While the gay rights movement in the United States is typically focused on gay marriage, gays in the military and similar civil rights issues, elsewhere in the world the situation is much more dire. Homosexuality is, in some areas, treated as a criminal offense. Recently, Uganda has been in the news with steps taken toward laws that would condemn gays and lesbians not only as criminals, but even impose the death sentence in some circumstances. Other African countries, including Kenya and Tanzania, have anti-gay laws on the books, but there is fear that these may be expanded.
Unfortunately, the Ugandan law, The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, is expected to pass, regardless of international condemnation. In its current form, the law will condemn HIV positive individuals, those convicted of same-sex rape or sex with a minor, and serial offenders to death. If found guilty of homosexuality, life imprisonment is the penalty in other situations. Family, friends, and even landlords can face imprisonment if they fail to report someone for homosexuality.
While the international community has condemned this law and is treating it as a foreign policy issue, there are much more concerning ties to America. The initial law came to be after visits to Uganda by conservative fundamentalist American clergy; Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmeirer, supporting treatment for homosexuality and religious cures and promoting intensely negative views of homosexuality. During the course of their visit, gays were accused of sodomizing teenage boys and attempting to defeat a marriage based culture. It should be noted that the three have criticized the new legislation, even though Lively met with lawmakers to discuss it.
What is being done and what can you do about gay rights so far away? President Barack Obama has publicly criticized the bill at a morning prayer breakfast on February 4, 2010 and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has phoned the Ugandan president to express very strong concerns. Take a few minutes out of your day and call your senators and representatives to encourage them to voice their condemnations of this human rights violation. If you wish to give money, options are limited to get funds directly into Uganda and Ugandan gay rights activists are largely silenced. You can opt to give to Amnesty International or the Human Rights Campaign to support international attempts to prevent this legislation.