03 December, 2009

UGANDA, Homosexuality and the Church

Yesterday I learned from Equality NC that Heath SHULER, my representative in the US House, belongs to the American branch of an international political group that SUPPORTS the Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009 in the African nation of Uganda.

I have signed the petition urging Shuler to reverse his position. I will write and call him individually to express my outrage as a citizen for his interference in the life and politics of an independent nation that has suffered enough from colonialism. I urge my fellow Tar Heels to also take action. I hope that what I have to say here will help others resist such hateful legislation because it is unjust and inhumane.

If this bill becomes law it will criminalize the very fact of being homosexual and not just homosexual acts. Second, definitions in the bill are so vague that it will be easy for law enforcement and the courts to arbitrarily identify persons as “homosexual” even if they are not lesbian or gay. Even the threat of applying this law will terrify many. The harsh negative sanctions of capital punishment or seven, five, or three years imprisonment are inhumane and cruel punishment.

Most of the Western Democracies, led by the UK and Canada, have roundly condemned the bill as unjust and a violation of human rights. These countries know how homophobic many nations are, especially former British colonies, which continue to seriously abuse LGBT persons and violate key principles of the British Commonwealth. US opposition to the Ugandan anti-gay law has been quite muted. The office of the US embassy in Uganda offered only a vague call to "support human rights.” The Federal Government in the US, has made no official statement, even after being urged to do so by four US congresspersons
There is some truth to the idea that strong opposition to  “internal affairs”  in Uganda by the United States and former colonial powers is merely a new form of colonialism; that it will most likely reinforce and increase greater resistance to “outside interference,” as the following statements by, David Bahati, the author of the bill, indicate: “homosexuality is not a human right.”  and “The fact that the moral fabric of America and Europe has been put under siege by the supporters of this creeping evil of homosexuality should not suggest that we follow suit.” In addition, Uganda's minister for ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, said "… that Uganda has no intention of heeding the advice of foreigners on the issue of homosexuality.”

Might the Catholic bishops in Uganda be “insiders” who can make the difference? This is a difficult question to answer. Uganda is 40% Catholic (compared to the US which is 23% Catholic). Whatever the bishops say or suggest will be very influential. The increasingly conservative, even reactionary, stance of the Vatican and hierarchy will tend to make the Ugandan hierarchy support, or at least remain neutral on the issue. The institutional Church is substantially increasing its attacks on homosexuality (more on that in a future post) and it sees the future of the Church as being  in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Today the position of the Church on homosexuality is much closer to that in Africa than to that in Europe and the United States. As of this post the Ugandan bishop shave been low-key and have said little in public
On the other hand, as John Allen says in a recent article, “As time goes on, Catholic silence will be increasingly unsustainable, especially if the bill comes up for a vote." He continues, “At least two aspects of the proposal seem like no-brainers for Catholic opposition: the death penalty, and the threat of sending people to jail for failing to report homosexuals to the police. If enforced, the latter measure could have devastating implications for pastoral ministry with homosexual persons. A few leading Evangelical Christians in the States, including some who believe in “curing” homosexuality, have already expressed opposition on that basis.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states that homosexuality is intrinsically disordered and that all homosexual acts are objectively gravely sinful (More on that in a future post). But the Catechism also states that homosexual persons “…must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity…; that every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” This position was recently reiterated by the Vatican in connection with an incident in Mexico.

As much as I personally would like the Ugandan bishops to speak strongly and publicly in opposition to this bill, perhaps the best we can hope for is that they will use their influence to induce President Yoweri Museveni to withdraw the bill or urge serious mitigation of sanctions based on  the Church's general opposition to capital punishment and the danger of driving AIDS underground.

So what are we as US Vatican II Progressive Catholics to do? First of all, as always, we can deepen our understanding of the issue and reaffirm tolerance and, especially,  love of our LGBT sisters and brothers. We can speak and act here in the US to highlight the evils of legislation like this. We can help each other realize that the role of Westerners in dealing with “North-South” or “Gap-Country” issues is ambiguous. We can work diligently to support and assist in developing ever greater openings to full participation by LGBT persons in our parishes, universities and other Catholic groups. We can re-orient our thinking from seeing gays as “victims” to seeing them as human beings “just like us.” To the degree that we can get our own house in order we can stand as a beacon of hope and enjoy more fully common humanness with everyone.

(for those who will take the time to examine it)
The objective of the Bill is, "...to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations... inside or outside [Uganda]. The Bill claims, as a fact, that "same sex attraction is not an innate and immutable characteristic."

"A gay [is] a male person who engages in sexual intimacy with another person of the same sex;" A "homosexual [is] a person who engages or attempts to engage in same gender sexuality;" and "homosexuality means same gender or same sex sexual acts."     So what are sexual acts?
A "sexual act" includes-- (a)... the touching of another's breast, vagina, penis or anus..." [even if it doesn't] ...culminate in intercourse; (b) stimulation or penetration of a vagina or mouth or anus or any body part... of any person, however slight by a sexual organ; (c) the unlawful use of any object or organ by a person on an another person's sexual organ or anus or mouth."
"[Touching includes-- (a) with any part of the body; (b) with anything else; (c) through anything; and in particular... penetration of any sexual organ, anus or mouth."

Offenses and Penalties:
"A person commits the offense of homosexuality if... "(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another of the same sex with his penis or any other contraption; (b) he or she uses any object... to penetrate or stimulate the sexual organ of a person of the same sex; he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality. A person who commits an offense under this section shall be liable... to imprisonment FOR LIFE.

"A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the---" (a) the {."victim"] .. is below...18...; (b ) the offender [has] AIDS; (c) the offender is a parent or guardian of [the "victim"]; (d) the [offender] is in authority over the [victim];(e) the victim is a person with disability;y; (f) the offender is a serial offender or (g) the offender applies... or causes to be used any drug... with the intent to... overpower him or her so as to... have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex. A person who commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality... is liable to SUFFER DEATH.

A person who attempts to commit the offense of homosexuality...is liable to imprisonment for SEVEN YEARS. A person who attempts to commit the offense of aggravated homosexuality is liable to imprisonment FOR LIFE.

Aiding and abetting homosexuality and conspiracy to engage in homosexuality are each liable to SEVEN YEARS imprisonment.

Procuring homosexuality by threats or intimidation or under false pretenses with any person of the same sex, either in Uganda or elsewhere [[ something is missing]]. A person can not be convicted on the evidence of one witness only... 

A person who detains another with the intention to commit acts of homosexuality or a person who keeps a house (brothel) for the purposes of homosexuality upon conviction is liable to SEVEN YEARS imprisonment.

If "[a] person being the owner or occupier of premises..., induces or knowingly suffers any... [person] ...to be upon the premises for the purposes of being unlawfully and carnally known by [a person] of the same sex... is liable to imprisonment for FIVE YEARS.

"A person who purports to contract marriage with a person of the same sex commits the offense of homosexuality and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for LIFE.

Promotion of homosexuality. "A person who--- (a) participates in the production, marketing, [etc.] of pornographic materials for the purpose of promoting homosexuality; (b) funds or sponsors homosexuality or related activities; (c) offers premises and other...assets for the purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality; (d) uses electronic devices... [includes internet, movies, cell phones] for the purposes of [or for promoting] homosexuality and; who acts as an accomplice...or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices; commits an offense and is liable to a fine of 5,000 currency points or imprisonment... of FIVE to TEN YEARS  or BOTH."

"A person in authority, who being aware of the commission of any offense under this Act, omits to report the offense within twenty-four hours... commits an offense.... and is liable to a FINE not exceeding two hundred and fifty currency points or imprisonment not exceeding THREE YEARS.

The remainder of the bill deals with jurisdiction of courts, Extradition, and Nullification  of inconsistent treaties, protocols, declarations and conventions.

1 comment:

  1. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, has spoken out on this bill criminalizing and even calling for the death penalty for homosexuals in Uganda.

    Colleen over at Enlightened Catholicism has a post up on the Presiding Bishop’s statement.


    I like her calling the exporting of the North American Culture Wars to another context as the very worst of a new form of colonialism. She blames this on elements of her own Anglican communion. Some evangelical groups are also guilty of exporting a similar brand of hate.

    Thanks for your very thorough analysis of this and your activism.


Comments most welcome.