Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Ugandan government takes dead aim at HIV positive gays


Many Africans seem to believe that men having sex with men, or women having sex with women, is unAfrican. It is as if such sexual behavior never took place on the continent during its very long history, and if it has appeared recently, this is due to external, non-African influences -- as if it were a new fashion craze helicoptered in from San Francisco. In this way, gays in Africa are doubly marginalized: they not only deviate from heterosexual norms, they aren't 'real Africans.' And being stripped of cultural identity is often a prelude to (and justification for) exclusion, humiliation or physical violence. Not everyone in Africa sees things this way, of course, but it is a real and strong tendency.

The tendency is strongly manifest in a provisional bill ("The Anti-Homosexuality Bill") currently being proposed and discussed by the Ugandan government. There already are anti-homosexual laws in Uganda, harking back to colonial times, but members of the government are seeking to beef them up, and how. Among its provisions, single gay sex acts could be punished by life sentences; repeated gay sex acts could lead to the death penalty; gays who test HIV positive could be executed; members of organizations who engage in the 'promotion of homosexuality' (i.e. gay rights groups) would be outlawed; even an attempt to commit a homosexual act would be considered a felony and a conviction would lead to a seven year prison sentence.

The proposal bill is worth reading in the original. It starts off with a number of unargued assertions: that homosexuality is not innate (hence mutable, or 'curable'), and that the bill aims to protect the traditional family values of Ugandans, apparently under serious threat by sexual rights activists hell bent on imposing their agenda of promiscuity and adoption of children by gay couples. One of the last provisions in the proposed bill is aimed to deflect any and all criticism from a human rights point of view: "Any International legal instrument whose provisions are contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act, are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency." A lot like saying: this is the way we intend to treat our gay Ugandan citizens, and outsiders, if they don't like it, can go to straight to hell. Highly reminiscent of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's old trick: use a lot of nationalist and anti-colonial rhetoric against outsiders to justify abuses on the enemies within.

Ugandan government officials generally don't mind listening to right-wing religious groups from the United States (or taking their money) as long as the latter says what the former wants to hear or already believes in. But US anti-gay groups are pulling back (a bit) from this one publicly, even if they are happy with its spirit of the proposed laws. The Ugandans, it seems, are on their own. Or maybe not. Given the extent of gay hatred on the continent, the bill if approved could function as a template for similar legislation in neighboring countries. So it is important to see how this situation evolves.

It is also important from the perspective of HIV prevention. Plenty of men have sex with men in Africa, if you bother to look closely enough, and these men have a disproportionally higher incidence of HIV. Reaching this population with HIV prevention messages and strategies is already difficult enough, without laws that treat them as sub-human.

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Blogger JD said...

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Many Africans seem to believe that men having sex with men, or women having sex with women, is unAfrican. It is as if such sexual behavior never took place on the continent during its very long history and if it has appeared recently.

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Many Africans seem to believe that men having sex with men, or women having sex with women, is unAfrican.


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Interesting... Is it not Ugandan who wants to imprison or kill gays? Top homos? Very funny!
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I think its wrong that a man having sex with a man is an African.

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I agree with amirsyazi, when I was in Afrika, people belive that men having sex with men, or women having sex with women, is unafrikan.

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I really don't see the value in attacking different people for who they want to have sex with. I personally like having sex with females, and I think everyone should be exercise their rights.
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I think this type of same sex practice extends well beyond the bounds of San Francisco. I don't think it's fair to alienate someone because of their sexual preferences. It's even more sinister to put them in jail for life.

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Blogger Lizzy said...

I really don't see the value in attacking different people for who they want to have sex with. I personally like having sex with females, and I think everyone should be exercise their rights.

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People fear what they don't understand. Personally, I don't understand wearing stripes with polka dots and that makes me afraid. Does it make me gay? Probably.

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