December 19, 2009

Examination of an African Anti-Gay Domino Theory

I've (Jim) said for a long time that the best way to get someone's attention is generally to hit them in the pocket book--reach in and either take money from them or deny them funds that they were expecting.  That theory is considered as a way to mitigate the strong anti-gay sentiment in Africa in this blog post from Newsweek:

Uganda isn't the only star of the antigay show in East Africa anymore. Today, Rwanda's Parliament is also set to consider legislation that would for the first time make homosexuality a crime, punishable by five to 10 years in prison. The bill would also ban any activities that could be construed as "encouraging or sensitizing" same-sex relationships, eliminating advocacy and severely complicating medical treatment, especially for HIV/AIDS.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission's Cary Johnson, Uganda is setting the precedent. "Other than as a result of the political and military weakness of most of its neighbors, Uganda would have no real political juice, as Kenya is recognized as the intellectual, political, and economic powerhouse of the region," Johnson said in an interview earlier this week. "Kenya should be the powerhouse that sets the pace. But Kenya has fallen on hard times politically since its election fiasco, so now it's got its own fish to fry." Filling the void, Uganda is the one asserting moral leadership in the region. Domestically, its antigay drive makes for a convenient political ploy; with a war raging in north that the government can’t contain, it's easy to gain popularity points by exploiting the myth of postcolonial attack on African masculinity. But the ploy could have international ramifications. If the law passes in Uganda, Johnson anticipates a domino effect of attempts in other countries throughout the region to tighten their legal codes.

After months of fretful postings, Box Turtle Bulletin sees signs that the international diplomatic and media-badgering campaign may be having an effect in Uganda. A senior adviser to President Yoweri Museveni recently denounced the bill in the government-owned New Vision newspaper, Uganda's largest. Today, Uganda's other main newspaper reports that Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo—a key government leader who previously spoke enthusiastically of the proposal as "an opportunity for Uganda to provide leadership where it matters most"—has backed down, pledging to remain silent about the bill until it has been passed or defeated. It's probably no coincidence that these changes have come after weeks of denouncements from political and religious figures—and, perhaps more importantly, threats to cut off aid and relocate an HIV/AIDS research center. If Ugandans were to lose their aid deals over the bill, would Rwandans think twice about pushing their own legislation through? That's a domino theory worth testing.

Click here to read more of the essay.

1 comment:

  1. I think the Rwanda story maybe have been stretched some where along the line: