Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
People join Sexual Minorities Uganda and a coalition of groups to protest against a proposed anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda November 19, 2009 in front of the Ugandan Mission to the United Nations in New York.
People join Sexual Minorities Uganda and a coalition of groups to protest against a proposed anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda November 19, 2009 in front of the Ugandan Mission to the United Nations in New York. Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images
Although homosexuality is criminalized in 80 countries, the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 is the most outrageous attempt to sanction homophobia and threaten the human rights of all its citizens. The bill, introduced by parliamentary member David Bahati and strongly influenced by US Evangelicals, previously called for the death penalty for "any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex", now makes it punishable of up to life imprisonment. However, in the case of "serial offenders" and HIV positive individuals the death penalty still stands. Other features of the bill include extraterritorial jurisdiction to punish gay Ugandans living out of state and up to three years imprisonment for anyone who won't report homosexual behaviour.
Mostly, US coverage of the proposed legislation would have you believe that the outcry for justice for the Ugandans is coming from international condemnation against bigoted Ugandans. Julius Kaggwa, an activist from the Uganda Civil Society on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, says that even though the bill is the effect of Conservative American religious leaders playing on existent homophobia in the country, Ugandan opposition to the bill is at all time high. His 26 organization coalition including religious groups is at the forefront of the fight against this proposed human rights violation and is reaching out to the international community to bolster support to condemn the bill. As part of those efforts, he testified before the nonpartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Jan 21st. Here are ten ways to oppose this legislation and stand up for human rights wherever you are.
1. Learn about the anti-gay movement in Africa. The legislation proposed in Uganda is not an isolated incident. Similar legislation was proposed in Rwanda, Nigeria and Burundi passed theirs earlier this year. Read African Intimacies: Race, Homosexuality and Globalization by Neville Wallace Hoad and Off The Map by Cary Alan Johnson. Read Rev. Kapya Kaoma's report on US religious right involvement in Africa, "Globalizing the Culture Wars".
2. Make them return to Uganda. Many of the US Evangelicals including Scott Lively, founder of Abiding Truth Ministries; and Caleb Lee Brundidge of International Healing Foundation were part of a conference that was credited for sparking the controversial legislation, have since backed away from their involvement of the strongly worded bill. Rick Warren who has called Uganda a "Purpose Driven nation" and has close ties to Rev. Martin Ssempa a key supporter of the bill has issued a video distancing himself from the creation of the bill. But this is not enough. Write to these religious leaders' respective churches and demand that they return to Uganda and publicly denounce the bill that they help created.
3. Contact your member of Congress and ask them to co-sponsor on to the Resolution passed. The resolution was a result of the congressional hearings that Kaggwa testified before and the work of Congressmembers Carolyn Maloney and Jared Polis who has openly condemned the bill.
4. Donate to the American Jewish World Service's URGENT LGBT UGANDA FUND to support Ugandan grassroots organizations working to defend the rights of sexual minorities.
5. Support HIV/ AIDS prevention efforts in Uganda. The bill will impede the efforts of organizations working to combat HIV/ AIDS by directly persecuting groups, doctors and activist that work to circumvent the growing rates of those infected. Support the Center for Domestic Violence Prevention (CEDOVIP).
6. One of the bases of the bills is the false assertion that there is a 'gay agenda' to recruit children to a life of homosexuality. Organizations such as Raising Voices, a Ugandan based organization formed to combat violence against women and children, has been falsely accused of involvement and support of the bill. Support Raising Voices and other like minded organizations.
7. Join facebook groups condemning the bill and stay informed of the news and actions taking place to protest it. Read the blog GayUgandafor ongoing coverage on the anti-gay agenda in the country.
8. Fight the anti-gay movement in America. Since the bill has direct roots in America, it's integral to ending this legislation by fighting the cause of it at home. Truth Wins Out, an organization dedicated to fighting anti-gay misinformation, has outlined actions to take against what they call "the right wing multi million dollar culture war."
9. Join the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission and Sexual Minorities of Uganda in condemning the bill. Copy the sample letter and send it to the email, fax or physical addresses of the influential leaders in Uganda all listed on the website.
10. Fight homophobia in your religious or social groups. The bill came from underlying anti-gay sentiments in the society and translated into legislation with the help of religious leaders. Stop any form of homophobia before it goes from part of a religious service to state sanction persecution of a minority group and a human rights violation.
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To understand the nature and challenges of HIV/AIDS treatment in Africa read:
AIDS and Religious Practice in Africa edited by Felicitas Becker and P. Wenzel Geissler
AIDS, Sex, and Culture: Global Politics and Survival in Southern Africa by Ida Susser; with a contribution by Sibongile Mkhize.
A Line Drawn in The Sand: Responses to the AIDS Treatment Crisis in Africa edited by Phyllis J. Kanki, Richard G. Marlin
The Invisible Cure: Africa, The West, and the Fight Against AIDS by Helen Epstein
The African AIDS Epidemic: A History by John Iliffe