Americas / Europe

9 moves to roll back Uganda’s anti-gay law

Supporters of LGBT rights are starting to respond to Uganda’s harsh new Anti-Homosexuality Law, which calls for up to seven years in prison for anyone convicted of “promoting homosexuality” and a life sentence for anyone who “touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.” (For more info, see “Draconian details of Uganda’s misguided new anti-gay law.”)

Here are nine measures aimed at convincing Ugandan politicians to repeal the law:

U.S. Ambassador Scott DeLisi.

U.S. Ambassador Scott DeLisi.

TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

1. Refusing to grant visas to Ugandan politicians, religious leaders and other prominent supporters of the law. (Proposal)

“I can tell you they will not be welcome in the United States of America,” said Scott DeLisi, U.S. ambassador to Uganda. “Visas can be denied for people who incite violence, people who propagate hate, who have used political violence. There are many bases on which we can deny a visa. And I can tell you that we will be examining all of these issues as we move forward.”

RESTRICTING AID

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

2. The World Bank halted a $90 million health care loan to Uganda, scheduled for today, in response to the new law.  “We have postponed the project for further review,” a World Bank spokesperson told BuzzFeed. In a statement, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim made clear that he believes that anti-LGBT discrimination is both morally wrong and economically costly.

3. The Netherlands froze $9.6 million in aid to Uganda’s legal system rather than provide financial assistance to courts implementing the law.

4. Denmark will divert about $8.7 million to private projects in Uganda that ordinarily would have gone to the Ugandan government.

5. Norway will divert about $8 million in development aid from the Ugandan government and give it instead to private organizations and human rights groups.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2007 photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2007 photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

6. The United States MIGHT freeze aid. (Proposal)

The United States contributes more than $456 million a year to Uganda for  food, education and military training. Because of the Anti-Homosexuality Law, Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont this week called for a freeze on that aid.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the administration will review its relationship with Uganda, including aid programs.

7. The United Kingdom is seeking a new, stronger strategy, having realized that a more subtle approach hasn’t worked. The clout that the United Kingdom can achieve from its aid is limited because it had already canceled aid to the Ugandan government because of corruption.  Its planned $163 million in aid for Uganda this year will go to non-governmental organizations and international aid agencies. Britain is Uganda’s second-largest aid provider after the United States.

Lynne Featherstone, British minister for international development. (Photo courtesy of www.libdemvoice.org )

Lynne Featherstone, British minister for international development. (Photo courtesy of http://www.libdemvoice.org )

In the recent past, on the advice of each country’s LGBT leaders, U.K. International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone said she took a “subtle approach” and only “raised my concerns behind closed doors with the governments and privately met with local LGBT groups.” She added:

“But this approach clearly didn’t work in Uganda. It failed to prevent new anti-gay legislation, and I fear it won’t deter similar legislation in other parts of Africa.

“I will continue to do everything in my power to promote gay rights and equality – both at home and abroad. I’ve also invited Stonewall and the Kaleidoscope Trust to meet with me early next week to discuss how they and their international networks can help. We need to work closely together, jointly where possible, in defending and promoting human rights everywhere.

“Because that is what this debate is about – not Western imperialism or Western impositions on African cultures, but the universal values of tolerance, love and mutual respect.”

Prominent Ugandan LGBT activists are divided on whether aid cuts are a good idea:

  • Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of Amnesty.fr)

    Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera (Photo courtesy of Amnesty.fr)

    PRO: Jacqueline Kasha (Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera), executive director of Freedom & Roam Uganda (FARUG), supports them. She tweeted, “ISOLATE UG so no other country attempts this” and “its ordinary Ugs that showed support for this.U shud hv seen the bull roastings in town these r our neighbors.CUT [aid] NOW.”

  • Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)

    Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)

    CON: Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), opposes them. He tweeted this week, “We can’t afford to create new victims. We should go after the crazy politicians! Not innocent Ugandans.”

8. Business boycotts of Uganda (Proposal)

Soon after the Ugandan parliament passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in December, Virgin Group Ltd.’s Richard Branson called for a business boycott of Uganda.  No large companies have joined him in this endeavor.

In fact, ads for Ford and for the Orange telecommunications company were still appearing today on the website of Red Pepper, the tabloid that contributed to the country’s anti-gay frenzy by publishing a front-page illustrated story under the headline “EXPOSED! Uganda’s 200 Top Homos Named.”

A Ugandan LGBT rights coalition, the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, asked “multinational companies that have businesses in Uganda to go public about their concerns on the [law] and their future economic engagements in Uganda.”

9. Making public statements criticizing the Ugandan law

Many Western leaders have criticized the law without taking any concrete steps to push for its repeal:

  • Barack Obama

    President Barack Obama

    U.S. President President Barack Obama said the law was “a step backward” and urged that it be repealed. The law will “complicate” the two countries’ “valued relationship,” he said.

  • The French Foreign Ministry issued a statement urging Uganda to “uphold its international commitments regarding the protection of human rights.”
  • Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said, “Canada is extremely disappointed that President Museveni has signed this piece of legislation ….  We strongly urge the President to protect the human rights of all Ugandans regardless of their sexual orientation, in accordance with Uganda’s constitution.”

Pope Francis will visit Uganda in October to mark the 50th anniversary of the canonization of Ugandan martyrs whose conversion to Christianity led them to reject gay sex from the country’s former king. The Pope has been a voice for toleration — saying last year “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?”– but he has not spoken against the Ugandan law.

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7 thoughts on “9 moves to roll back Uganda’s anti-gay law

  1. Bravo for these 9 actions! I understand Mr. Mugisha’s concern, but it seems that these 9 actions for the most part are not harming Ugandans, but are harming the politicians by giving concrete aid to Ugandans in private orgs. I am most impressed by those agents who have come out boldly now after trying the quiet way. Those who, like Pres. Obama, are still “talking”, simply need to get on with their responsibilities for universal human rights. I’ve been getting some feedback from an African theology student who is all in the “compassion”, “loving” mode, but who still rants with propagandistic slogans about homosexuals trying to “colonize” Africans and how Africans must come to defend LGBTQI’s on their own. Wow! I hope the group CAMEF in Cameroon will be able to get some of the aid Ugandans will get! INDIEGOGO campaign for CAMEF THANKS!

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  5. America et al
    In spite of all your years of aids to Africa, it still remains a poor continent no thanks to corrupt and inept leadership which followed your ancestors’ decades of inhuman exploitation of our rich human and mineral resources to develop your land.
    Your withdrawal of such “devils gifts” may at best, affect the leaders(minority) and not the majority of Africans whose spirit you can not break with your new found “holier than thou” immoral and devilish segregation, apartheid and neo-colonialist policies and laws.
    Many imposing colonial empires had come and are gone, yet Africa remains stronger. If you were to experience half of our problems, by now, you would have gone extinct showing how strong we are in the face of ungodly adversities like you. So, bring it on!

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  6. Pingback: Germany blocks Ugandans’ trip to safety seminar | 76 CRIMES

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