Friday, February 5, 2010

"Kill the Gays" Bill?

Wait, seriously? Did I hear that right?

Sadly, yes. Currently a bill is passing through the Ugandan parliament to tack on life imprisonment (oh, and the death penalty) as a legal sanction against "gay sex."

Tack on to what, you may ask. Well, there is already a law making homosexuality unlawful in Uganda, which Ugandan activist Julius Kaggwa said explicitly undermines the constitution of Uganda, which supposedly provides protection to all citizens (including minorities), and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That being said, this bill is aimed at making punishment for those engaging in gay sex life imprisonment, and the punishment for "aggravated homosexuality," a term the bill uses to indicate the repeated engagement in same-sex sex or for same-sex sex with one HIV-positive partner, will become the death penalty.

But apparently now Uganda's parliament is looking into "refining the death penalty language" and adding an amendment that would require counseling for those who are gay.

At the hearing on January 21st on Capitol Hill, held by noted gay representatives Tammy Baldwin, Jared Polis, and Barney Frank, Kaggwa called on America, and President Obama, to become involved and send a clear message to Uganda that this bill should not pass. Kaggwa told, "We want to share with them our stories and call upon the American Congress to stand with us to stop this policy. We need added voices from the international community and from the United States in particular.”

Apparently Obama was listening. On Thursday morning, President Obama (along with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. It was a stirring appearance since the National Prayer Breakfast is an event held by The Family, a far-right religious group which is believed to have "disturbing ties" to the Ugandan bill. Both President Obama, who called the bill "odious," and Hillary Clinton publicly condemned the bill during their speeches at the National Prayer Breakfast, sending a clear message to both Uganda and the US that discrimination like this should not be tolerated on any side.

The bill probably won't pass, but it does bring up serious issues for the gay and lesbian community worldwide. At the forefront is the fact that being persecuted for your sexual orientation is still very real. Furthermore, the inclusion of HIV-infected persons having sex as "aggravated homosexuality," i.e. only in the context of same-sex sex, perpetuates stereotypes about HIV and those who are most at risk. Finally, even the amending of the bill to include a less violent sanction (required counseling) frames homosexuality as a disorder that can be "fixed," again a horrible misconception about the reality of sexual orientation.


1 comment:

  1. As an addition to the discussion I'd like to let you know that on Feb 14th there will be a march through the streets of Campala consisting of LGBT Ugandans and their allies, including a Rev. of the Unitarian Universalist that I met at Creating Change. They will be marching the streets getting signatures on a petition against the bill, and end the march at the gates of Parlaiment to present the petition to the legislators. Let's hope they all stay safe and ther calls for justice are heard.