Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gays, Uganda and "The Man"

I've been causally following the whole issue of the anti-gay bill being considered in Uganda. I've seen how bloggers have asked American evangelicals to denounce the law and upon hearing that some evangelicals have been to the East African nation comparing gays to the worse of humanity there has been a swirl of righteous indignation. A few people have started to say that this story tells us that white evangelicals want all gays dead.

In all this talk there has been something that has distrubed me: the sense that there is someone missing from this argument. That missing person or persons are the Africans themselves. Even though this is taking place in Uganda, it seems as if the Ugandans are the minor characters of what is the ongoing American culture war. This seems a bit odd, since it was the Ugandan government or rather a member of Parliament that proposed this bill. This MP could have decided not to, but did it anyway. Also, as a piece in the Advocate notes, it's not like Uganda was a gay paridise before this bill was introduced:

The current law in Uganda states that anyone who identifies as a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender should be sentenced to a minimum of 14 years imprisonment. While 14 years is the stated term, being convicted as an LGBT person commonly results in a life sentence.(emphasis mine) While it has never been safe to identifying as a gay person in Uganda, the bill introduced October 14, if passed, would make a nonstraight lifestyle impossible in the African country. The new legislation calls for a life sentence as a minimum punishment for any LGBT person and further states that anyone who fails to report a homosexual to the government within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years in prison. The final part of the bill is perhaps the most shocking, given Uganda’s history of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. It states that death by hanging is the punishment for “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as any of the following: a repeat offender of the homosexuality law, having homosexual sex when any intoxicating substance is involved (for instance, if two men meet at a bar, buy each other a drink and then have sex, both of these men would be sentenced to death,) if one engages in homosexual activity as an authority figure, and finally, having sex if you’re HIV-positive.

The Uganda story is not simply about hateful white people going to Africa to infect the innocent black folk there. Yes, the conservatives who went there to spread their schlock did pour gasoline on a fire, it is important to remember that the fire was already there in the first place. In many parts of Africa it is difficult to be gay. Just this week, the world saw a gay couple in Malawi jailed for being gay. According to Wikipedia, about 38 African nations still outlaw homosexuality. Amnesty International reports that last year Burundi outlawed homosexuality. A report on BBC states a report from the International Gay and Lesbian Association that says homosexuality is punishable by death in parts of Nigeria, Mauritania and Sudan; Gambia, Kenya and Tanzania are punishable by up to 14 years in jail and in Zimbabwe it could be against the law for gays to show public displays of affection.

I'm not saying that these evangelicals should be let off the hook, but it should be noted that it hasn't been easy for gays even before this law came into being. It would be nice if the people who trying to fight the culture war on an another continent would remember that.


Joe said...

Sorry, there IS a difference. the bill makes homosexuality a capital crime. And since it was US evangelicals who stuck their noses there in the first place, they rightfully should get the blame.

Hamster said...

It's no wonder that Uganda is an economic and political cesspool. They need to dig their heads out of the sand and enter the 21st century.
The days of lynching gays is OVER.
If Ugandans really want to follow Biblical teachings why not impose death penalty for wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.
That should just about wipe out everyone in Uganda.