Thursday, December 10, 2009

Uganda, Pepsi and Beenie Man - Strange Bedfellows

As reported through various media outlets, Uganda was proposing new anti-homosexual laws that would not only keep the act of homesexuality illegal, but would bring the death penalty to anyone found practicing this act. This was by far one of the worse forms of homophobia and hate based tactics that has been publicly exposed in quite some time. After much pressure from various international human rights and LGBT organizations, as well as vocal opposition to these proposed laws from several Christian leaders within the United States,some components of the proposed legislation have been removed.

In a public effort to denounce any such support of the death penalty for homosexuals in Uganda, a coalition of Christian groups issued a statement condemning any such action. The statement said, in part, “As Americans, some may wonder why we are raising our voices to oppose a measure proposed in a nation so far away from home. We do so to bear witness to our Christian values, and to express our condemnation of an injustice in which groups and leaders within the American Christian community are being implicated. We appeal to all Christian leaders in our own country to speak out against this unjust legislation.”

Assumingly based on these worldwide pressures to not impose such extreme and uncalled for measures, Uganda will drop the death penalty and life imprisonment for gays in a refined version of an anti-gay bill expected to be ready for presentation to Parliament within two weeks. The draft bill, which is under consideration by a parliamentary committee, will drop the two punishments to attract the support of religious leaders who are opposed to these penalties.

This does not eliminate the extreme ignorance and hatre that the government leaders of Uganda obviously retain. No form of any 'anti-homosexuality' bill should be allowed to pass within this country. Gay rights groups have urged Commonwealth leaders to throw Uganda out of the Commonwealth unless it drops the proposed law. This should also include eliminating any national funding sources.

The minister for ethics and integrity, James Nsaba Buturo, reportedly said a more "refined" set of punishments would be favoured instead of execution. Although it is not clear what this means, he pointed to so-called 'gay cure' therapies, saying the bill would promote counselling for gay people. If the provisions for execution and life imprisonment are dropped, the bill still places severe penalties on gay people, their families and those who work for gay organisations. Other offences include promoting homosexuality, aiding and abetting homosexuality and keeping a house "for purposes of homosexuality". The MP who tabled the bill, David Bahati, has argued his bill will protect children, youths and the "traditional family".

In a somewhat bizarre unrelated incident, well-known homophobic reggae artist Beenie Man recently played a concert in Uganda, sponsored by PepsiCo. Beenie Man would make a great spokesperson for this 'anti-homosexuality' bill, but does Pepsi want its image attached to all of this? Apparently their company spokesperson said they were unaware of his homophobic lyrics, and they quickly reacted by cancelling any further relations.

Beenie Man, real name Anthony Moses Davis, has a number of songs which advocate the murder of lesbians and gays. During the concernt the singer reportedly said: "In my family, we don’t have any gay person but if you’re gay, my brother that’s not my fault." He then performed his song Mi Nah Wallah, which details his wish to cut the throats of all gay men. Other lyrics by the singer include "I'm dreaming of a new Jamaica, come to execute all the gays", while one song suggests lesbians should be hanged. All this seems fine to those running the star-studded annual Grammy Awards, as Mr Man is up for four nominations. Will he make an appearance should this actually become a reality?

What this all means is that there is still a large portion of the world that exhibits hate based propoganda and actions toward those they find different to themselves. As individuals and organizations, we need to stand up and bring light to any actions deemed hateful and detrimental to society. Just because something doesn't have a direct effect on your city, neighbourhood, friends and family, doesn't mean it should be ignored. Please continue to fight hate!

Toronto Protest of Action

Pride Uganda International Alliance calls for Urgent Action to defend human rights in Uganda
Please come to a vigil to protest the new Anti-Homosexuality Bill under debate by the parliament of Uganda.

Where: 519 Church St. Community Centre

When: 5:30 – 7:30 Friday December 18 2009

The new Anti-Homosexuality Bill, imposes the following:
- The death penalty for 'aggravated homosexuality' (includes HIV positive status) and 'serial' homosexual acts.
- Life imprisonment for all same-sex behaviour.
- Life imprisonment for contracting a same-sex marriage.
- Seven years imprisonment for ‘aiding and abating’ homosexuality.
- Five to seven years imprisonment for supporting homosexuality or publishing material ‘promoting’ homosexuality.
- Three years imprisonment for not reporting any offence covered by the bill, within 24 hours.

Under Uganda’s existing laws, the police arbitrarily arrest and detain men and women accused of engaging in consensual sex with someone of the same sex. Human rights organizations have documented cases of torture against lesbians and gay men in detention because of their sexual orientation. The new bill will further criminalize the work of activists and organizations working for the defense and promotion of human rights in Uganda; and create major barriers to effective HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.

We call for the immediate withdrawal of the "Anti-Homosexuality Bill" currently being debated in the Ugandan parliament.

Please join us in defending human rights in Uganda.

Pride Uganda International Alliance.

Update - December 22, 2009

The fight against HIV in Asia could be greatly assisted if countries moved to legalise homosexuality, according to a leading Chinese AIDS activist.

Zhen Li of the Tong Zhi awareness group was speaking at a three-day forum hosted by Hong Kong's Department of Health, the World Health Organisation, the UNDP and the Joint UN Programmes on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

"Between 2005 and 2008 China made huge progress in addition to working with civil society as partners," Li said.

In 2001 homosexual acts were decriminalised, allowing HIV prevention workers to work more openly with men who have sex with men.

Asia's second most populous country, India, is considering decriminalisation.

"As long as these laws are in effect it will push people into dark places," Li said.

In China, the risk of infection by men who have sex with men is 45 times higher than for men in general.

Asia is believed to have the world's largest number of men having sex with men, estimated at 10 million.

A recent UNAIDS report showed that targeted prevention interventions are reaching only 1% of the MSM population.
The report also showed that in most countries in Asia and the Pacific, national strategic plans for HIV/AIDS do not cover interventions for MSM and transgender individuals.

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