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Uganda upholds anti-gay law

AUTODIDACT 17 | 3/13/2014, 11:18 a.m.
Refusing to bow to pressure from Western society, Uganda maintains that it will hold steadfast to its defiant opposition against ...
'Ethics minister' busts gay workshop in Uganda

Refusing to bow to pressure from Western society, Uganda maintains that it will hold steadfast to its defiant opposition against homosexuality.

On Monday, Feb. 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a bill that imposes tough penalties for gay activity and same-sex marriages and criminalizes “homosexual propaganda.”

“They’re disgusting. What sort of people are they?” Museveni asked during a media interview. “I never knew what they were doing. I’ve been told recently that what they do is terrible, disgusting, but I was ready to ignore that if there was proof that that’s how he is born, abnormal … but now the proof is not there.”

Initially introduced in 2009, the bill included a death penalty clause for some homosexual acts. Uganda’s Parliament passed the bill in December, swapping the death sentence with a life term for “aggravated homosexuality,” including acts in which one person is infected with HIV, “serial offenders” and sex with minors, according to Amnesty International.

The new law also includes penalties of up to seven years imprisonment for people and institutions who perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.

Lawmakers in the African nation said the influence of Western lifestyles risked destabilizing traditional family units. The bill also proposed prison terms for people who counsel or reach out to the LGBT community.

The Western world has reacted hastily to the news, with three European countries taking measures to cut millions of dollars of aid going to Uganda. The Netherlands said it is stopping all aid going there, but will continue supporting its nongovernmental organizations. Denmark and Norway took similar steps, slashing annual payments of approximately $16 million.

The World Bank followed suit, stalling a $90 million loan meant to assist the Ugandan health system. One of its spokespersons said the payment had been halted to ensure “development objectives would not be adversely affected by the enactment of this new law.”

Despite the fact that it relies on imported aid for 20 percent of its budget, the Ugandan government has said it can do without the foreign funding and that it will show “the world does not owe them a living.”

Government spokesman Ofwono Opondo described the aid as “a trap for decadence” and said its removal would actually have a positive effect. “The West can keep their ‘aid’ to Uganda over homos; we shall still develop without it,” he said on Twitter.

Some speculate that the new law will have adverse effects on the fight against HIV in Uganda. UNICEF said that in 2012, over 7 percent of the Ugandan adult population were HIV positive.

“All people, whether their sexual orientation [is] gay or otherwise, are at complete liberty to get full treatment and to give full disclosure to their doctors and nurses,” Ugandan Minister of Health Ruhakana Rugunda told the BBC.

Uganda has defended the measure in the face of Western condemnation, hailing it as a show of their independence from the West’s “pressures and provocation.”

“Outsiders cannot dictate to us; this is our country,” determined Museveni. “I advise friends from the West not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue, the more they will lose.”

The new bill is heavily supported by many people in Uganda, where traditional values are common. Opposition to homosexuality is prevalent in Uganda. A 2013 Pew Research report found that 96 percent of Ugandans believe society should not accept homosexuality. Thirty-eight of Africa’s 54 countries have banned homosexuality.

Even before Museveni signed the bill into law, same-sex acts were punishable by 14 years to life in prison.