Africa is not the most comfortable place to be queer. The African continent hosts four of the seven countries/regions in which you may be executed by the state for loving someone of your gender.
Uganda is planning on becoming the fifth, with the subtly named Anti-Homosexuality Bill poised to become law. And queer Ugandans can’t even “just” leave their home to love elsewhere:
Life imprisonment is the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex, under an anti-homosexuality bill currently before Uganda‘s parliament. If the accused person is HIV positive or a serial offender, or a “person of authority” over the other partner, or if the “victim” is under 18, a conviction will result in the death penalty.
Members of the public are obliged to report any homosexual activity to police with 24 hours or risk up to three years in jail – a scenario that human rights campaigners say will result in a witchhunt. Ugandans breaking the new law abroad will be subject to extradition requests.
The justification is the usual – family unit destroyed, homosexuality a white person’s disease, queers responsible for spread of HIV, it’s against god’s will to love someone of the same sex.
Some Ugandan church leaders are standing up and calling “hatred” though – notably Anglican Church Canon Gideon Byamugisha:
I believe that this bill [if passed into law] will be state-legislated genocide against a specific community of Ugandans, however few they may be.
Canon Byamugisha is right about how many queer people this effects being irrelevant, though wrong I suspect about how many Ugandans may nurse same sex attractions.
UK and Canadian diplomats and leaders are expressing their concerns, the Swedish government will stop all aid to Uganda if the bill is passed into law.
African Human Rights group AfricaFiles have an email detailing their concerns about this murderous law, complete with easy instructions on how to send it to Uganda authorities. Avaaz has a petition to sign – with more than 280,000 signatures when I looked – which they intend presenting to the Ugandan president and embassies around the world.
Queer Ugandans think their only hope is to have such strong international condemnation that their leaders back off. Let’s not let them down.