I’ve spent the last couple of days trying to figure out how to talk about the Anti-Homosexuality Act of Uganda diplomatically. I am discouraged from discussing my opinion on this matter as it may pose safety concerns for me when I am integrating into my community, among other things. What I’ve decided to do is state some facts because I think it’s important. To preface all of this, I want to mention that Ugandans view homosexuality much like Americans view pedophilia. It is seen as a gross, controllable act.
The anti-gay movement in Uganda started in 2009 after a group of American preachers led an anti-gay conference in the country and intentionally spread anti-gay propaganda. They stayed to work with Ugandan legislators to create a bill that would make homosexuality punishable by death. International criticism and threats from the West to cut funding and aid to Uganda caused the legislators to modify the bill so that homosexuality would result in life in prison rather than death.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law in February 2014. It is “An Act to prohibit any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; prohibit the promotion or recognition of such relations and to provide for other related matters.” Anybody who is viewed as “promoting”* homosexuality is also subject to imprisonment. The law was annulled in August on a technicality but support for AHA is at an overwhelming 96% and it is likely that the bill will reappear.
Ugandans don’t attribute gays with the same stereotypes present in the U.S., creating an interesting dichotomy. For example, men hold hands frequently but are not seen as being gay. Flamboyant, feminine men are not seen as gay and neither are women with what we would consider tomboy characteristics. Ugandans associate homosexuality with many of the other issues that face the country, the most common one being the spread of HIV.
*Promotion of homosexuality:
“A person who—
(a) participates in production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing of pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality;
(b) funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities;
(c) offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality;
(d) uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality; or
e) who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in anyway abets homosexuality and related practices”