>Why Uganda matters

>For those who may  not be in the loop, Uganda is considering a bill that would impose the death penalty on some gays in the country.

The Ugandan legislation in its current form would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. “Serial offenders” also could face capital punishment, but the legislation does not define the term. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment. Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality” faces seven years in prison if convicted. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years and anyone with “religious, political, economic or social authority” who fails to report anyone violating the act faces three years

The legislation has drawn fire from human rights activists inside Uganda and across the globe as one that promotes hatred and one that would set back the country’s attempts to tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis affecting its population. It’s also drawing the ire of some of this country’s most prominent self-proclaimed Christians, such as Rick Warren and others.

A protest was held outside the country’s embassy in London. I think the photos of those in the AFP picture below shows some of the outrage that’s felt by many across the board

Courtesy AFP/Getty Images

Other organizations such as the conservative GOProud also denounced the legislation. It should be pointed, as the MSNBC article does, that this legislation followed a meeting of American conservative Christian leaders who touted therapy to turn gays into heterosexuals. More on that later…

This sort of legislation should draw the attention to any nation-state that’s concerned about the possible circumventing rights of a minority–and the stability of a region. Activists who believe this sort of legislation could curtail the progress Uganda has seen in preventing new HIV/AIDS cases are dead on. According to a report from AVERTing HIV and AIDS, Uganda is “often held up as a model for African in the fight against HIV & AIDS.” But, the report indicated, there are an estimated 940,000 people in the country with HIV and 1.2 million children orphaned by AIDS. These type of witch-hunting laws that are enacted by governments do nothing but further isolate a segment of a population (often the population those in the “majority” want to “rid” the country of) that already faces some form on institutionalized discrimination and second-class citizenship. Criminalizing homosexuality will only force Uganda’s gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered folk further into the shadows of society and further exacerbate the problem of HIV/AIDS.

I say what this country does matters because this sets a precedent for other countries to follow, particularly on a continent that already filled with disease, famine and genocide. On a continent in which ethnic groups were pitted against each other (with the result ending in roughly 800,000 killed in the Rwandan genocide and at least 400,000 killed in the ongoing Darfur conflict) and where millions are killed and orphaned due to AIDS each year, attempts to marginalize segments of populations can not stand. 

I saw that this country does matters because it’s a blatant violation of the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And, as a member state of the U.N., Uganda would be turning its back on these same principles it proclaimed to protect before joining the U.N. In essence, it would be turning its back on its duty as a state to protect all its citizens from injustice and discrimination.