Love Defined by Law

If you identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender in Uganda, you are considered a criminal under the law. Homosexuality is currently illegal in Uganda and anyone who engages in homosexual activity is subject to up to 14 years of imprisonment. On October 13, 2009 the Ugandan government proposed a new bill that would both allow for harsher punishments and broaden the scope of those who fall under the jurisdiction of this law.

The death penalty is now the proposed punishment under the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Bill for people who engage in homosexual acts if they have had previous convictions, are HIV-positive, or engage in such sexual acts with a person under the age of 18. This bill will also allow the government to extradite citizens back to Uganda if they engage in homosexual acts outside of the country. Furthermore, the bill not only imposes this law on individuals, but also on companies, media organizations, and non-governmental organizations that show support of lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights.

 Human rights organizations and governments around the world have been denouncing the proposed law since the Ugandan government first introduced the bill in October 2009. Several international organizations and governments have threatened to withdraw the financial aid they provide to Uganda if the bill is not changed. In response to these pressures and the risk of losing monetary funds, Uganda has proposed a revision of the bill that would exchange the death penalty for life imprisonment. The Washington Post reports that Ugandan parliament member, David Bahati, refuses to withdraw the bill as he says, “The process of legislating a law to protect our children against homosexuality and defending our family values must go on.”

Much like Bahati’s sentiments, fearful attitudes towards LGBT individuals run deep in Uganda. It is reported by the New York Times that American Evangelicals are actually helping to fuel this fear of homosexual activity. Three American Evangelicals presented speeches at a March 2009 workshop in the capital city of Uganda. This workshop focused on “how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how the gay movement is an evil institution whose goal is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity.”

The Huffington Post reports that Ugandan Stephen Langa cited a book written by an unlicensed conversion therapist during the workshop. Langa cited unfounded facts such as:  “homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children…homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil…and 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexual activity.” Although these facts are derived from faulty studies and the psychologist responsible for publishing the studies has been expelled from several Psychological Associations, the lies continue to damage Ugandan attitudes toward LGBT individuals.

The revised Anti-Homosexuality Bill is expected to be discussed by Uganda’s parliament in March of 2010. While Ugandans wait for a decision, people around the world are not waiting to speak out on the issue. A Los Angeles Times contributor wrote, “Gay Africans face an impossible, insulting, ahistorical, cruel and utterly false choice of having to choose between being gay and being African.”


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