With the help of more than $200 million annually in U.S. taxpayer funds — including millions earmarked for antigay “AIDS prevention” –Ugandan political and religious leaders have shown the world that their new idea of internationally funded AIDS prevention and care is to execute the nation’s gay people if they are HIV-positive.
That’s the objective of the nation’s new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which escalates the despotic country’s already-draconian sentence of life imprisonment for LGBT Ugandans. As Box Turtle Bulletin has observed, the legislation would:
- Extend the definition of prosecutable homosexuality from sexual activity to merely “touch[ing] another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
- Create a new category of “aggravated homosexuality” which provides for the death penalty for “repeat offenders” and for cases where the individual is HIV-positive.
- Criminalize all speech and peaceful assembly for those who defend LGBT Ugandans with fines and imprisonment of between five and seven years.
- Criminalize the act of obtaining a same-sex marriage abroad with lifetime imprisonment.
- Add a clause which forces friends or family members to report LGBT persons to police within 24 hours of learning about the individual’ homosexuality or face fines or imprisonment of up to three years.
- Add extra-territorial and extradition provisions, allowing Uganda to prosecute LGBT Ugandans living abroad.
U.S. evangelical Rick Warren, among others, refuses to condemn this situation. Political Research Associates noted last week that Rick Warren has been a steadfast supporter of Archbishop Henry Orombi and Pastor Martin Ssempa, both of whom favor vigilantism and execution of LGBT Ugandans. Warren has freely interfered in Ugandan affairs, offering tacit endorsement of his allies’ condom-burning rallies and anti-gay witch hunts.
A spokesperson for Warren told Religion Dispatches on Nov. 3 that Warren no longer supports Ssempa — but failed to retract Warren’s support for Orombi and declined to oppose the proposed legislation.
Jim Naughton, Canon for Communications and Advancement for the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, observed:
“What does it say if you’re unwilling to say that the state shouldn’t execute homosexuals?”
U.S. congressional leaders delivered a warning letter about this brewing crisis to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but according to Religion Dispatches, the State Department has initially declined to respond.
Meanwhile, most Ugandan media have obediently followed the murderous lead of the nation’s undemocratic rulers in advocating for the bill.
But The Monitor notes that much of the legislation violates the nation’s constitution and threatens non-gay Ugandans by suppressing speech, dividing families, obstructing medical treatment, and encouraging prosecution based upon false accusations.
Another publication, The Independent, on Nov. 4 courageously condemned the legislation while explaining the corrupt politics behind it. Okello Lucima wrote:
This is not only cavalier violations of human rights, but a dangerous hate campaign and incitement to harm or kill members of the GLBT in Uganda. The people of Uganda, and all people of good will, must not sit and watch while this happens. The sponsors of the bill, their supporters and political leaders- inside and outside parliament- must be identified, isolated and ostracised by the entire civilised world that respect difference and diversity. Most democratising societies have laws that criminalise purveyors of hate and incitement of hatred against a person, persons or communities; and have robust bill of rights that protect citizens and minorities. Uganda should not be an exception.
However, it is not surprising that the state should be seeking such kind of personal control, to the extent of wanting to police what people do in their bedrooms, and who else they do it with and whether their partners are of the skirt or trouser wearing sorts.
First, this comes about because of the nature and character of the Ugandan state: it is a military dictatorship that shot its way to and kept itself in power by military force. What there is in terms of a fledgling parliamentary democracy is sheer gloss of veneer for the consumption of the democratic tourist. For twenty years it outlawed political parties and suppressed freedoms of association and assembly, and the press is routinely knuckled. It rules by decree, not through free and open, well-informed debate in a deliberative, democratic process. Therefore, like all autocrats, the Ugandan ruling clique is not about to deviate from the age-old practice of control and micromanagement of all the affairs of state, and particularly the censorship and directing of the thoughts and behaviour of its citizens. Control freaks love uniformity but are threatened by freedom, diversity, and difference.
The second reason why the hate campaign against GLBT is not surprising is that most of those connected to state power, for instance Nsaba Buturo & Co. are born-again, rigid, fundamentalist, revivalist Christians who bring to the public policy process and the management of state affairs, their religious bigotry that they pass off as public morality and ethics. They completely ignore the fact that although Uganda is a majority Christian nation-state, there are people of other faiths, as well as non-believers, to whom the Muslim and Christian moralities they are so quick to refer to, cannot and should not apply. In any case, the Ugandan state is separate from the Church or Mosque, and it would be prudent for public servants to refrain from using and imposing the teachings and morals of one religion on the diverse people of Uganda, with pluralities of religion, faith, spiritual and moral inclinations.
It is not scientific, but a cursory observation would reveal that societies that have fewer sexual, social and personal taboos, have made tremendous progress and have shown greater imagination, ingenuity, innovations and inventiveness among their population. They cherish freedom of thought and respect civil liberties. Conversely, societies such as Uganda, where one man is in charge of awarding market tenders from Rukingiri to Lira and his word is the law; or where vice chancellors or chancellors of national universities are political appointees rather than meritorious professionals recognised in their fields and elevated by a professional body and academic peers, the degree of restrictions on personal freedoms and civil liberties have direct relationships with the state of scientific research, social development, ingenuity, curiosity and intellectual debate on matters of public policy and interest.
Christian Rightists threaten to condemn Uganda to a permanent state of irrational and backward barbarism. But they threaten to do the same here in the United States, where people like Rick Warren make no apology for supporting such barbarism — and where U.S. taxpayers continue to fund this barbarism in the name of humanitarian aid and disease prevention.
Meanwhile, Exodus International — whose board member Don Schmierer co-launched the campaign for this bill — refuses to issue a press release formally condemning the death-penalty campaign and the four U.S. and Ugandan ex-gay activists who recklessly provoked it. Aside from a less-than-authoritative prayer for someone, somebody else preferably, to maybe do something, spokesman Randy Thomas offered no assistance to those who, like conservative Christian Warren Throckmorton, are campaigning to stop the legislation.
If you live in the United States, please contact your Congressperson and Senator TODAY. Ask them to join their colleagues Tammy Baldwin, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and others in challenging federal aid to Uganda until this foreign aid is made contingent upon specific gains in health education and human rights.