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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 22 July, 2014

Column: The ‘Kill The Gays’ law is shocking – but we mustn’t act rashly

Imposing Western will too forcefully will only put more lives in danger, writes GCN editor Brian Finnegan.

Brian Finnegan

THE OUTCRY ON GCN’s social networking platforms following Rebecca Kadaga’s announcement that the Ugandan government will introduce its ‘Kill Gays Bill’ by the end of this year was understandably reactionary. Followers said:

Hope y’all sick bastards get what you deserve some day.
Sick, sick, sick!” said another. “I hope that Ireland will withdraw any aid it is giving to this country, should they proceed with this vile law.

But we should take a breath and think hard before becoming too instantly reactionary. Last month, at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec, Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird warned Uganda not to trample on people’s human rights.

Kadaga replied, “If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it. We are not a colony or a protectorate of Canada.”

Christmas gift

Her further response, on returning to massive support in Uganda, was to announce the anti-homosexuality bill, saying, “Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we’ll give them that gift.”

The legislation proposes that gay men and lesbians be sentenced to life imprisonment for having sex and that more ‘extreme’ cases of ‘aggravated homosexuality’, defined as gay acts committed by parents or authority figures, HIV-positive people, paedophiles and repeat offenders, may face the death penalty if convicted. If introduced it will also heavily criminalise several peripheral things like advocating on behalf of LGBT people, or attending a same-sex wedding.

It also provides for compensation for “victims” of homosexuality, a provision in law which is sure to result in consensual partners turning against their partner to not only avoid the draconian legal penalties, but to claim the status of victim and seek compensation.

The bill also states that a person charged with an offence under this Act shall be liable to extradition under the existing extradition laws. The wording of Kadaga’s response at the Inter-Parliamentary Union is key to the reason Uganda and other African countries are introducing such draconian anti-gay laws. Many countries have imposed their will on Africa throughout history (Uganda was a British colony until 1962). In the wake of independence, homophobia has been used as a rallying cry for votes by the likes of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, and former Zambian President Rupaih Banda, denouncing the cultural and societal dominance of the West.

The Ugandan announcement, immediately following Baird’s dressing down in Canada, polarises Uganda further from the West, where gay marriage is becoming the norm and shows just how harmful the brute imposition of Western will may be to LGBTs – not only in Uganda, but across the African continent.

Imprisonment

In Nigeria, the day after Kadaga’s announcement, lawmakers advanced a bill that will sentence gay couples who try to marry or live together, to a maximum of 14 years in jail. Individuals who witness or help these couples will face a 10-year sentence, public displays of affection between same-sex couples will be criminalised and LGBT organisations will be made illegal.

The response that’s needed should be measured and non-sensationalist. It must respect Africa’s independence, while diplomatically working with governmental agencies and NGO’s in Uganda, Nigeria and elsewhere to educate, support and empower communities to act for the greater good of all Ugandan people, including LGBT’s, rather than insisting they bend to Western will.

International governments, including Ireland, must engage with Ugandan leaders to impress upon them the needlessness and imminent harm of this bill to all of Ugandan society, not only in making it a society where inhumanity towards your fellow man is leglislated for, but through Uganda’s subsequent isolation from the international community. Our leaders must impress on Uganda’s leaders the acceptance of the Uganda and its people as an equal part of the international community, rather than the desire of the international community to dominate Uganda. They should underline the basic respect for human life that comes with this relationship.

Threats and blanket criticism of Uganda, without considered diplomatic engagement, will result in further harm to LGBT individuals, the whipping up of the homophobic sentiments of the bill and the aggressive enforcement of the bill, if and when it is introduced.

Brian Finnegan is the Editor of GCN and the author of The Forced Redundancy Film Club, follow him on twitter @finneganba.

More: Labour LGBT – Ugandan ‘kill the gays’ bill must be stopped>

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