The Times is reporting that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has begun “intensive and private” talks with fellow clergy and religious leaders over Uganda’s proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill which would, amongst other punishments for Uganda’s gay citizens, allow for HIV positive gay Ugandans to be hanged under the crime of “aggravated homosexuality”.
A statement from Lambeth Palace related by The Times’ religious correspondent Ruth Gledhill says:
“It has been made clear to us, as indeed to others, that attempts to publicly influence either the local church or political opinion in Uganda would be divisive and counter-productive. Our contacts, at both national and diocesan level, with the local church will therefore remain intensive but private.”
Going yet further still, an extraordinary statement by the Presiding Bishop of America’s Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, also formally condemns the Bill, saying that all efforts to criminalize homosexual behavior are inconsistent with the tenets of the Church, while adding:
…We note that much of the current climate of fear, rejection, and antagonism toward gay and lesbian persons in African nations has been stirred by members and former members of our own Church. We note further that attempts to export the culture wars of North America to another context represent the very worst of colonial behavior. We deeply lament this reality, and repent of any way in which we have participated in this sin.
You can read the rest of the Bishop’s statement here.
Meanwhile media and political commentator Rachel Maddow has dedicated a number of segments to the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill this past week, entitled “Uganda be Kidding Me”.
In this first clip, Maddow examines the bill and describes its main architecture:
This second clip is, perhaps, even more interesting. In our previous coverage of this story we’ve discussed how Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill had possible links to certain American Evangelicals and the group known as “The Family”.
Here, Rachel Maddow explores this link in an interview with author Jeff Sharlet:
In related news, the Swedish government is reportedly considering cutting aid to Uganda over what one government official described as the “appalling” Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden’s development assistance minister, has indicated:
“My number two at the ministry, who has direct contact with the Ugandan government, has brought it up… We’ve talked about it in Uganda, and I’ve also tried to speak to the kind of organisations in Uganda that are the target of the legislation.”
Approximately $50 million in development aid is given by Sweden to Uganda every year. You can read more on this over at ThinkProgress.
This has got people wondering though, will the United States also cut aid?
Earlier this week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did make a pledge to fight homophobia and anti-gay legislation globally. On the eve of World AIDS Day, Clinton spoke on how the United States was committed to the global fight against the spread of HIV, and as part of that speech, said:
“Obviously, our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it, but also to combat discrimination more broadly. We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide. It is an unacceptable step backwards… on behalf of human rights. But it is also a step that undermines the effectiveness of efforts to fight the disease worldwide.“
Full text of the speech can be found here.
There has also been some indication that, although no direct condemnation of the bill has been forthcoming from the White House, there is an investigation into the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill going on behind the scenes.
I wonder if this is an indication of how global leaders and religious authorities will condemn the Bill without having to directly answer the problem of Uganda’s vehement anti-gay stance. Hilary Clinton’s argument in opposing anti-homosexuality laws goes:
That, by introducing such laws, a government pushes homosexuals into hiding and perpetuates risky sexual behavior, therein, increasing the chances of the HIV virus spreading.
Opposing such a law seems to offer a legitimate reason for global involvement because the spread of AIDS is, by most definitions, a global issue. This is especially true when humanitarian and development aid is factored in.
Speaking of aid, another stance the U.S. could take, of course, might be to withdraw its own aid development funding from Uganda, which I believe amounts to around $246 million per year. This, of course, throws up a different set of political and ethical questions.
Does the American administration condemn but tolerate Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill so as to not interfere with the internal politics of a nation, as AIDS Ambassador Eric Goosby seemed to think was appropriate when he spoke on the issue during a recent interview:
“My role is to be supportive and helpful to the patients who need these services. It is not to tell a country how to put forward their legislation. But I will engage them in conversation around my concern and knowledge of what this is going to do to that population, and our ability to stop the movement of the virus into the general population.“
Or does the administration hold fast to its political and ideological stance and impose sanctions on Uganda, and therein risk pushing the Ugandan government into further extremism?
Without aid, Uganda’s citizens, homosexual and heterosexual alike, will almost certainly suffer. Perhaps the question becomes, what does the Ugandan government value more? $265 million in aid, or to pursue, to death, its homosexual citizens beyond the bounds of its already strict institutionalized homophobia.
At this stage, I am not even sure that denying Uganda aid can help with regards to stopping the Anti-Homosexuality Bill passing. I think, even if it’s not this bill, it will soon be another. The issue of homosexuality that Uganda is waving around seems to me to be the flag of a much larger culture war. Therefore, do we change the question again, and instead ask:
Can America, and the global community as a whole, continue to provide financial aid to Uganda if it passes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill without being complicit in the Ugandan government’s purging of homosexuals?
And just to bring this home, to reduce it to a personal level, a recent entry to a blog by GayUganda, an anonymous gay Ugandan man writing about his life, reads:
“What will happen, when the bill becomes law?
I cannot hide from it. I know how bad it is. What will happen, when I have to live with it?
“Words fail me. Because, Uganda would have become the most dangerous country for a gay man to live in. “
Read GayUganda’s blog here for a front-line perspective.