Since 2009, some Ugandan leaders (with the backing of evangelical interests) have been pushing for a law to make homosexuality a capital offense. The bill now appears to be close to a vote, but the capital punishment part has been stripped out. It now provides for a host of jail terms, including possible life sentences (and lesser sentences for those who fail to report homosexuals in their midst).
Human rights groups and Western nations are, of course, all aghast. A parliamentary speaker said she wants the bill passed as a “Christmas gift” for anti-gay Ugandans.
Beyond the barbaric attitude toward homosexuality, the vague wording (pdf) of the law shows that it’s not just the gays who should be worried: It appears to be practically designed to be used against political (or even personal) enemies.
Box Turtle Bulletin, a blog that centers on analyzing anti-gay rhetoric, went clause by clause through the bill and notes the incredibly loose way the law defines homosexual activity. Those football players smacking each other’s butts on the field could be accused of being vile sodomites, apparently:
The new definitions provided in Clauses 1 and 2 greatly open the possibility for conviction to just about anyone who has simply bumped into or brushed up against an accuser who has an axe to grind. Look again at Clause 2, 1.c.: a person, under this clause, can be sent to a Ugandan prison for life for merely “touching” someone. And Clause 1 defines ”touching” to include “any part of the body” “with anything else” (a finger? a foot? a ten foot pole?) “through anything.” All of which means that someone can “commit homosexuality” even if they are fully clothed and there is no actual skin-to-skin contact. The sole proof required is that the “touching” took place with the perceived “intention” of committing the act of homosexuality. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But just to make sure we’re clear that the bill intends to cast an extraordinarily wider net, go back to the definition of ”sexual act” in Clause 1: an act that “does not necessarily culminate in intercourse.”
You can see where this is going, can’t you? With the bar for conviction thus lowered, anyone can be falsely accused of being gay — one can easily imagine rival politicians, business owners and pastors falling prey to such accusations – and it will become virtually impossible for them to prove their innocence.
In Uganda, the parliament and the executive branch are currently in conflict over who controls licensing to drill oil and dubious land trades. Uganda has also been accused by the United Nations of supporting the rebel troops in Congo who have taken over the city of Goma.
Ugandans (and foreigners inside Uganda) won’t have to be gay in order to worry about this law. They’ll just have to worry that they have something that somebody else wants or have done something to piss somebody off.