Tuesday, October 20, 2009

By Their Fruits Shall You Know Them

The draft "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" was tabled in Uganda's parliament on 14 October 2009, and has been slated world-wide by human rights groups concerned for the well-being of gay and transgender people in Uganda. If passed, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will violate the internationally recognized human right to non-discrimination, to be free from violence and harassment, the right to life, the right to be free from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and freedom of movement.

Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill, if passed, introduces the death penalty for the offence of "aggravated homosexuality" - which describes anyone who engages in same-sex relations with children under 18, disabled people, or who tests HIV-positive when arrested for homosexuality related "crimes".

Still, this disturbing development did not happen overnight. It has been coming for some time now - and only the brutally stupid or blatantly uninterested can claim complete surprise.

Half a year ago, Uganda brought the current law into effect, which makes any gay sex a criminal offence. As can be seen by the names of high profile people involved in exacerbating the Ugandan anti-gay hysteria, it is clear that religious fundamentalism is playing a leading role, which if unchecked, will lead to a major human tragedy, very soon.

"A prominent board member of the “ex-gay” group Exodus International spoke at a conference in Uganda last week (March 2009), where activists vowed to “wipe out” homosexuality through police action, forced re-education, life imprisonment, and vigilantism. Exodus President Alan Chambers enabled the hate by doing nothing to stop the conference."

Just a few month ago, that "Conference on Homosexuality" was held in Kampala, which featured notable anti-gay personalities from organizations such as Exodus International, and led to crowds of people baying for the blood of homosexuals. Please note the above link, which shows how deeply involved Exodus International is in this, showing blatant anti-gay video propaganda - to people who broadly lack the capacity and education to tell fact from fiction, which in my opinion is criminal to say the least.

One featured speaker at the "conference" was Scott Lively, author of "The Pink Swastika", who is a Holocaust revisionist who hates gay people so much that he goes so far as to blame the Holocaust and the deaths of millions - on gay people. While trying to peddle his hateful neo-Nazi book, Lively "equated same-sex attraction with pedophilia — the sexual abuse of children — and asserted that the gay equality movement consists largely of “predatory homosexuals who are always out to satisfy their sexual desires” with “young people.”"

Now, where have we seen that before? Is that not the very same rubbish argument claiming gay people are pedophiles presented by the very same people leading the attack against gay rights and equality in South Africa? To superstitious and devoutly religious and easily influenced people who have no idea what the facts are surrounding homosexuality, this is like dropping paraffin on an open fire. Unless their aims were to openly incite more violence against gay and trans people in Uganda, then these people could not possibly have acted more irresponsibly than that.

At the same "seminar", the Rwandan genocide was also inexplicably blamed on gay people. "Lively expanded upon his strategy of blame-shifting and scapegoating when, at the anti gay conference, he transferred blame for the 1994 Rwanda genocide from the tribal Hutu Power ideology (which sought the extermination of the Tutsi tribe) to the allegedly murderous impulse of all same-sex-attracted persons, who comprise a tiny, powerless, and irrelevant minority in Rwanda."

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin commented on Exodus’ collaboration with Lively: "This is particularly dangerous in an environment [Uganda] where gays and lesbians have been hunted, tortured, and forced into hiding during several spates of officially-sanctioned and media-led vigilantism — the very same dynamics, ironically, which led to the Rwandan genocide."

"Stephen Langa (organizer of the conference) said that homosexuality is a big problem and the existing laws that criminalize gay people [with a sentence of life in prison] are not good enough."

"The hate forum also featured Don Schmierer, a board member of the "ex-gay" organization Exodus International, and Caleb Lee Brundidge, who works with discredited ex-gay "reorientation coach" Richard Cohen. These American "ex-gay" activists clearly left their stamp on this evil legislation, giving Ugandan officials a way to justify the abuse because they can claim that "sinful" gays can choose to change."

And there we have it - seven months later, the legislation is on the table awaiting approval. What is happening today in Uganda is extremely disturbing to anyone with a sense of humanity and the value of human life, democratic values and justice.

Is there a way to pressure the government of Uganda to see reason?

"Sadly, this witch-hunt has the blood stained fingerprints of leading American evangelicals. The Fellowship, (aka The Family) one of America's most powerful and secretive fundamentalist organization's, converted Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni to its anti-gay brand of Christianity, which is the "intellectual" impetus behind the anti-gay crackdown. The clandestine organization's leader, Doug Coe, calls Museveni The Fellowship's "key man" in Africa." "It is important for people to understand that The Fellowship and other anti-gay groups have longed viewed Uganda as a laboratory to experiment with Christian theocracy. For example, fundamentalist organizations recently undermined successful HIV programs in Uganda by demanding abstinence only education, over condom use, which had been working to reduce infection rates." "Uganda is a proxy in their culture war and we are witnessing exactly what these fanatics might do if they did not have the United States Constitution blocking their pious path to power. Let the record show that their "key man" controlled Uganda when a religious terror campaign was waged against an innocent minority - and these good Christians stood by and did not lift a finger to stop the horror."

If the points in this article of yesterday (last quote above) by American gay rights advocate Wayne Besen, reflect the true level of fundamentalism and paranoia in Uganda's government, they also serve to clarify the extent to which religious fundamentalism has permeated the country's government - and what the results would be should like-minded groups in other countries with similar policies come to power, or be allowed free reign.

I feel the only way to pressure Uganda to back down or even undo these oppressive laws and policies will be via international governmental pressure, perhaps coordinated by the UN, in terms of sanctions and trade bans.

When the Jamaican situation arose earlier this year, there were calls to ban Jamaican export goods. At the same time some groups denounced this form of international protest as "putting the Jamaican gay community at increased risk" as no doubt there would be a backlash and increase in hostile activity in Jamaica. Similarly, there are those who believe the same to be true for Uganda.

Yes, the GLBTI community in Uganda may suffer some more for it, as is usually the case, but I fear doing nothing will make things worse for them in the long term and for all of us as well. How?

Other homophobic states may see no action being taken and take encouragement from it to implement similar policies.

As it is, Uganda will claim that Iran does it already and no action has been taken against that country. We need to take an action that will address this matter globally - and that to my mind is enforcement of the UN Declaration to Decriminalize Homosexuality. Signing and ratifying it should be made a mandatory condition for UN membership, as is sticking to the ethos of protecting human rights in the EU.

The UN should be asked to encourage free countries to provide refugee status for GLBTI people in Uganda and grant them asylum. I don't know where, because even the USA has problems with homophobia, but I suppose almost anywhere outside Uganda is better, where at least they won't face state sanctioned murder and terror just for existing.

As for us in South Africa, I find the sudden silence on the part of normally very vocal anti-gay groups and fundamentalist political parties rather odd.

This Ugandan situation puts them suddenly in a very uncomfortable and visible position. Suddenly a country in Africa is doing precisely what they have been campaigning for since 1994 and even before. Suddenly they get a chance to see it all unfolding from the outside, a chance to see if it will work out the way they want it to. Suddenly they see the potential for human disaster looming and are gauging the response of what is euphemistically called "the civilized world".

I am not surprised in the least that they haven't condemned the proposed Ugandan Bill, or even the hate conference in March this year - because to do so would contradict everything they have written in their open-and-shut policies on gay people - and everything they claim to stand for. Ironically, they also claim to be "Christians", who follow what many people believe is a loving God. Hmm. Feel the love, indeed.

However, I am surprised they haven't praised Uganda's government for this disgusting move as the ACDP's MP Cherrylyn Dudley praised Lithuania for passing a homophobic Section 28 style law last month. This move showed the party's sinister hand, which holds mystery cards which it is playing awfully close to its chest. Perhaps they now realize how bad this will make them look, that it will be immensely detrimental to their already battered public image and diminishing support base. Or perhaps they are simply taking notes and refining their strategy for the day they hope to rise to power in this country and can set about implementing similar laws.

Hopefully the religious right will never rise to power in South Africa, for surely if they do, what is happening and about to happen in Uganda, will happen here as well.

"By their fruit you shall know them" the biblical saying goes - and we know what their fruit looks like - it is growing in Uganda.

As for the international community, a clear message needs to be sent that nations which flagrantly abuse and disregard human rights and institute laws and policies and act to favor the development of situations where public violence and genocide are the natural and logical outcome, will not themselves be welcome among nations that respect human rights, equality, democracy, liberty, justice and rule of law.

They need to be told in no uncertain terms that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex people are people too - and that our lives mean as much as the Jews, the Rwandans, the Romany and other ethnic groups who have been oppressed, persecuted and murdered for who they were. That it is not okay to destroy the lives of our people just because they happen to dislike or disagree with us - and that if they persist in doing so, there will be unpleasant consequences for them.

Failure to do this gives them carte blanche' to do to us as they will.

Qui tacet consentit — silence implies consent.


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

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