In a country that is locked in the minds of many as the former home and stomping ground of ruthless Dictator, Idi Amin, many in Uganda are once again at the mercy of a draconian legislation. Idi Amin and his paranoia may have fled the country in 1979, but for those in power today a different strain of paranoia persists; the fear of sexuality and homosexuality.
In the span of two days the government has put women and gays on alert that there lives are about to change. On Thursday they passed an anti-pornography bill that will have huge ramifications on women’s rights if finalized by President Yoweri Museveni. The bill covers anything, and just about everything, that could be seen as sexually suggestive. From mini skirts above the knees, to sexy music videos, tabloids, films, pictures, and, according to Simon Lokodo, the ethics and integrity minister, any exposed parts of the body, “especially areas that are of erotic function.” He has also proposed to have the internet monitored to seek out those going to pornographic websites.
If sexuality was under attack on Thursday, Friday was reserved for gay rights as the new paranoia continued to grip Uganda with the passage of a revised anti-gay law. It will see repeat homosexual offenders sentenced to life imprisonment. The bill was first proposed in 2009 with the death penalty as the maximum deterrent. That bill was voted down due to tremendous international pressure, but it didn’t go away. It was brought back this week with the death penalty no longer on the table, instead it has been replaced by life in prison for any that are convicted of homosexual acts for the second time, or caught engaging in a homosexual act with anyone with the HIV virus, or a minor.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, as it is in many other African nations and there has been much violence toward the gay community. However, there are those in Uganda that believed some head way was being made. They believed that a certain tolerance was being attained. That belief was destroyed on Friday and now there are many that fear for the future. There’s considerable blame pointed toward the American evangelicals, most notably Scott Lively, for taking an anti gay position with the local politicians and religious leaders. Those in defense of the new law however, say they have been acting to stem the influence of gay Westerners on Ugandan children.
The final decision rests with Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni. It is up to him whether these new draconian bills will be made law. While the rest of Uganda waits for the President to make a decision the new paranoia continues to grow, not only in the minds of the lawmakers toward the women and gays, but also in the minds of the women and gays toward the lawmakers. As of Friday, sexuality and gay rights are no longer issues to be discussed openly in Uganda, they are issues to be condemned and outlawed.
By Scott Wilson