Death Penalty For Gays?

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Black Gay MovementA Huffington Post article on December 8, 2009 reported that legislation has been proposed in Uganda that would impose the death penalty for some gay Ugandans and put their family and friends in jail for up to seven years if they fail to report them. Gay rights activists contend that this bill is part of a reaction to Africa’s gay community becoming more vocal.

The article explains that “the Ugandan legislation in its current form would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. ‘Serial offenders’ also could face capital punishment, but the legislation does not define the term. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act faces life imprisonment.” In addition, “anyone who ‘aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality’ faces seven years in prison if convicted. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years and anyone with ‘religious, political, economic or social authority’ who fails to report anyone violating the act faces three years.”

Opponents point out that the bill signals a return to the brutal regime of Idi Amin, which would throw citizens in prison for life for merely touching another person in a gay way and put them to death if convicted of a crime called “aggravated homosexuality.”

Uganda is only one of several African nations who are criminalizing homosexuality, which they say is increasing because of “foreign influences.” High school teacher David Kisambra says that “the youths in secondary schools copy everything from the Western world and America. A good number of students have been converted into gays. We hear there are groups of people given money by some gay organizations in developed countries to recruit youth into gay activities.”

However, apparently there are also foreigners who are encouraging the Ugandan government’s homophobic reaction. According to the article,  “The measure was proposed in Uganda following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy for gays to become heterosexual. However, at least one of those leaders has denounced the bill, as have some other conservative and liberal Christians in the United States.”

Rachel Maddow, host of The Rachel Maddow Show, debated the point with Richard Cohen, author of Coming Out Straight. Here is a video of their exchange:

Health officials are concerned because they fear this will hinder efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. See “Stigma Driving AIDS Crisis Among African Gays.” I remember the AIDS hysteria in the U.S. in the ’80s. One of the most appalling things I heard during that time was that AIDS was God’s way of getting rid of homosexuals. The problem is, AIDS is also spread by men to women and is in fact the leading cause of death among African men and women. (The African Region has 11% of the world’s population, but an estimated 60% of people with HIV/AIDS.) Source: World Health Organization.

The only way to combat this disease is to let homosexuality out of the closet, not put it in prison.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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