The issue at hand in Uganda is gay rights. One week ago, on February 24, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014, which makes all same-sex relationships illegal in the country, and even allows for extradition of Ugandan citizens for committing homosexual acts abroad. Persons, entities, corporations, or those in the media who are aware of someone being homosexual can even be punished for not reporting those individuals.
Two key terms are included in the law's wording. One is "the offense of homosexuality", which is defined as someone engaging in anal and/or oral sex with someone of the same sex, using anything to arouse another person's sexual organ, or touching another person (where does not matter) with the intention of sexual acts. The other term is "aggravated homosexuality", which is defined as someone engaging in homosexual acts with someone who is under age (under 18), someone who is HIV positive, a parent or guardian engaging in homosexual acts with someone under age, an authority figure of the victim, someone engaging in homosexual acts with a disabled person, a serial offender under this law, or someone who uses means (drugs or drink) to disable someone in order to make homosexual advances easier. Conviction for either one can result in life imprisonment.
The law was originally nicknamed the "Kill the Gays Bill" because the potential life imprisonment sentences were originally written to be death penalty sentences.
Let's take a few steps back...
In 2007, The Red Pepper, a Ugandan newspaper, published the names of men who were believed to be gay -- not known to be gay, just believed to be gay -- and those men were subsequently harassed throughout Ugandan society. The initial bill that would eventually result in the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 was introduced in the Ugandan government in 2009.
In the Fall of 2010, another Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone, had the following as its front page:
This time, the story included the names and addresses and photographs of 100 homosexuals. The story also claimed homosexual were trying to recruit young children into homosexuality.
A banner next to the pictures read: "Hang Them".
In January of 2011, David Kato, a teacher who worked for Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an activist group fighting for LGBT rights in Uganda, was murdered. His name was one of the 100 listed in Rolling Stone newspaper just months earlier.
Further action on the bill was delayed as global opposition to it grew stronger. However, the bill resurfaced and passed in the Ugandan legislature on December 20th of last year. As I mentioned earlier, President Museveni signed it into law one week ago today. One day after signing the bill The Red Pepper newspaper published the names of the "200 top" homosexuals in Uganda.
In the days since signing the bill into law, various countries have voted to stop aid to the East African country. Just three days ago, the World Bank said an upcoming loan in the amount of $90 million would be withheld.
A point necessary to be made is that of Christian evangelicals who have been going to Uganda for years and raising public condemnation of homosexuality to a fever pitch. Before going any further, let me be clear. I am not making this point to bash the entirety of Christianity. I am only speaking of the actions of certain Christian evangelicals who, in my opinion, have decided to preach a gospel of hatred rather than love.
Their interest in the country goes back thirty-five years to the fall of former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin.
The influence of Christian evangelicals, such as Lou Engle and his International House of Prayer, is brought to light in a powerful 2013 documentary titled God Loves Uganda by filmmaker Roger Ross Williams.
It is clear that the levels to which the societal condemnation of homosexuals in Uganda has risen, to the point of basically outlawing homosexuality, is troubling at least, horrific at most. It is one thing to disagree with something based on religious principles. That, in and of itself, is fine. However, when those disagreements turn into acts of inciting violence against other human beings, then those acts need to be stopped. That includes getting others to do your killing, imprisoning, and vilifying for you.