Call for Repeal of Uganda’s “Anti-Gay” Bill

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International protests (London, pictured) against the new Ugandan bill criminalizing homosexual acts. Source: The Guardian

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2014, introduced by Parliament member David Bahati, bans gay activities and enforces extreme prison sentences for offenders guilty of “aggravated homosexuality”. The law has the international community infuriated over blatant human rights violations and mounting public health concerns. Many countries and international organizations revoked their funding to Uganda in protest. Despite global dissent, domestic politicking has trumped international outcry with huge amounts of support from evangelical associations, domestic political leaders and affiliated parties, and local communities.

The UN states the bill will impede Uganda’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS over the last thirty years by decreasing individuals’ willingness to seek HIV testing, prevention, and treatment services for fear of being prosecuted, incarcerated, or killed because of a suspicion of homosexuality. With 7.2% of the country affected by HIV and several health programs’ reliance on foreign aid, the bill’s passing could exacerbate the HIV epidemic. This revoked funding has broader implications for public health in Uganda since other health promotion initiatives may suffer due to lack of financial support.

Local newspaper, Rolling Stone, exposes Ugandan homosexuals to warrant support for Anti-Gay movement and proposed Bill. Source: The Guardian. 

Human rights groups, equally incensed by the bill, highlight government intentions to “kill every last gay person” despite no actual crimes being committed.Though the bill does not include the death penalty, it has wavered on this topic several times since 2009. Furthermore, targeted murders, notably of the co-head of SM-UG, a Ugandan gay rights organization, underscore the potential consequences.

Repealing this bill will help avoid public health catastrophe and maintain HIV efforts and human rights standards in Uganda.

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6 Responses to “Call for Repeal of Uganda’s “Anti-Gay” Bill”

  1. jhsphpeter Says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful post. It’s interesting to consider the most effective way to influence Uganda to repeal the bill. Human rights arguments will certainly be ineffectual, since in many ways, the government has deemed gay men as undeserving of basic protections typically guaranteed to human beings. However, public health arguments, especially those that illuminate the economic toll of AIDS, may be able to effectively illustrate some (but certainly not all) of the reasons why such laws are so dangerous.

    In discussing this case, it’s important to highlight that this bill did not emerge solely from Ugandan lawmakers; U.S. missionaries also catalyzed its development: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/04/world/africa/04uganda.html

  2. scho52 Says:

    It’s disheartening to realize the existence of such legislation designed to further marginalize the gay community in Uganda. As much as we hearken the stories of ethnic genocide of distant and not so distant past, this most recent Ugandan legislation serves as an example which makes clear that we haven’t really “heard” or learned from the mistakes of our predecessors.

    Nonetheless it is imperative that we enact change and contribute to the efforts which will further the cause of public health since its apparent that debating the merits of human rights of its Ugandan citizens will not serve as the catalyst for change.

  3. megbattle Says:

    Thanks for posting about such a timely and important topic. It is particularly sad to see this development in Uganda, which until recently was hailed internationally as a success story in terms of the way that it addressed the HIV/AIDS epidemic. I think your point about resulting unwillingness of gay men to be regularly tested for HIV is incredibly relevant, not only for gay Ugandans but for the whole country. The Ugandan Minister of Health has said that healthcare will still be available to anyone who wants it (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-26349166), but of course the stigma and fear associated with disclosing one’s sexual orientation to any stranger will make it much more difficult for gay men to access the sexual health services that they need.

  4. lbuchhalter Says:

    Thank you for the timely post! This is an interesting topic from a political standpoint. Much of the domestic rhetoric in support of this bill has cast homosexuality as a primarily foreign concept, and has focused on donor country pressure against the bill as neo-imperialism. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/uganda-antigay-bill-signed-by-president-museveni-despite-international-outcry-9149808.html). From the perspective of many Ugandan commentators, the threat of removing funding represents foreign attempts to buy the law in their country. However, this attitude is in stark contrast to the fact that Uganda is a signatory to a variety of human rights treaties (http://www1.umn.edu/humanrts/research/ratification-uganda.html) that would likely forbid the bill from being implemented. Despite being framed as a battle between the right of a nation to be autonomous and the demands of outside nations/organizations, the momentum for this bill is largely imported. As noted by a poster above, the language of the bill has been powerfully shaped by US Christian missionaries. President Museveni’s statement that the bill is a powerful statement of independence is at best, disingenuous.

  5. mikekingdvm Says:

    Thank you for this posting. I had only looked at this issue from the perspective of human rights abuses and hadn’t event considered the impact it might have on prevention on HIV transmission, particularly among gay men. Your posting has shed light on the immense public health impact that this legislation could have on Uganda.

  6. kavitadharamraj Says:

    Kavita Dharamraj: Call for Repeal of Uganda’s “Anti-Gay” Bill:

    I recently came across this article from an advice columnist Amy Dickinson – a woman had written to her complaining that her son was gay because he was getting back at her for forgetting his birthday. Amy Dickinson’s reply to the woman was that she should change her own sexuality for a year to show him how easy it is to change one’s sexual orientation upon request.
    Full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/ask-amy-parent-pressures-gay-son-to-change/2013/11/12/a46984d0-4815-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_story.html
    Sexual orientation has long been a controversial issue. However, the issue of persecuting persons based on their sexual choices is not so controversial. Basic human rights do not hold true only for heterosexual humans. As such, it is seen as morally wrong to persecute people based on their sexual preference.
    The possibility of the HIV epidemic resurfacing is very real. From being tested, to seeking early treatment options, homosexuals will be in real fear of being persecuted or even killed. Without diagnosis, the spread of HIV is certain to re-escalate.
    International intervention is critical in this issue. While conformance to religious laws is encouraged, the “consequences” of being gay should be revisited. The countries which have withdrawn financial aid to Uganda should clearly explain their reasons for doing so. They should emphasize the proverbial saying that “two wrongs do not make a right.”

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