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Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill: No Death Penalty, Life in Prison Still Possible

For the past few years, Uganda has been making news around the world for a steady and unsettling increase in homophobia and hatred directed at homosexuals. In 2009, a homosexuality conference took place, and among the speakers condemning homosexuality were three American Evangelical speakers. About a month later, a now-infamous bill was introduced to legislation that was soon bluntly nicknamed the “Kill the Gays” bill. The bill, and the overall attitude in Uganda on the subject, has continued to create headlines all the way up to the present day, receiving condemnation from various nations around the world. Now, new headlines announce that, in the last few weeks, the suggestion of a death penalty in the bill has been dropped, but there has been no mention of dropping life in prison. Leaders and legislators insist that the people of Uganda are begging to be, as far as the buzz words go, liberated from the homosexual agenda.

The bill was in parliament until May 2011 where it was never voted on. It then resurfaced again in February 2012. It originally aimed to put homosexuals in prison for life or sentence them to the death penalty depending on the severity of the violation. The bill originally divided the violations into two categories, “The offense of homosexuality” and “Aggravated homosexuality.” An offender of “The offense of homosexuality” would be sentenced to life in prison, while an offender of “Aggravated homosexuality” would be given the death penalty. Both punishments were extreme and harsh. Not only was this proposed bill offensive but it also violated many parts of the Ugandan Constitution. The Ugandan Constitution says that all people should be treated equally and respected but this bill treated homosexuals as criminals; it singled them out and did not treat them as equals. The bill also aimed to punish those who openly supported homosexuals; the bill could put people in jail for at least 5 years if they tried to help a homosexual in any way or if they promoted homosexuality. That meant that having a different opinion than the Ugandan government could cause an open minded person to go to jail.

Ugandan Parliamentarian David Bahati, original author of the bill, now says that the latest version, which has not been publicly released, has “moved away from the death penalty after considering all the issues that have been raised.” However, Bahati also said the bill now focuses on “protecting children from gay pornography, banning gay marriage, counseling gays, as well as punishing those who promote gay culture,” each carrying jail terms. The original bill suggested a death penalty for various acts committed by homosexuals, including sex with minors and spreading AIDS, but was also suggested simply for being caught in a homosexual act more than once, all of which falls under “aggravated homosexuality.” After condemnation from leaders, including Barack Obama, and threats of cutting off foreign aid from various nations, “more than 445,000 people around the world have joined a campaign,” which was started on Change.org by Citibank customer Collin Burton, “urging Citibank and Barclays to publicly condemn the bill. Both Citibank and Barclays have big operations in Uganda.”

Student Researchers: Jeannie Brady, Indian River State College; Adam Silye, Indian River State College

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D., Indian River State College Source:

Rodney Muhumuza , Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Won’t Contain Death Penalty: Report, Huffington Post, 11/30/12 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/02/uganda-anti-gay-bill-death- penalty_n_2227333.html

Ugandatopassanti-gaylawas’Christmasgift, BBC Nov.13,2012 ‘ http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-20318436

Ugandan Constitution: http://www.ugandaembassy.com/Constitution_of_Uganda.pdf 

ETHICS ALERT

This bill alienates gay people completely and treats them as criminals for their choice in a partner. In fact, it violates human rights and the Ugandan Constitution itself. The Ugandan Constitution states “No person shall be subjected to any form of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The proposed bill does all of those things: it degrades homosexuals by treating them as criminals and taking away their constitutional rights; punishes them for being homosexuals; and tortures them by taking away their freedom. And it violates the Ugandas Anti Gay Bill: No Death Penalty, Life in Prison Still Possible  Ugandas Anti Gay Bill: No Death Penalty, Life in Prison Still Possible  Ugandas Anti Gay Bill: No Death Penalty, Life in Prison Still Possible

Ugandan Constitution in more than one place.
The Constitution also states, “All persons are equal before and under the law in all

spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law.” This bill treats homosexuals as criminals; it singles them out and therefore does not treat them as equals. It also does the opposite of protecting the people of Uganda; it protects only the people who are supportive of the Anti-Homosexuality law and wrongly punishes those who are not supportive of it. It also prohibits the licensing of organizations that promote homosexuality, can sentence a person of authority to prison for 3 years if this person does not report a homosexual act, and can extradite a person charged with either offense of the bill.

Evidently, the influence of religion has pushed this bill farther into Ugandan Government. If so, then this means that it is not aiming to help the overall community in Uganda, but only to promote certain religious beliefs and those who support those beliefs. Forcing one’s personal beliefs onto others, whether religious or not, is never ethical. So if the basis of the bill is unethical then the whole bill is unethical too.

What is worse, the beliefs being imposed could never even be consistently accepted by everyone. For, what if we were to apply the idea of jailing or executing homosexuals for their acts or feelings to everyone, and envision it as a universal law? Philosopher Immanuel Kant says that actions are morally right only if they could be applied as a rule to every similar situation and still have a logical, working universe that people could live in. If everyone had to do it, would everything still “work”? If every person was jailed or executed for expressing their personal feelings and desires, the ones that they’re born with, no one would be spared – who would even do the jailing? The whole situation is unable to make even a single logical step forward.

Nations and world leaders across the globe have condemned the bill, and many have threatened to cut off foreign aid to Uganda. However, corporations such as Citibank and Barclays are apparently in even closer positions to the nation than most any other nation. Collin Burton, founder of a campaign with hundreds of thousands of followers urging such groups to act, says that, “As world banks and heavy players in Uganda, Citibank and Barclays have a unique responsibility to speak out and help stop this dangerous legislation before it becomes law. Now, perhaps more than ever before, we need the international business community to step up and lead by the corporate values they tout on their websites. Human lives are counting on it.”

But can we really count on corporations to do the ethical bidding when the corporate bottom line is likely to take precedence? Only if the people of the world band together and make their position known is it likely that such corporations will take an ethical stance—not because they perceive a moral duty to do so, but because, for self-serving reasons, they care about satisfying their consumers. We just can’t, therefore, afford to place our trust in corporate hands alone, not when so many innocent human lives hang in the balance.

Homosexuals are not hurting anyone, so they do not deserve to be treated cruelly. Uganda has violated its own constitution on many levels and it is passing this bill not because it is the right thing to do, but because it falls in line with personal religious beliefs. If this bill passes into law it will harm many people in Uganda emotionally and physically. This bill is unethical on more than one level and it will cause many people to hide how they feel. It will make people ashamed of the way they are. No country has the right to take away the basic human rights that this bill is proposing to take away, and something needs to be done about it.

 

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