Uganda and the Criminalization of Homosexuality
Make no mistake about it – the situation for queer people in Uganda is very, very dire.
Currently, gay sex is criminalized in Uganda, with a maximum sentence of life in prison as punishment. In March, an anti-homosexuality conference was held, attracting attention and attendees from across the globe (I’ll explain this in more detail later in the post). In April, the newspaper The Red Pepper began publishing lists of out gay people, including their names, occupations, and HIV status, as well as photographs of the individuals themselves. Now, the Ugandan Parliament is considering a petition to make the already existing laws against homosexuality even harsher. In essence, being gay, in and of itself, or supporting gay people, would be illegal.
What makes this new wave of institutionalized homophobia particularly worrisome? The degree to which conservative Americans are participating in it.
Back to the conference in March. The conference was organized by the Ugandan-based NGO, Family Life Network. Three of the speakers at the conference – Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Exodus International Board member Don Schmierer – are American conservative Christians affiliated with the “ex-gay” movement – that is to say, they believe that gays and lesbians can “change” their sexual orientation and become heterosexual. What’s more, the Ugandans who want to criminalize homosexuality are now using the conference as ammunition for their cause. George Oundo, Uganda’s leading “ex-gay” spokesperson, is participating in press conferences throughout the country where he discusses the “recruitment” techniques of the LGBT community. That language is nothing but a scare tactic, of course, but it’s working to raise support for the new anti-gay legislation. And I can’t help but feel that the participation that Americans have had in this debacle is part of the reason why this ultra-conservative legislation is receiving so much support. And that’s dangerous, because such legislation flies in the face of everything the United States was founded on.
My impression is that Exodus had no position on such things, or if there was a position, it was that homosexuality should not be considered a crime. For a change, I agree with Ex-Gay Watch that it sends the wrong message for these people to go where the agenda is not simply congruence with religious teaching but also on state intervention in private behavior.
Throckmorton hits the nail on the head. This is not about individuals choosing for themselves how to live their lives. It’s not about certain groups of people advocating “ex-gay” philosophies from their own pulpits. No. This is about an extreme, moral, religious judgment being used to legislate behavior and identity. And for that action to be condoned by American Christians is wrong. We live in a country founded on freedom. To then go to other countries and essentially advocate for the elimination of the freedom of others could not be more hypocritical and morally reprehensible.
I don’t believe in intervening in situations that undermine the strength and sovereignty of the population in question. So, the best we can do right now, I believe, is talk about this issue. I haven’t read much mainstream media talking about this issue. So it’s up to us to educate ourselves and make it clear to the LGBT Ugandans that, when they ask for us, we will stand as their allies.