“Gays are disgusting,” were words called out by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni, after using a pen where he signed an anti-gay law into effect. Ugandan gays are being denied human rights and will face prosecution with up to 14 years in prison. The legislation also includes lesbians, which is the first time women were addressed on the issue. He stood down on signing three years ago, but since has taken the word of Ugandan scientists who believe that one cannot be born gay. In response to worldwide outrage at his actions, he says, “If the west would stay out of Uganda’s affairs, things will be okay.”
The question is okay for whom? Certainly not for the unknown number of lesbian, gay, bi-attracted and transgender people already living under fear of being labeled and persecuted by the country’s leaders and everyday citizens. As known LGBT people and those suspected of being so are rounded up, they don’t have protection against hate crimes, or much recourse in staying alive, in or out of prison. How does this type of inhumane treatment make things okay in Uganda?
There will also be fallout for strides made in awareness and eradicating HIV/AIDS. Both need consistent and persistent dedication. How does making people afraid to speak about safety make things okay in Uganda?
Uganda receives $400 million in aid from the US annually. US President Obama says the signing will complicate the relationship between the US and the African country. How does the decision to damage relationships while seeking international aid for Ugandan citizens make things okay in Uganda?
What this type of legislation does do is create a climate that makes forward movement on issues around sexuality, safety, and human rights very hard to reach. Museveni says he has not met one openly gay person. How can he when people are in fear of being beaten and imprisoned? There appears to be no community roundtable on this one; just the rule of a man who is operating out of ignorance. The system of denying oneself and who one is, is a set up for disaster. Those who are gay or accused of being gay will either have to flee Uganda, or live in silence and fear as long as this untimely and horrific law exists.
After he called gays disgusting the Ugandan president signed anti-gay law which will have far reaching repercussions.
If there is a sliver of hope to this sad tale of compassionless humanity, it comes from international intervention and Ugandan MPs, who make up a committee. They have endorsed the proposed bill but eradicated the death penalty provision. According to MP David Mahati, it is still unclear how and if the death penalty provision will ultimately change. Another Ugandan leader says it has been dropped already. Clearly the fate is not certain for those accused of aggravated homosexuality. The following terms stand under Ugandan law:
If gays or lesbians are having sex and seen by anyone, they face prison time, and it’s the same for talking positively in efforts to foster awareness and help people to understand that same-sex love is still love. It also makes prison likely for persons accused of acts of aggravated homosexuality. Aggravated homosexuality under Ugandan law is defined as sex involving a minor, where one is HIV positive, living with disabilities, and lastly serial offenders. Under the old law, if any occurred, the person faced the death penalty. Instead of the death penalty, the tabled bill proposes longer jail sentences, and in some cases life imprisonment.
Many international countries are threatening to cut off aid to Uganda if the country does not do more to promote equality and human rights. Only time will tell how this plays out. Many Ugandans oppose homosexuality, citing both moral and religious reasons. The latter, however, seems void of compassion and the right to live freely. For now, Ugandan gays are denied human rights and called “disgusting” by a president who signed an anti-gay law into effect.
By C. Imani Williams