By Pratik Mantri:
If you are a homosexual, better stay away from Uganda; those of that community living there fear for their lives almost everywhere with verbal and physical attacks becoming a common happening. The reason I say that is because in November 2012, Uganda agreed to pass a new law against homosexuality which will in the process justify hate. The bill, which can only be described as medieval and witch-hunting, was first introduced in October 2009 but not passed in the parliament after it faced severe criticism and condemnation from many western countries, human rights groups, civil rights and other such organizations with some of them even threatening to cut the financial aid. It had provisions which included a death penalty for those indulging in same sex relations. The horrible bill which was re-introduced in 2012 has been amended with death sentence being removed and the sentences range from few years in jail to life imprisonment for the convict. It also imposes penalties on those who fail to report homosexual activity.
Uganda, along with many African countries, criminalizes homosexuality in a big way with these laws which are remnants of British colonialism. Uganda is mostly a rural country where conservative and religious Christian groups wield enormous influence, the President (Yoweri Museveni) is of the view that gay relationships are against God’s will. Homosexuality has always been a taboo in Uganda, and is considered by many to be an affront both to local culture and religion.
For Uganda to come out of the economic mess that they find themselves in, they need to accept laws which respect humanity which in turn would help them to get much needed financial aid from western countries. This bill should not be passed and if they can embrace homosexuals it would enhance their image.
It’s hard not to be troubled by such laws. Some would argue, of course, that we should avoid imposing western liberal values on other countries; that, in cases such as this, we should pause before passing judgment. But Uganda is a country in which their Minister for Ethics and Integrity in the national government can openly declare “Homosexuals can forget about human rights.” From an outsider’s perspective, we should bear in mind that we live in a world full of varied and often rigid ideologies; different societies will live according to their respective beliefs, customs and practices.
As a general rule, we should not jump the gun and conclude that some societies are superior to others. But at the same time it is dangerous to endorse any practice advocated by a society’s culture, regardless of its consequences for human welfare. Punishing homosexuality with either life imprisonment or death violates the basic civil freedoms required for human development, many international human rights groups are lobbying against this bill.
This bill should not be passed and in addition to that the mindsets of the general public about homosexuality need a complete overhaul, censorship does not always lead to just outcomes. Unless there is a widespread campaign or even a law supporting the legalization of homosexuality, homosexuals in Uganda will continue to be harassed mentally and physically by groups who consider homosexuals as ‘against their culture’.