Saturday, December 19, 2009

Over in Uganda the government, under the influence of American Christian Right missionaries has introduced a bill that prescribes not just criminal penalties for "homosexual acts" but penalties up to and including death. Sort of a "trial run" for what some might like to see in the USA. Here, from the Care2 site is the story and an appeal to write the Ugandan government against this bill.
Uganda to Debate Anti-Homosexuality Bill:
I know that many of you have been concerned about proposed legislation in Uganda that further criminalizes homosexuality and, in certain circumstances, could mean the death penalty for the so-called crime of "aggravated homosexuality".

Well, now you can speak out.Care2 has created a petition that you can sign to protest Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill that will then be sent to Uganda's President, Yowen Museveni.

More on this below.

First, here are a few updates on the developing situation in Uganda.

Firstly, Times Online is reporting that the Ugandan parliament will begin debating the Anti-Homosexuality Bill today, Friday December 18. Times Online has also spoken to several members of the Ugandan public regarding the proposed Bill in order to gauge their reaction. In places, the article makes for uncomfortable reading:

“Homosexuality is not natural and it’s not African,” said Arthur Owori, a 43-year-old technician. “What next? Will people start going with animals?"

Robina Matanda, a 40-year-old businesswoman in Kampala, was adamant that homosexuality must be punished.“It’s very bad, it’s inhuman, it’s immoral, it’s abusive,” she said. “They should pass the Bill and it should be the death penalty.”Student Annitah Natukunda, 24, said: “I don’t support the death penalty but I would support castration."

However, not all Ugandans believed that the Bill should be passed, while one citizen contended that, rather than legislating the death penalty and longer prison sentences for homosexuals, gay people needed "help" instead.

This was echoed by a rumored amendment to the Bill that may have gained traction this week.

In our previous coverage of Uganda's "Kill the Gays" legislation (as it has been nicknamed by many in the media), it was mentioned that some members of the Ugandan parliament were considering ditching the death penalty clause in favor of forced reparative or "conversion" therapy.

Suddenly the "Kill the Gays" legislation becomes a "Cure the Gays" drive. While on the surface this may seem like an improvement, the degree to which this can be considered a victory is only very slight given the mental and physical damage that conversion therapy can cause.

While the MP that tabled the Bill, David Bahati, is adamant that the death penalty for repeated offenders should remain, Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor credited as one of the main driving forces behind the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, has released a letter (.pdf, 4 pages, from Christianity Today) addressed to US pastor Rick Warren in which he attempts to counter international criticism leveled at the Bill, urges Warren to rethink his condemnation of the proposed legislation, and also says:

At a special sitting of the Uganda Joint Christian Council task force sat and reviewed the bill to make comments. We resolved to support the bill with some amendments which included the following: a. We suggested a less harsher sentence of 20 years instead of the death penalty for pedophilia or aggravated homosexuality. b. We suggested the inclusion of counseling and rehabilitation being offered to offenders and victims. The churches are willing to provide the necessary help for those who are willing to undergo counseling and rehabilitation.

You may remember that megachurch leader Rick Warren had gone to the liberty of announcing that he and his wife had severed all ties with Ssempa whom they had previously worked with as part of Warren's pastoral work.

In what he called an "extraordinary" statement that was issued earlier this month, Warren played down his connections to Uganda's religious leaders, saying that his pastoral work in Uganda was simply about spreading the teachings of Christianity.

In their ongoing (and excellent) coverage of this issue, Box Turtle Bulletin analyze Ssempa's letter further and provide evidence to show that, at least for Ssempa, Warren's trips to Uganda have served as an inspiration for the anti-gay drive.Meanwhile, international criticism of the Bill has continued. At a meeting in Strasbourg, France, on Dec. 17, EU leaders adopted a resolution opposing Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill. In the resolution, EU members went a step further than just condemning the Bill. They asked the Ugandan parliament not only to “not to approve the bill" but also "to review their laws to decriminalize homosexuality.”This is interesting, because this now becomes a challenge, not only calling for the Ugandan government to rethink their latest anti-gay bill, but to reconsider their entire vilification of homosexuals. They won't, of course, but the EU has put impetus behind its request. As previously stated, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill attempts to permit Uganda to break previous international commitments that do not correspond with the spirit of the Bill, for instance any previous treaties that promised not to make further attempts at criminalizing homosexuality. However, the EU resolution reminds Uganda of its inability to withdraw from ratified human rights treaties through the use of domestic legislation (Article 4; Joint Motion for a Resolution 0RC-B7-0258/2009). Further to this, the resolution formally warns that, should the legislation be passed by the Ugandan government, EU member states will consider cutting aid to Uganda, saying in Article 5 of the resolution:

"5. [The EU parliament is] extremely concerned that international donors, non-governmental organisations and humanitarian organisations would have to reconsider or cease their activities in certain fields should the bill pass into law."Why have EU leaders gone to such lengths? One reason could be that they fear that once Uganda adopts such massively overreaching legislation, other African countries will intensify their own institutionalized homophobia. Evidence of this already happening appeared this week when the Rwandan government announced that they too are to consider legislation that would also criminalize homosexuality. Newsweek have an interesting article on the "domino effect" that Uganda's anti-gay legislation may have in Africa. To read it, please click here. In the US, prominent political figures have also continued to condemn the Bill, while Senator John Kerry, chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee, released a statement, saying:

“I join many voices in the United States, Uganda and around the world in condemning Uganda's draft legislation imposing new and harsher penalties against homosexuality.

Discrimination in any form is wrong, and the United States must say so unequivocally. Many Ugandans are voicing concern that such a law will create witch-hunts against homosexuals, and hinder the fight against HIV/AIDS. Over the years the United States government, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has worked closely with Ugandans to combat HIV/AIDS and other public health issues; we value our relationship with Uganda's people. Given the pressing HIV/AIDS crisis Uganda is facing, this bill is extremely counterproductive.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke out this week when she again condemned the Bill as she spoke to students at Georgetown University and responded to their questions:
Also noteworthy this week, Pope Benedict reiterated his opposition to what he described as "unjust discrimination" against gay men and women as well as “violations of human rights against homosexual persons.” Read more about the Pope's statement here.

As always, I'll keep you updated on this issue, including information from Uganda's parliamentary debate on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill when it becomes available. Care2 Action:Stop the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Sign the Care2 petition now, and forward it to your friends.
Find Out More at Care2:
To find out more on Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill, links to our continued coverage of this story are provided below:
Rowan Williams, Leader of the Anglican Church, Publicly Denounces Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill: Rick Warren Speaks Out While Uganda Reportedly Drops Death Penalty Clause
Ugandan Gay Death Penalty Bill: Sweden Threatens to Withdraw Aid, Should the USA?
Uganda's Gay Death Penalty Bill is 'Morally Repugnant' Says United Reform Church
Please go to THIS LINK to sign the following petition to the Ugandan government to reconsider their bill to "kill gays".
Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill Threatens Human Rights
Target: Yowen Kaguta Museveni, President of Uganda
Sponsored by:
There is a dangerous proposal that threatens the human rights of LGBT people in Uganda.

If passed, Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill would start a witch-hunt for homosexuals in the country. Its punishments include:

* A 7 year jail sentence for consenting adults who have LGBT sex

* A life sentence for people in same-sex marriages

* Extradition and prosecution of LGBT Ugandans living abroad

* The death penalty for adults who have LGBT sex with minors or who communicate HIV via LGBT sex, regardless of condom usage

* Jail for anyone who doesn't report suspected LGBT activity within 24 hours

The bill also endangers HIV/AIDS programs, and may be exploited by those wanting to abolish these programs.

This proposed legislation is anti-ethical, anti-equality and anti-human rights. Tell Uganda's President Museveni that this bill is unacceptable, and that people should not be criminalized for sexual orientation or gender identity.

1 comment:

Bwandungi said...

I have a working theory about the frenzy that has taken Uganda over!