In February of this Ugandan president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni signed the Anti-Homosexuality Act and people convicted of committing homosexual acts are now potentially subject to life in prison. Proscribed actions include:
- Aggravated homosexuality (Life imprisonment)
- Attempt to commit homosexuality (Life imprisonment)
- Aiding and abetting homosexuality (Imprisonment for seven years)
- Conspiracy to engage in homosexuality (Imprisonment for seven years)
- Procuring homosexuality by threats, etc (Imprisonment for seven years)
- Detention with intent to commit homosexuality (Imprisonment for seven years)
- Brothels (Imprisonment for five or seven years)
- Same sex marriage (Imprisonment for seven years for officiant, life for participant)
- Promotion of homosexuality (Fine plus imprisonment for five to seven years)
Life in a Ugandan prison definitely qualifies as ‘nasty, brutish, and short’.
The 80-page report, “‘Even Dead Bodies Must Work’: Health, Hard Labor, and Abuse in Ugandan Prisons,” documents routine physical abuse and the failure of the criminal justice system to protect the rights of prisoners. Prisoners at rural prisons, including the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and pregnant women, are frequently caned, or are even stoned, handcuffed to a tree, or burned, when they refuse to perform hard labor. HIV and tuberculosis (TB) patients may be denied care and sent to farm prisons far from treatment programs, the report says.
“Prisoners in Uganda, many not convicted of any crime, are brutally beaten and forced to work under conditions resembling slavery,” said Katherine Todrys, a health and human rights researcher at Human Rights Watch and one of the authors of the report. “Few prisoners with HIV or TB get adequate health care, risking their lives and the development and spread of drug-resistant strains.”
Who could possibly suggest that someone should be sent to such a place for actions that take place between consenting adults? The religious leaders of Uganda, of course.
Several churches in eastern Uganda praised President Museveni in their Easter sermons for assenting to the anti-gays law in February.
The Bishop of Mbale Diocese, the Rt Rev Patrick Gidudu, said President Museveni made Ugandans proud by defying international pressure, including from several donors. “His courage gives us hope against the forces of resistance. We know that this legislation will protect society and the youth from homosexuality which is abominable in Africa,” Bishop Gidudu said.
In Kapchorwa District, the Rt Rev Augustine Salimo, the Bishop of Sebei, encouraged Christians to embrace Jesus Christ since he defeated death. “His resurrection demonstrates that he is more powerful than death, which is the most destructive force in the whole world. We just need to ask ourselves this Easter: Are we really in Christ? Have you been born again?” Bishop Salimo said. In reference to the Anti-Homosexual Act, he also urged the government not to back down but to continue the right path pursued to protect values of Ugandans.
In Tororo District, Bishop Emmanuel Obbo, the Archbishop of Tororo Archdiocese, urged every citizen who supported the anti-homosexuality law to lay down greed, corruption and “put them to death and let generosity rise up within us and flow out in abundance”. “In Christ, we have victory over dysfunctional relationships, bad habits, painful experiences, sexual temptation and devastating circumstances,” he said.
Pastor Andrew Mutengu of the Word of Faith Church, said: “The resurrection of Christ is the only hope for a country full of conflicts. Christ was victorious over sin and death. We too have to hope that we can be victorious over the same.”
Pastor Mutengu said Christ’s power could raise Ugandans from poverty, corruption, slavery, sickness and sectarianism, among other evils. He urged Christians to pray for the nation, saying the anti-homosexuality law puts the country in danger after it triggered aid cut. “We need to stand by the President in prayer to help our country stand without aid,” he said.
Wake Up Ministries Pastor Martin Nangoli asked leaders to deal with more pressing needs.
“Our dear President did us proud by signing the anti-gays Bill into law. So each of us must repent, seek God, strive for forgiveness and renew our spiritual lives to create peace for development,” Pr Nangoli said. “Above all, we must know that any society that wants to grow with social values must protect the family. We must discard homosexuality to protect marriages,” he added.
The Bishop of Namirembe Diocese, the Rt Rev Wilberforce Kityo Luwalira, has advised the government to use locally generated funds in a frugal way amidst aid cuts by some development countries over the anti-homosexuality law. “Now that we have refused money from immoral people, we are moving on to take care of the people who were formerly catered for by the donors. Therefore, there is need to use the little money properly without stealing it,” he said.
“It takes a courageous leader to defy all the western powers who have gone as far a threatening to cut off aid to Uganda incase the president signs the anti-gay bill,” said Hajji Nsereko Mutumba, the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) Public Relations Officer.
It is interesting that many of the promoters of the law support it as freedom from western influence, while wearing the mantles of western religions.
Following the signing of the bill, at least one AIDS clinic has been attacked for promoting homosexuality.
Ugandan police shut down one of the country’s only clinics that treats HIV and AIDS on Wednesday on the pretext that the clinic “promotes homosexuality” and was conducting “illegal homosexual research.”
The minor fact that the majority of AIDS sufferers in Uganda are women and children is totally irrelevant to the homophobia sweeping the country.
The western world is inching its way to legal equality for gays, so the religious right is exploiting the countries where they still have great control over the population so push their anti-gay attitudes; a battle they are losing in the west.
While the criminal code is federal jurisdiction in Canada, in the US, there are a mixture of federal and state laws that constitute criminal activity. Although the US Supreme Court has declared anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional, there are a number of states that have retained some aspects of criminalizing homosexuality, and in much of the US, people who fall under the LGBT labels have few protections.
Virtually all of these laws and discriminatory practices are promoted by the religious right, a group that has enough power to influence laws and promote bigotry. In countries such as Uganda and Nigeria, they are having their way and theocracy is winning. This is what they want for us.