President Yoweri Museveni has made it clear: In Uganda, gay is not okay.
The President signed into law on Monday tougher penalties against homosexuals and their supporters. The law:
- Allows life time sentences for “aggravated homosexuality” – this term lumps “serial offenders,” acts in which one person is HIV positive, and acts with a minor together
- Allows prison sentences for people counseling or reaching out in support of the LGBT community
- Criminalized lesbianism for the first time
- Requires citizens to denounce those suspected of being gay
- Prohibits the promotion of homosexuality
Homosexual acts are already outlawed in Uganda, like many other African countries. The bill originally included a death sentence for some acts, but the U.S. and others threatened to withdraw their aid to the country. Apparently, Museveni is unafraid that the new law will have any serious ramifications.
"Outsiders cannot dictate to us. This is our country. I advise friends from the west not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose. If the west does not want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space to ourselves here." – President Yoweri Museveni
But can Uganda really survive as an isolationist country?
In 2012, USAID sent more than $200 million to Uganda. These funds have a critical role in providing support to the country, including 400,000 antiretroviral treatments. But Uganda has plans to hit it big in oil come 2016, and the African country is an ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, contributing a large force of peacekeeping troops. The decision to cut relations isn’t so easy for a White House still concerned with a growing militant Islamic influence.
According to Ronald Kibabu, a taxi driver, the new law won’t hurt Museveni at home.
“We don't like (homosexuality) in our culture. That can keep him as president. The election is coming.”
It may not hurt Museveni in the election, but he is losing legitimacy in the international community. Desmond Tutu called the law an attempt to “legislate against love” and spoke out against it:
“There is no scientific justification for prejudice and discrimination, ever. And nor is there any moral justification. Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa, among others, attest to these facts."
What should President Obama do? Can we afford to cut ties with Uganda?