Western ideas play into Ugandan anti-gay bill
Published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012 07:11
A bill that would further criminalize homosexual acts in Uganda has again surfaced in its parliament and is expected to be made into law in December, a decision the parliament’s speaker called a “Christmas gift.”
The law would make homosexuality, as well as those promoting or sponsoring gay rights, subject to increased jail time — and in some cases, a life sentence.
Though the bill has become more moderate than when it was originally proposed, with the removal of death penalty offenses, according to the BBC, it remains a step backward for Uganda, and Western nations including the U.S. have rightfully condemned it. Some aid groups and countries, including the UK, threatened to cut aid if the bill is passed.
Yet this bill reflects the full cycle of Western hegemony fueling African politics and influencing the continent’s development.
In 2009, anti-gay rhetoric was bolstered by a series of talks by American evangelical missionaries, which thousands of Ugandans listened to, according to the New York Times. The missionaries were “presented as experts on homosexuality,” the Times reported. Soon after, the anti-homosexuality bill was introduced into Ugandan parliament by a politician who boasted about his U.S. government ties — to evangelical Christians.
On a larger scale, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights are not an isolated issue.
Punishing homosexuality will make combating Uganda’s HIV/AIDS epidemic even more difficult, as legal sanctions would serve as another barrier to already-stigmatized victims of the disease to seek treatment and counseling.
Uganda had a 6.5 percent HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in 2009 — the 10th-highest in the world, according to UNAIDS.
Ugandans already face human rights abuses and institutional homophobia, as well as widespread government corruption.
These deeper problems cannot be ignored. Yet solutions must be found multilaterally, as Western nations must move away from exerting power by threatening and imposing their values on others. Discussions, workshops, and human interaction can help fuel discussion about GLBT issues in Uganda and the U.S. alike, as both nations strive toward common goals of human rights.
As the Ugandan president’s adviser said in regards to the UK’s threats to cut aid, Ugandans should not be treated as “children.”
The U.S. and others are right to condemn Uganda’s bill as a violation of human rights. Yet the Western role in these policies, both direct and indirect, cannot be ignored.
Hannah Feig is a senior majoring in chemistry and anthropology