Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Ugandan Anti-Gay Bill and the US Religious Right

From Religion Dispatches :
Uganda is currently contemplating anti-gay legislation so extreme that some of the most homophobic figures on the American religious right have criticized it. Homosexual activity is already illegal in Uganda, but under the new law “repeat offenders” and those having sex with HIV-positive individuals could be sentenced to death; citizens would be required to inform on those they suspect of homosexuality, or face imprisonment themselves.

“Christian ministries are speaking out against a Ugandan bill that would levy harsh penalties for homosexuals, saying it will make Christian ministry to homosexuals impossible,” began a recent article in the conservative evangelical World Magazine. Even Scott Lively, activist and author of The Pink Swastika, which compares homosexuality to Nazism, is quoted saying he wants Uganda to liberalize the measure.
A bit late in the day for that. From Newsweek:
The thinking behind them [Anti-Homosexuality Bill] is just as disturbing, since this latest round of anti-gay fervor was kicked off at a conference held by by American missionary groups that went to proselytize about the twin evils of Nazism and homosexual behavior in Kampala earlier this year. Just to hammer home how far-out that is, this means the Ugandan government got its advice from the author of a book called The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, which claims the Nazi movement was “entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history.” The result has been a vigilante campaign against the country’s LGBT community, whereby gay detainees are tortured and tabloids publish the names, places of employment, addresses, and physical descriptions of gay rights advocates under headlines that scream “TOP HOMOS IN UGANDA NAMED.” It would seem the stuff of Orwellian parody, but it’s real.
As I wrote in a previous post, the rhetoric from some US politicians has been extreme. Few take it seriously in the US, or at least, few take it literally. It's seen as the normal hyperbole and exaggeration that's part of the hurley-burley of US politics. Even this:
"The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation, OK, it's just a fact," (Oklahoma) Rep. Sally Kern said recently to a gathering of fellow Republicans outside the Capitol.

"Studies show no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted, you know, more than a few decades. So it's the death knell in this country.

"I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat," she said.
And this:
(Colorado) Sen. Scott Renfroe, R-Greeley, went further, quoting Bible verses to argue that the state should not be condoning homosexual relationships. He called such relationships a sin, equal in some sense to murder and adultery, and noted one Bible passage says homosexuality is punishable by death.
And this:
And I believe that they’re, internally, they’re probably the greatest threat to America going down I know of.
That's from Utah State Rep Chris Buttar. So. Back to the original article:
... as a timely new report from the think tank Political Research Associates makes clear, the American religious right can’t evade responsibility for the homophobic mania that’s seized several African countries. Anti-gay activists in the United States may think the Uganda measure goes too far, but they laid the groundwork for it.
It’s no secret, of course, that there are strong and growing links between American and African conservatives. Rick Warren has been deeply involved in planting churches in Africa and mentoring African preachers. Breakaway factions of American mainline denominations, objecting to the ordination of gay priests and the sanctioning of gay unions, have put themselves under the authority of conservative African clerics.
“When it comes to homosexuality… many African religious leaders view progressive social witness on LGBT equality as a ‘Western agenda,’” writes Kaoma. “In many respects, their denunciation of homosexuality is an attack on the West rather than a statement about human sexuality.” That’s one reason the anti-gay rhetoric prevalent in Africa often resembles modern European anti-Semitism: gay people, like Jews, are seen as subversive, foreign, and enervating, threatening the nation’s unity and virility.

Africans didn’t import their antipathy to homosexuality; indeed, one serious lacuna in the PRA report is that it largely ignores the influence of conservative Islam on the persecution of gay people on the continent. In Nigeria, gay people have been sentenced to death under Sharia, while in Muslim Senegal, gay sex is punishable by lengthy jail sentences. To ignore this altogether—particularly in a report that repeatedly criticizes the Christian right’s promotion of “Islamophobia”—seems like an unfortunate PC dodge.

Still, even if homophobia does have deep roots in Africa, the notion that gay people constitute an international conspiracy with a malevolent agenda is very much a product of the American religious right. There’s a clear connection between the domestic Christian right’s demonization of gay people and the emergence of similar themes among the movement’s allies abroad.
Like anti-Semitism, homophobia can’t necessarily be controlled by those who unleash it. Scott Lively, for example, might balk at instituting the death penalty for homosexuality, but Uganda is only taking his work to its logical conclusion. Lively, after all, has claimed, in his book The Poisoned Stream, that “a dark and powerful homosexual presence” can be traced through “the Spanish Inquisition, the French ‘Reign of Terror,’ the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American slavery.”
Claims quite similar to those found in the Hamas Charter, only they blame the Joos.
In March, Lively, along with Don Schmierer and the Ugandan anti-gay activist Stephen Langa, held a “Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda” in Uganda’s capital. PRA’s website contains video and text excerpts from the event. “The gay movement is an evil institution that’s goal is to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity in which there’s no restrictions on sexual conduct except the principle of mutual choice,” Lively says at one point. Later, he says, “Nobody has been able to stop them so far. I’m hoping Uganda can.”
Still, neither Lively nor Schmierer has anything approaching the influence of Rick Warren, a close friend of Ugandan first lady Janet Museveni. Warren, the PRA report says, “positions himself as a moderate on gay issues in the U.S. but declared in Africa in 2008 that, ‘Homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right.’ That same year he christened Uganda a ‘purpose driven country.’” (Though the report doesn’t mention it, Warren is also a patron to Martin Ssempa, one of Uganda’s leading anti-gay pastors.)

Unlike other religious right figures, Warren has yet to come out publicly against Uganda’s laws, even though, given his profile in that country, a statement by him could make a real difference. His neutrality is profoundly telling.
As Newsweek reported:
But Warren won’t go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan antihomosexual laws generated this response: “The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations.”
Shades of Pontius Pilate.

The bill itself has been made available by Christian Psychologist, Professor Warren Throckmorton, who has done more than anyone else to turn over the rocks and expose these people to the world. Here's just one little gem:
12. Same sex marriage.
A person who purports to contract a marriage with another person of the same sex commits the offence of homosexuality and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.
It doesn't matter if the "crime" was committed outside Uganda: they claim universal jurisdiction over Ugandan residents.

A serial "homosexual offender" gets the death penalty - as would two 15 year old girls who kiss each other on the mouth just once. A priest who fails to report within 24 hours such a "homosexual act" heard during confession would get 3 years jail - the bill abrogates all international treaties respecting all such matters when it comes to homosexuality.

The Catholic Church in Uganda has so far made no comment - because to protest could be seen as somehow legitimising homosexuality. The same excuse they use for opposing anti-bullying laws in the USA that would specifically protect Gay students.

I'm not lesbian. But that wouldn't save me:
18. Nullification of inconsistent international treaties, protocols, declarations and conventions.
(1) Any International legal instrument whose provisions are contradictory to the spirit and provisions enshrined in this Act, are null and void to the extent of their inconsistency.
(2) Definitions of “sexual orientation”, “sexual rights”, “sexual minorities”, “gender identity” shall not be used in anyway to legitimize homosexuality, gender identity disorders and related practices in Uganda.
And as for this article :
13. Promotion of homosexuality.
(1) A person who –
(d) uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality and;
(e) who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices;

commits an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of five thousand currency points or imprisonment of a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and imprisonment.
That's the US Religious Right's vision for Uganda. And in time, the World.


RadarGrrl said...

So there we have it. This is tantamount to an open declaration of war against people like me and you. Wonder why I'm becoming increasingly militant against christianists? So, maybe the moderate christians, not the ones who listen to Limbaugh, watch Faux News or line up for Sarah Palin's book, better start standing up to be heard. If not maybe some of us might start executing people for eating shrimp!

Anonymous T-Girl said...

"That's the US Religious Right's vision for Uganda. And in time, the World."


And in that possible future, they're most certainly welcome to come knocking at doors to enforce it. But it's not going to end well.

Some people reject several utopian ideals of the U.S. liberal left as well, and are well armed without registration.

A person's own government is always the biggest threat in their life.

No matter the person. No matter the country.

Anonymous said...

Have you noticed how the RR has rewritten a lot of their previous antisemitic rhetoric to apply to queers?

1. Blood libel -- 'Jews drink the blood of children on Passover' changes to 'gays are recruiting/molesting your children.'

2. Money -- 'Jews are wealthy and use that wealth to further their nefarious aims,' just substitute 'gays.'

3. Secret Conspiracy -- 'Jews conspire with one another to control the levers of power,' substitute as above.

4. Fifth Column -- 'Jews are a subversive internal threat' as above.

I'm sure there are loads of other examples. I'm willing to bet that once defamation of queers becomes beyond the pale in polite discussion, the RR will transfer its ire to another, weaker scapegoat without batting an eyelid.

Zimbel said...

Can someone explain to me how this law isn't a violation of Convention on the
Prevention and Punishment
of the Crime of Genocide
, which is of and in itself jus cogens?

Zimbel said...

...ah. I have it. Article 2 specifies the types of groups: "a national, ethnical, racial or religious group".

Zimbel said...

This law violates Article 37 of Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Uganda is a signatory. Unfortunately, my country isn't a signatory to that convention.

I guess I can still write to the State Department to advise responding negatively to this law, but it would be nice to have firmer legal ground to rest it on.

Is anyone aware of an organized boycott?

Battybattybats said...

Can we use the 'transsexual gene' and any related GLB discoveries to claim them as races for international law?

Cause rationally many anti GLBT policies especially some TS recognition ones requiring sterilisation are in effect forced or coerced eugenics policies.

Anonymous said...

What ugandans think