by Lauren Carasik, January 13, 2014
Adoption of international norms on LGBTI rights critical to ending discrimination
Last month, after an international firestorm opposing its proposed anti-homosexuality law known as the kill-the-gays bill, which would have imposed the death penalty for acts of “aggravated homosexuality,” the Ugandan Parliament approved a less severe version of the law, with the penalty for such conduct set at life in prison. “Aggravated homosexuality” includes sex with minors or disabled individuals, sex when one individual is HIV positive and repeated sex between consenting adults of the same gender.
The revised law, which awaits President Yuweri Museveni’s signature, also criminalizes those who fail to report homosexual conduct and imposes a seven-year prison term for those who perform same-sex marriages. The law reverberates in the U.S. both for the outrage it caused and its potential impact on a lawsuit currently before the federal district court in Springfield, Mass. The suit was filed in March 2012 by the New York–based Center for Constitutional Rights on behalf of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), a coalition of Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) advocacy groups.
Ugandan lawmakers say the legislation is necessary to protect families from Western gays who attempt to recruit their children. That purported threat was aggressively promoted by American evangelicals. The anti-gay bill was introduced in 2009 only months after a conference in Uganda titled Seminar on Exposing the Homosexual Agenda.
Several prominent evangelical pastors, including Scott Lively, a minister and self-proclaimed expert on the gay movement from Springfield, spoke out vehemently against the dangers posed by gays. Lively’s how-to book “Redeeming the Rainbow” advises opponents of gay rights to counteract sympathy for gays by highlighting instances of rape and child recruitment. This strategy is now at work in Uganda.