How to stop Uganda’s anti-gay bill

In the past, I’ve begged my government to increase its support to military efforts in northern Uganda. It hasn’t helped. Now, I think we have a chance to do something good with that money: cut it off, and don’t give it back until Uganda’s anti-gay bill is dead.

I’ve been keeping shamefully silent on Ugandan MP David Bahati’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill, which would not only provide harsher penalties for gay and lesbian sex but would also criminalize blogging about homosexuality:

5. Promotion of homosexuality
(1) Any person who…

(e)Uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phone and
(f) Who acts as an accomplice or attempts to legitimize or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices

Commits an offense and on conviction is liable to a fine of five thousand currency points or imprisonment of at least five years or both.

(Others have done far better in drawing attention: the bill’s been well-covered by Global Voices, Foreign Policy, Africa’s LGBT bloggers, and Uganda’s own Daily Monitor.)

Demonstrator at August 2007 anti-gay rally in Kampala
Demonstrator at August 2007 anti-gay rally in Kampala. Photo by Rebekah Heacock.

Yesterday, Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic posted a link to an article by James Kirchick, who argues that the US should withhold HIV/AIDS support funding to Uganda unless the bill is withdrawn:

From 2004 through 2008, Uganda received a total of $1.2 billion in PEPFAR money, and this year it is receiving $285 million more. Clearly, the United States has a great deal of leverage over the Ugandan government, and the American taxpayer should not be expected to fund a regime that targets a vulnerable minority for attack — an attack that will only render the vast amount of money that we have donated moot.

Irresponsible and reprehensible behavior on the part of Ugandan officials should lead to a serious re-evaluation of U.S. policy and an ultimatum for the Ugandan government: It must desist in its promotion of deadly homophobia or say goodbye to the hundreds of millions of dollars it has received due to the generosity and goodwill of the American people.

Kirchick makes some good points in his article: the Ugandan government consistently blames the gay population for the spread of HIV but is intent on making it impossible for men who have sex with men to receive much-needed HIV-related education, counseling and health care without the fear of jail time. Withholding PEPFAR funding would spark a popular outcry, forcing the government to change its mind.

Still, I’m not convinced. Kirchick acknowledges that protests by human rights groups so far “have only made the government more defiant.” As sad as it is, I think anti-gay sentiment is so deeply embedded in the current administration and so often blamed on Western influence that withholding US aid may have the same effect. I see Bahati digging in his heels, claiming America wants to further corrupt Ugandan society by not only supporting homosexuality but by helping spread HIV, and I see the majority of the country agreeing with him, even as more Ugandans die of AIDS-related illnesses.

Instead of cutting off critical support for Ugandans living with HIV, I think the US should start withholding military aid. I’ve written before about how poorly executed and ineffective Uganda’s attempts to defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army have been. Cutting military aid won’t make this any worse, and popular opinion of the government’s efforts in this area is so low already that I don’t think citizens will buy an argument that blames the United States. I also believe the government is more likely to respond to a loss in military support than they would be to a loss in HIV aid.

In the past, I’ve begged my government to increase its support to military efforts in northern Uganda. It hasn’t helped. Now, I think we have a chance to do something good with that money: cut it off, and don’t give it back until the Bahati Bill is dead.

6 thoughts on “How to stop Uganda’s anti-gay bill”

  1. Rebecca: why is the West so hypocritical? Why the duplicity and the applying of double standards?

    You accept and support homosexuality which you Westerners find normal. You find normal even same sex ‘marriages’. You accept a man or a woman to have as many partners as he or she wants; but, you come down hard and are very harsh on polygamy. A man who gets married to more than one woman, even if the women are consenting is sent to jail; how can we forget the extreme harshness that was used on the Utah polygamists!

    Polygamy is normal in Africa but we have never tried to force it on Europeans or Americans. Homosexuality is alien and repugnant to us, don’t try to force it on us.

  2. @GUG I was supposed to write something, but it ended up getting too long. I’m sure I have the drafts here somewhere. Insha’llah, I will get to write it. Perhaps on The Kampalan (where I can write and still pretend to be not writing). 😀

  3. I was not going to comment.

    Till I saw 27th comment.

    This is to 27th, you know what brother, your silence has been deafening. Matter of fact. Deafening. And, cowardly.

    If you think my allies shouldnt defend me, while you keep so cowardly silent, why do you blame me for seeking out those allies? Typical intellectual. You know all the impractical solutions, but, damned if you can come up with a credible idea.

    Hush, hush. The rant is out of the way.

    Dear 27th. Yes, I still love you. But, I hate the solution that the only solution is to do nothing. It is infuriating. Its better a revolutionary like you keeps his damned mouth shut….

    Ok. Now, to the aid. It has a precedent. In Dec 1999, M7 famously ordered the arrest of all us homos. Sweden told him no way. He recanted.

    And, our poor nation is not isolated. Not at all. We are dependant on other countries. Whether it is only to be seen as good members of the international community. If it was possible, yes, I would say, not the AIDS aid. But, the military money. Afterall, most of it is getting embezzled. You will see how quickly, and silently, the bill dies.

    Sadly, the Americans still want us to fight their war on terror. So, it is not likely to happen soon.

    But, silence is not an option. Pull a bit on your brains, brother.

  4. Cutting AIDS aid (no, I don’t stammer usually) would only have the effect of punishing some people for living in a country that disagrees with the Almighty(?) USA on how homosexuals should be treated. That would be a bad thing compounded onto another bad thing.

    And stopping any form of aid, military or otherwise, would only wean the government from Western dependency (to be replaced with Eastern dependency or some such). Weaning from aid in and of itself is good.

    But if people should start getting negative effects because some Protector of the Homosexuals has flexed a muscle, there will be the most-evil backlash against homosexuals, the kind that now only exists in the minds of over-eager American activist types. (At this point, I don’t know more homosexuals who have been mistreated more than, say, marijuana smokers. But after the US causes economic havoc for their sake, we just might wake up to burning homos.)

    In short, please Western World, don’t fuck with this. It’s none of your fucking business. Your languages make a distinction between humane behaviour and being a human. Ours don’t. So shut the fuck up and let us do the sensible thing – reversing what you’ve done thus far.


    (Hey, you missed the TED conference. It was off the chain. You shoulda been there! It was totally your kind of meeting.)

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