December 22, 2013
The U.S. should cut off aid to Uganda over its anti-gay crackdown.
On December 20, Uganda passed anti-gay legislation that would impose a life imprisonment for gay sex involving an HIV-positive person, acts with minors and the disabled, and repeated sex offenses among consenting adults even though Uganda already punishes gay intimacy with life in prison. The legislation also sets forth a seven-year jail term for a person who conducts a marriage ceremony for same-sex couples.
Given the advancement of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) in this country, we forget the battle for such rights is still being fought in other parts of the world. For example, on the eve of the Winter Olympic games, Russia passed legislation that bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children.
How did this draconian Ugandan law come about? In March 2009, American anti-gay activists traveled to Uganda for a conference that pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality. Seven months later, in October 2009, David Bahati, a Ugandan lawmaker and a member of the “Family,” sponsored the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009.”
The “Family” or the “Fellowship,” is a secretive, privately-funded group and one of the most powerful, well-connected Christian fundamentalist movements in the U.S. This organization used its influence and funds through the Family’s African outreach programs to support the Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill. Previously, the Family had converted Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni to its anti-gay brand of Christianity. Doug Coe, the Family’s leader, called Uganda’s President Museveni the Family’s “key man” in Africa and the Family and other anti-gay groups have long viewed Uganda as a laboratory to experiment with Christian theocracy.
The Family leadership is now on record opposing the Ugandan anti-gay legislation — the very legislation they promoted — although it is unclear how active members were in lobbying Ugandan legislators to drop the legislation.
The Ugandan anti-gay legislation has sparked controversy in other Africa countries. The influence of the religious right is being felt across Sub-Sahara Africa. The Christian right has been involved in anti-gay legislative and constitutional activities in Kenya, Liberia, Namibia, Nigeria, Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe as well. Uganda’s anti-gay legislation may be the model for other countries, including Nigeria and Liberia, where similar laws are being considered.
While today, anti-gay legislation may be a reaction to Western ideas, discriminatory laws date back to Western colonization in Africa that banned sodomy as “carnal knowledge against the order of nature” and then went on to prohibit lesbian relationships, to outlaw same-sex marriages, to prevent the adoption of children by same-sex couples, and to outlaw LGBT organizations.
The U.S. has a close alliance with the Ugandan military. The U.S. provides advisers, training, weapons, and supplies, and in return Ugandan soldiers do most of the fighting in Somalia, a stronghold for Islamic militants. Will the U.S. endanger its alliance to support “LGBT issues?”
Supposedly, “LGBT issues are a caveat on U.S. support.” Given this caveat, the U.S. should cut off military aid to Uganda until the anti-gay legislation is repealed. If the U.S. does not take a firm stand here, the rest of Sub-Sahara Africa will probably follow Uganda’s lead.
Will the U.S. jeopardize its alliance with Uganda over these LGBT issues? I am hopeful, but not optimistic.