Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Anti Gay Bill Uganda

The African nation of Uganda proposed an Anti – Homosexuality Bill on the 13th of October 2009 that would, if enacted later this year, punish homosexuality by introducing the death penalty for people who have previous convictions, are HIV - Positive, or engage in same sex acts with people under 18 years of age. The bill also includes a clause that if a Ugandan engages in same-sex sexual relations outside of Uganda, that they may be extradited for punishment back to Uganda. It also includes penalties for individuals, companies, media organisations, or non - governmental organisations that support LGBT rights. The bill is to be discussed in Uganda's parliament in Spring 2010.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”- Article Three, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

On January 3rd 2010, The New York Times published the article: Americans’ Role seen in Uganda Anti – gay push. Upon reading it I was instantly horrified, but yet, unsurprised. Uganda, after all, like everywhere is bound to have a tremendous amount of people with very conservative attitudes and opinions. What did surprise me about the article is the spark that started this forest fire of a situation:
Last year a group of American Evangelical Christians had spoken to Ugandans about the “threat” of Homosexuality.

From the 5th to the 8th of March 2009, a workshop took place in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, which featured three prominent American evangelical Christians

The theme of the conference, according to The New York Times, was the " gay agenda": "how to make gay people straight, how gay men often sodomized teenage boys and how 'the gay movement is an evil institution' whose goal is 'to defeat the marriage-based society and replace it with a culture of sexual promiscuity' ".
A special motion to introduce anti – homosexual legislation was passed a month after the two-day event.

In Uganda it is already illegal to be a homosexual but the bill proposes increasing the jail term, from up to fourteen years, to life imprisonment. The bill also proposes that if a person who has been in prison for seven years but repeats the “crime” they will be tried on “aggravated homosexuality” for which the sentence is death by hanging.
Other offences that reach “aggravated homosexuality” status are, “if the person against whom the offence is committed is under the age of 18 years”, “the offender is living with HIV”, “the offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed” and other such “offences”.

I personally, do not look on this as a gay rights matter, I do not look on any situation as a gay rights matter, for in my opinion it is not gay rights. It is a human issue and an issue of what we all are entitled to.
Everyone is born with a sexual preference. It is as much a part of who we are as the colour of our eyes. There is no doubt in my mind that every person has the right to choose to marry and every person has the right to adopt or foster a child: as long as they can financially and lovingly support the child.

If this bill is to become law in Uganda I fear this tenuous decision could affect the rest of Africa, nay the rest of the world.

Most recently gay marriage laws were passed in Mexico City, but as tends to be the case in most battles regarding basic human rights and religious moral issues, its one step forward and two steps back. Also as is the case in most African countries the separation of church and state is a concept we may not see for many, many years.

But in such an egregious act of persecution, we all must stand strong, we must not back down, for each small victory is another brick in the wall of justice we are building. We must make the Ugandan authorities and people see that when the rights of one are violated the rights of all are compromised.

Iran- Getting Stoned

“In Iran it is legal to stone a person to death it is illegal to use the wrong sized stone”. A quote from the recent Amnesty International report, on the legalised execution by stoning in Iran. This judiciary “V-sign” to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights resonates with corruption of the state and religion putting common sense, basic human rights and a fair legal system in a stranglehold.

Whilst female activists had a successful and morally necessary role to play in the suffragette movement, women of the west have moved on to trivial matters that undermine the true battle for equality that the women’s rights movement was originally founded on. Trivial matters such as demanding to be referred to as actors, instead of actresses and other “monstrously important” matters. While their sisters in arms in the Middle East have considerably more pressing matters to deal with.
In a society where women cannot drive or sit in the front of a car and religious police enforce laws such as covering ones face at all times, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask for women’s rights.
We must remember also that the complicated relationship between women and religion is not solely confined to the state of Iran. In Saudi Arabia recently, a gruesome story has emerged of a fire starting in a girl’s boarding school in the middle of the night. The two hundred young women fled the burning building in their pyjamas, but were met by the long fist of the law that is the religious police and were instructed to return to the inferno and retrieve their headscarves. Twelve young women burned to death and many more were seriously injured trying to adhere to moral practise.
The idiocy of a need for a religious police force may only appear to me, but surely religion is based upon the principle that you make moral decisions on your own behalf and in the “afterlife” you are commended or punished for your decisions in life, surely a religious police makes about as much sense as a karma police or an anarchist running for government.
At this point in my elitist “schpeil” you may be asking yourself what is the crime for stoning? And I am sure you will assume it to be a crime of horrific proportions, but nay, alas the crime for stoning this torturous punishment is not even illegal in most countries. The crime, is adultery.
In recent years the UN General Assembly has twice voted, with increasing support, for a general suspension of the use of the death penalty.

Women, of course, yet again draw societies short straw. A man may marry up to four wives, whereas a woman may only have one husband. The law also states that the person being stoned to death must be buried in a pit before the first stone is cast, but if during the stoning process the victim is to escape, they are freed and will not be killed. Male prisoners are buried up to their waste, and females are buried up to just before the neck.

Sentencing for adultery in Iran is a rather biased affair, do excuse the pun.
In Iran the decision on whether or not a person is to be stoned to death is completely up to the judge. In the western world to become judge you must join a documental “battle royale” and climb a steep treacherous ladder of law to reach the status of a judge. In Iran to become a judge you must have a secondary level education and then you must write to the heads of law in the state, these men will decide if you are eligible. As the state in Iran is founded upon religion, the people who are rich enough to have a secondary level education and have traditional religious backgrounds tend to get the jobs.

So from the outside the situation looks bleak, (well I suppose from the inside the situation looks bleak as well) but if you my dear reader feel it’s about time to stop this madness, don’t sit back, get involved, the world is a quiet place, if you raise your voice there will be a lot of people who will hear you.
In a world where young women do not have a life of equality and justice to look forward to, in a world where choosing the way you live, ends your life, in a world where one man thinks because he has studied law he can sentence another to death, then this is a world where we can make a change.