proposed that the most effective way that North Americans can address this tactic is to call out the religious organizations which are fomenting anti-LGBT hatred worldwide, and to also challenge those who support them to explain themselves. One such challenge was issued to the Canadian website LifeSiteNews (LSN), which has provided ample publicity and a forum to Human Life International (HLI), one of three significant organizations fueling hatred in Africa identified in Colonizing African Values. Since that challenge, LSN has not replied, but contributions by HLI have diminished, while those by HLI offshoots, like the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) have multiplied significantly.
Other Canadian far-right personalities have previously expressed support for Uganda’s and other pieces of anti-LGBT legislation, although they’re not known to have meddled in Africa in the ways that HLI has, or provided connectable support in the same way that LSN has. REAL Women of Canada (RWoC) recently lambasted John Baird for his support for LGBT people in Uganda, and the current and former leaders of the Christian Heritage Party have supportively portrayed the Anti-Homosexuality Act as a bill that would curb the spread of HIV.
Another reason that anti-LGBT hatred has been focused on Africa has been the large amount of HIV relief aid funding available in the region, such as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) fund provided by the US. Of PEPFAR’s 2009 figure of $285 million 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 (groups that provide support to sex workers are also banned from PEPFAR funding, due to an amendment passed by US Congress). By stirring up anti-gay hysteria and pushing for laws like Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, the extreme right has 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.
John Becker reports at The Bilerico Project that earlier this week, Nigeria has also enacted several anti-LGBT provisions, mostly phrased around same-sex marriage (which is already illegal there, anyway):
But the bill goes far beyond marriage, imposing 5-year prison sentences for a host of activities including providing services for gay and lesbian couples, public displays of same-sex affection, and LGBT rights advocacy of any kind.
Homosexuality is already punishable by up to 14 years in prison, in Nigeria, and 12 Nigerian states are even known to apply the death penalty. Nigeria’s latest law is probably most clearly understood as a misinformed anti-colonial gesture, as well as criminalizing LGBT advocacy.
(Crossposted to rabble.ca)