Monday, December 7, 2009

Uganda 's proposed anti-homosexuality legislation

I'm not a big signer of statements.  But the proposed anti-homosexuality legislation in Uganda, that would criminalize same-sex relations -- "criminalize" as in life in prison or the death penalty -- is simply wrong.  David Waters, at the Washington Post's On Faith blog, gives an overview (see also NCR here and here) and quotes the following summary of the proposed legislation, as reported in Foreign Policy:
"In addition to outlawing 'any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex' with penalties up to life imprisonment, the proposed bill criminalizes attempted homosexuality, the aiding and abetting of homosexuality, and promotion of homosexuality -- each carrying a possible prison sentence of seven years. Failure to disclose an offense is also punishable by a fine and three years in prison. And anyone with knowledge of crimes committed is obligated to report them to the authorities within 24 hours. The legislation also creates a new category of offense, 'aggravated homosexuality,' which is punishable with death. The latter crime would include having homosexual sex with a minor or someone with a disability or having homosexual sex while HIV positive (the bill makes no distinction about whether offenders must be knowingly infected to qualify.) "
The difficult point, in commenting on this effort in Africa, is that much of the energy behind it -- the legislation is put forward by an evangelical Christian and, if passed, would likely be signed by the leader of Uganda, an evangelical Christian -- comes from an emphatic rejection, by African Christians, of what they see in the Christianity of the West, particularly with regard to sexual ethics.  Western statements condemning this may simply add fuel to this fire.  So I hesitated about signing.

But this punitive bill violates the most basic standards of human tolerance.  Christians around the world should speak out against it.  Thus I'm signatory to this statement, organized by the group Faith in Public Life.

Update:  Dan Gilgoff asks:  "Should U.S. Religious Conservatives Denounce Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill?"  And Mark Silk, noting the silence of the Catholic hierarchy, says it is "A Time To Speak."