Friday, February 24, 2012

Gay solidarity

Bans against homosexuality in Uganda, and in many other countries of Africa, go back as far as the British colonial government, which was guided heavily on social issues by Christian missionaries. A few African countries, such as South Africa, have stripped away colonial-era prohibitions against homosexuality, but other countries, such as Uganda, are working in the opposite direction, adding heavier penalties to the laws that currently exist.

The current antihomosexuality bill under consideration would impose the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” committed by “serial offenders.” The bill made its first appearance in 2009, but was withdrawn last year after significant pressure from donor nations such as the United States, Britain and Sweden. President Obama called the bill “odious.”

The Ugandan Minister of Ethics Simon Lokodo has accompanied police to shut down a workshop in Entebbe for gay rights activists and to arrest its organizer. He told participants to leave or he would order the police to use force. "I have closed this conference because it's illegal,” Mr. Lokodo was quoted as saying by the Daily Monitor, a Ugandan newspaper. “We do not accept homosexuality in Uganda. So go back home."

Public assembly of gay people is not a crime under Ugandan law, although homosexuality itself is. Amnesty International condemned the raid of the gay-rights workshop and called on the Ugandan government to “end its outrageous harassment of people involved in lawful activities. This is an outrageous attempt to prevent lawful and peaceful activities of human rights defenders in Uganda,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s secretary general in a statement. “The government of Uganda must protect all people against threats, violence, and harassment irrespective of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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