Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Law That Shames Uganda

I wonder if my readers will find this as shocking as I do. Imagine that a political party introduces a law which says the following...
(1) a person commits the offence of homosexuality if

(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;
(b) he or she uses any object of sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;
(c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing . . . homosexuality.
(2) a person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

The second, more serious offence of "aggravated homosexuality" turns on the notion of the "serial offender", defined in the introduction to the law as "a person who has previous convictions of the offence of homosexuality or related offences." Anyone who is a confirmed gay man or lesbian and already has a sexual history faces the death penalty, alongside homosexual rapists and child abusers.

This is how the law will work: victims are not to be penalised; they are to be assisted, and their identities protected. Judges may order that the offender has to pay them compensation. In addition, "aiding", "abetting" or "promoting" homosexuality becomes illegal. Perhaps, most importantly, failure to inform the authorities, within 24 hours, of suspected homosexuals is criminalised. The people must turn informants - or risk jail. Lovers must choose between "victim" or "offender"; the former protected and paid, the latter imprisoned or killed.


But that's exactly what the government of Uganda has done, as discussed by Sigrid Rausing in this week's New Statesman.

Consensual homosexual acts between adults are still illegal in as many as 70 countries. Most countries have moved to a liberalisation of those unjust and repressive laws. In Uganda, however, the Hon David Bahati has sponsored an anti-homosexuality bill far more draconian than the already existing code. It begins with principles and threats: the value of traditional family values, the threat of homosexual infection. The logic of the bill is this: "This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic." But only if sexual orientation is voluntary can a person be held accountable for his or her choice. Science has concluded that sexual orientation is a core personality trait, not a choice. You no more choose to be gay or bisexual than you choose to be left-handed or ambidextrous; it's a morally neutral position.

Consensual homosexual acts between adults are still illegal in as many as 70 countries. Most countries have moved to a liberalisation of those unjust and repressive laws. In Uganda, however, the Hon David Bahati has sponsored an anti-homosexuality bill far more draconian than the already existing code. It begins with principles and threats: the value of traditional family values, the threat of homosexual infection. The logic of the bill is this: "This legislation further recognizes the fact that same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic." But only if sexual orientation is voluntary can a person be held accountable for his or her choice. Science has concluded that sexual orientation is a core personality trait, not a choice. You no more choose to be gay or bisexual than you choose to be left-handed or ambidextrous; it's a morally neutral position.

Britain gices £70 million a year to Uganda in development aid. We are the country's fourth largest provider of such funds. Hopefully the British government is making representations to the government of Uganda about this law and will threaten to withdraw aid if the law isn't reversed.

40 comments:

john in cheshire said...

Iain, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for the shower who purport to govern us, to do anything remotely resembling an objection to this 'law'. They'll just keep on doling out our money to the corrupt recipients in Uganda and pretend that everything is OK.

Michael Heaver said...

Totally disgusting, I hope something is done.

Raedwald said...

Before the Enlightenment we used to hang buggers ourselves, of course. Why do we expect European post-Enlightenment moral standards from an African continent that has never undergone an endogenous Enlightenment, and wears a Western veneer of morality with increasing difficulty?

killemallletgodsortemout said...

Sounds fair enough to me.

Rather than get the government to withdraw aid, which would punish straight people as well as gays, why don't you try to organise a gay pride march in Uganda, to highlight this "shameful" law?

Do let us know how you get on.

neil h said...

Even more shamefully, the Anglican church in Uganda is whole heartedly in favour of this draconian law and Rowan Williams doesn't appear to give two hoots about reminding them of the Christian duties of compassion and tolerance.

Rab C. Nesbitt said...

I honestly don't care. What concern is it of ours?

Ben said...

Sounds to me like they're thinking along the right lines. Where's the problem?

Akheloios said...

@ Raedwald

As most colonialised countries had notoriously liberal attitudes towards sexual orientation prior to colonialisation, blaming the colonised seems rather disingenuous.

This is a result of Victorian sexual moralising, still supported by the Evangelical and Catholic churches that happily cheer legislation of this kind on.

The Enlightenment was good for a lot of things, but it is only in the last 50 years that we've stopped 'hanging the buggers' as you say. If you want to let the rest of the world catch up, start blaming the real perpetrators, our old laws and the inept moralising of our churches, rather than the victims who are stuck with our insane laws from 100 years ago.

Jimmy said...

"Iain, I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for the shower who purport to govern us, to do anything remotely resembling an objection to this 'law'."

Yes, obviously you'll be better off waiting for a tory administration.

Simon said...

Remember when Labour came to power they spoke of a ethical foreign policy?

It doesn't surprise me that a third world basket case of a country would pass a disgusting law like this.

What does surprise me is that we don't hear a peep out of our politicians or religious leaders.

It surprises me that the Tories are prepared to make a spending commitment on foreign "aid".

Why?

Our country is in a financial mess and we still give money to the failed african project? Africa has had 50 years of suckling on the wests teet and yet all we get in return is homphobes and despots.

It isn't just Africa. We fund Pakistan FFS.

Its time to withdraw funding from these leeches

True Belle said...

Africa is blighted with Aids.

May I suggest this law is a knee jerk reaction in order to control the spread of Aids.

Thousands of children are orphaned and the cost of trying to control the spread of HIV is very prohibitive. http://www.avert.org/aids-uganda.htm

Child rape is still regarded as a cure for Aids in Africa.

Sadly extreme measures are always the norm, as is the circumcision of little girls too.

Perhaps this disgusting rule needs overturning too.

Norfolk Blogger said...

We also give "aid" to India. A nation that will be richer than us within 5 years and which has the money to afford a nuclear weapons programme and a space programme. Why do we dish out aid in these cases ?

If they ahve poverty, then stop sending expensive roccets in to space or producing nuclear warheads.

Ben said...

Actually, what is shocking is the suggestion that aid should be withheld from, say, starving orphans because a decadent Western state has designs on interfering in the internal laws of a sovereign nation.

Mick Turatian said...

I suppose we are so conditioned by the political correctness foisted on us here that this sort of thing now seems a bit archaic.

Linking aid policy to political correctness or your personal sense of morality seems a bit intolerant, a bit authoritarian and a bit New Labour.

John said...

Hold on Iain. As much as I disagree vehemently with this Law, the only people who have standing to challenge it are the Ugandan people themselves.

Threatening to withhold aid in an attempt to bully a foreign country into conforming with OUR values isn't something I and I hope most people feel should be too comfortable with.

If we only traded/gave aid to those countries that confirm to our set of values we'd simply cut off most of the world.

Jabba the Cat said...

Redefines the meaning of Ugandan affairs...

Paul Halsall said...

Your nice commentators are out in force Iain.

I really don't know how you cope.

[Especially when you know these guys are using a little finger on themselves every night to soothe themselves....]

adrian said...

Iain...be honest, why bother.It's their laws, let them govern how they wish.We stick our noses in too many times, let them get on with it, we've got enough troubles ourselves!

Oliver Drew said...

Shameful. Disgraceful.

The Government should be embarrassed to be providing aid to a government who proclaim such laws.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

Their country, their law.

End of.

joshuachambers said...

It's such an interesting proposal to target aid in exchange for a change of values, but I wonder what we can do on our own. We've got a colonial history that weakens our ability to directly challenge African governments on our own. And as for the EU, well that's perhaps too undemocratic and, with the appointment of Mr Van Rompuy, too concerned with Christian values alone to be able to enforce the human rights and challenge the elected Ugandan government (I think it is, anyhow). I've tried to work through this on my blog: http://joshuachambers.wordpress.com/2009/11/21/an-interesting-proposal-iain-but-what-can-we-do/

Rebel Saint said...

I've heard a rumour some of the governments we provide aid to are also corrupt. Some of them are even socialists.

And it's probably safer not to even consider the laws in some of the Islamic nations we give aid too.

Keith Elliott said...

Agree with you entirely. The British Government has been conspicuously quiet on this. Other Governments, for example, the Canadians and many of the Europeans, have raised concerns.

Uganda is a deeply homophobic society and in many ways appears to be regressing. President Museveni, who came to power in the mid 80's and was full of reforming zeal to begin with, has now, after more than 20 years in power just become another corrupt dictator.

Many Ugandan's are becoming sick of his regime, hence this sort of reactionary homophobic law designed to be populist and to divert attention from the real issues.

Cllr Peter cairns (SNP) said...

Iain,

It is indeed an odious Law.

However as with Zimbabwe I'd rather target the law makers than the people.

Sad as it might be I suspect they might actually be more upset by a travel ban which hit their shopping trips to London than their people going hungry.

If I have an issue here its that you seem so aware of the injustice in laws like this while still being so far to the right on other issues.

Peter.

David Lindsay said...

Should we aid a country which is preparing to execute those who persistently engage in homosexual acts?

Well, we send our boys to die for a regime which has legalised rape within marriage, which was illegal under those misogynistic Taliban.

If Afghanistan can have our blood, then Uganda may as well have our treasure. In what remaining position are we to make any sort of moral stand?

King Athelstan said...

"If I have an issue here its that You seem so aware of the injustice in laws like this while still being so far to the right on other issues."

?

I never knew You were far right Iain!

If I have an issue here its that lefties are such a bunch of unctious, self righteous wankers.
(Even as we wallow in the detritus of their miserable failure.)

steveal said...

It always comes as a shock when you see actions taken without a "liberal" slant.

Every comment/law/action/perspective in this country is slanted to the liberal agenda.

Good on the Ugandans.

Houdini said...

So you think we should dictate laws and lawmaking in a foreign country based on bribery?

tory boys never grow up said...

You are right that the law shames Uganda - but threatening to withdraw the aid if the law isn't repealed probably wouldn't solve anything and just penalise those who benefit from the aid - there are probaly other less nuclear options.


Of course one country where the Conservatives could use their influence to target legislation that attacks the free speech of homosexuals and many others would be Lithuania where a law to that effect has recently been passed - supported by the Lithuanian Party that is the Conservatives ally in the European Parliment. Perhaps the British Tories could vote to expel the Lithuanian reprsentative from their grouping - although of course that would mean a reduction in that group's funding. I look forward to Mr Dale lobbying for the expulsion in the near future - but for some reason I'm not holding my breath. Perhaps you could ask Mr Kaminski to act?

tory boys never grow up said...

See the links for details of the homophobic and anti free sppech laws being supported by the Tories and Mr Kaminski's Lithuanian allies.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18325http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18407

What do you think should be done about it Mr Dale?

Wrinkled Weasel said...

The majority of the uncivilised bit of the world believes in withcraft and hoodoo men. When you get the President of the putative democratic flagship of Africa telling people that HIV and AIDS are not connected, and when you get their health minister advising a diet of carrots to combat it, you know they have a long way to go.

Your mistake, and it is a big one and a common one, is to assume these people are in some way our cultural and social peers when the fabric of African society is more like a model of Western Europe in the Dark Ages. The second mistake is trying to impose our values on theirs, when they have as much right to make their own laws as we do.

But of course, you can't say that anymore.

Ronald said...

True Belle

In Africa most AIDS is transmitted hetrosexually and the leaders know that.

In the west hetrosexuals tend to have a limited number of sexual partners at one time. Either a series of single partners one after the other or one main partner with the occasional infadelity. Gays are more likely to have multiple regular sexual parners and have one of sex with complete strangers on a regular basis. That is why AIDS is mostly homosexual in the west.

In Africa hetrosexual men are more likely to have to type of sex life that gays in the west have. And since most people are hetrosexual that is how AIDS is spread in Africa.

The huge numbers of rapes in Africa probably does not help.

If in the west women were as available as gay men or African women the spread here would be hetrosexaul as well.

Ray said...

Only recently the Afghans passed a similar law based around Sharia concepts, the same froth and disgust was shown then as now, but nothing happened in the end. Which is exactly what will happen again here, and we are not only giving them money we are giving them the lives of our soldiers, and airmen. You know the old addage, they who make em break em.

Paul Halsall said...

The anti-homosexual laws in countries like Uganda are no something that just happens because they are backward societies.

They exist at all because of the hangover of Victorian legislation created during the period of British rule. The is a very large overlap between where these laws exist and the British Imperial legacy. There is much less of a problem in, for example, former French colonies (homosexual acts ceased to be illegal with the enaction of the code Napoleon).

Second, countries like Ugana have diverse local populations within which homosexuality had a whole series of different social meanings.

But, is in many of these countries a type of no-nothing evangelical Christianity, push originally by British missionaries, now dominates local cultures, and it is this above all which backs up local homophobia, and in this case is actively trying to get the laws passed.

What can we do?

Not much, but we can at least accept our historic part in the situation and give gay and lesbian Ugandans asylum here.

Houdini said...

Ronald, you don't half talk some crap.

Heterosexual sex in Africa is widely practiced dry, and that is virtually the only reason it is so widespread in Africa. Dry sex is virtually unknown in the West which is why heterosexual AIDS in the West is virtually exclusive to other forms of contraction of the disease than sex.

Work out why yourself, if that is possible.

Thorpe said...

I thought you a man of reasonable judgement, Iain. Clearly, I was wrong.

Ugandan laws are for Ugandan people. Ugandan views of morality are for Ugandans. Your views of morality are of no concern to Ugandan people.

Ronald said...

If excluding dry sex they are no more promiscuous than western hetrosexuals what is your explanation for the level of AIDS.

Is it the appalling levels of rape?

Daniel Earwicker said...

“Sounds fair enough to me”

“Sounds to me like they’re thinking along the right lines. Where’s the problem?”

“Good on the Ugandans.”

I can't know that the people making those comments are Conservative supporters, but I suspect they probably are.

Just as Labour depend on the tribal support of those who think everything should be nationalised, so the Tories depend on the tribal support of people who think homosexuals should be hanged. Both party's leaders do everything they can to deny this, but the reality is unavoidable.

It's why neither of those parties deserves to win next year.

JPT said...

Nice people, coming to a street near you soon in all probability...

quietzapple said...

Might this have more to do with the spread of the plague of AIDS in Africa, principally by heterosexual intercourses?

I believe that anal sex is commonly used by prostitutes to prevent pregnancy in Africa, and unprotected anal sex is most likely to spread HIV.

Is this a blunderheaded first step towards a campaign to stop anal sex of all kinds?