Influenced By US Fundamentalists, Uganda Seeks Death Penalty for Gays

uganda1Uganda President Yoweri Museveni is expected to sign into law the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which will expand punishments for gays, including lengthy prison sentences for homosexuals and sympathizers, and impose the death penalty for HIV-positive gays.

Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda, but the Anti-Homosexuality Act creates the new crime of "aggravated homosexuality" and promises more severe punishments. Even knowing that someone is gay and not reporting it to the authorities can land you a three-year prison term. Think the law is unfair and want to speak out publicly against it? You'll face seven years in prison just for saying that killing gay people is wrong. Homosexual sex alone will earn life imprisonment, while HIV-positives who do it will face the death penalty.

President Museveni, no friend to the gay-rights community, believes that being gay is against God's will. He is expected to sign the bill into law. Uganda's State Minister for Ethics, James Nsaba Buturo, explained the need for such extremism:

"We are talking about anal sex. Not even animals do that," Butoro told the Guardian, adding that he was personally caring for six "former homosexuals" who had been traumatized by the experience. "We believe there are limits to human rights."

How likely is it that the law will pass? Sadly, it seems to be imminent. Ugandans like to reproduce; the average birth rate is 6.7 children per woman. Families are big and the country's attitude toward homosexuality is influenced their by attitudes toward fertility and reproduction. Nearly 1 million people are HIV positive in Uganda, and the government does not support harm-reduction measures such as condoms.Such HIV efforts as there were came via evangelical churches, which promote abstinence over condom use, while access to treatment and prevention for gay men was intentionally avoided, leaving that demographic at a high risk for HIV transmission.

One can only imagine the witch hunt for gays, lesbians, and their friends that will ensue throughout Uganda if the law is passed, as seems likely.

US Christian leaders who oppose the Anti-Homosexuality Act have released a statement describing the proposed law as being contrary to the values of Christianity.

The Anti-Homosexuality Law was apparently inspired by a seminar organized by the Family Life Network in Uganda, an organization that claims homosexuals are recruiting school children. "They give money to children to recruit schoolmates – once you have two children, the whole school is gone," says Stephen Langa, the group's founder. Three US evangelists, Scott Lively, Don Schmierer and Caleb Lee Brundidge, spoke at the seminar warning about the dangers of tolerating homosexuality. Lively is a well known anti-gay activist and president of Defend the Family International, a conservative Christian association, while Schmierer is an author who works with "homosexual recovery groups". Brundidge is a "sexual reorientation coach" at the International Healing Foundation. While Lively has said that the thinks the Uganda law is too harsh, he has not joined other Christian leaders in condemning the law.

Connections have been made between the Anti-Homosexuality Act's author, David Bahati, and The Fellowship, an infamous group of fundamentalist politicians based in Washington D.C. Senator James Ihofe (R-OK) is thought to be the Fellowship member with the most influence in Uganda. Other congressmen involved with the group include Sen. Chuck Grassley(R-IA), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), and  Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI). You can learn more about this disturbing yet fascinating group in Jeff Sharlet's book "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power."