Since 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nation has proclaimed 20 February as “World Day of Social Justice.” This is a day member states of the UN are invited to devote the day to promoting awareness for social justice. Just 4 days later, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed into law a controversial bill that would impose harsh punishment for homosexual acts, such as life imprisonment.
The bill was first proposed in 2009 and was approved by the Parliament last December, Mr. Museveni at the time believed that a more in-depth study was needed before he could sign the bill. But this month, he shifted his position for several reasons.
Mr. Museveni has learnt from a team of Ugandan scientists that there was no genetic basis for homosexuality and it’s all a life choice. According to an Al Jazeera report, he said some quite outrageous stuff such as “Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money.” He thinks there is something wrong with you if “you were gay” and “failed to be attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to men”. But if only has he done some research:
The signing of this bill has also been interpreted as a defiant response to Western imperialism. Mr. Museveni seems to assert that “arrogant and careless Western groups” are just trying to draw the young generation of Ugandans into homosexuality. The Uganda government spokesman said this bill is signed “with the full witness of the international media to demonstrate Uganda’s independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation.”
Many countries are reconsidering their diplomatic relationships with Uganda after the signing of this bill, especially the United States, as the biggest aid donor of Uganda. Secretary of State John Kerry said “this is a tragic day for Uganda” and the White House would have to review its relationship with the Ugandan government and the allocations of its assistance programs.
This anti-gay bill is expected to bolster the already existing anti-gay sentiment in Uganda and there is a projected increase of violence against the LGBTQ groups. But we need to think about whether the West is helping the issue by voicing out their criticism and suspending the aids. James Schneider, the editor of “Think Africa Press” wrote that “One can’t support gay rights without supporting other rights or it undermines the universal argument for those rights.” If the West focuses specifically on gay rights and not other human rights violation in Uganda, it will be easier for the Ugandans to believe the West is only doing this to promote homosexuality. This is a big test for the West that needs to be handled with wisdom and delicacy.