Monday, November 02, 2009

A Dubious Link

A correspondent posted about the Ugandan "Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009" (text is not currently available at the official site) and I think, initial revulsion aside, it is worth having a look at, if only to convince ourselves that government by Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson and Lord Mandelson is not the worst of all possible worlds.

Now, after we've all (the libertarians at least, and, of any other readers, those with a world view in the latter half of the 20th Century even if still a bit progress-disadvantaged) gone "ugh", let's consider that homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda (s145 of their Penal Code Act) and work on from that point.

Without yet expressing views on the wrongness or utter wrongness of state interference in the private lives of consenting adults, let's be snarky first.
  • Despite the heavy religious sponsorship, this is a clergy-unfriendly bill. Not only is the friendly man or woman in the dog collar considered to be of sufficient power over you for them to fall in to s3(1)(d) "Aggravated Homosexuality" - and therefore going to get offed rather than mere rotting in prison for the rest of their days but under s14, they can get 3 years banged up for not snitching on you to the Poof-Finder General. Sacrament of Confession, anybody?
  • This is not a well written bill - consider the text of s9 - there seems to be missing a (c), as well as the punishment schedule.
  • I like s13(1)(b): "funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities" - like interior decoration or fashion design?
  • s13(2) shows that Ugandan politicians are just as bad as British ones for "little people's law"!
  • s15 really worries me - the only offence here that is reserved for the High Court is one with the mandatory death penalty - even life imprisonment can be tried by Magistrates? Yuck.
  • Any government requiring a "Minister of Ethics and Integrity" is clearly headed down the (Nothing to do with the)People's (Un)Democratic etc, etc
Okay, so that's the pedantry out of the way. What about the basic points?

  • The hideous illiberality of condemning not just consensual sexual acts between adults but even the belief that such should not be illegal is mind-numbing. It reads like a nu-Labour Criminal Justice Bill.
  • The fig leaf offered by the supporters that this bill is necessary to protect juvenile men from gay predators is just that. Implementing s3(1)(a) with an amendment to the law on rape to allow that crime to encompass acts on males, either legally incapable of consent or unconsenting, would be entirely reasonable (accepting that age of consent is, to a large extent, culturally bound and therefore the West needs to be careful demanding that our, piss-poor, example should be followed.)
  • The Ugandan Constitution does have "objectives" covering human rights, and Article 21(2) would probably apply (is homosexuality a 'belief' - however the Bill also bans non-homosexuals from promoting homosexual rights which certainly is, hence the Bill is unconstitutional under Article 2(2).)
  • I would just state my generic opposition to the death penalty (and judicial maiming etc), regardless of the offence, as I don't trust anybody's courts to get it right all of the time and even if you win your appeal, you don't have much come-back!
We do need to remember that the modern world isn't, really. That bigotry and its (probably illegal under this Bill) bed-fellow, religious fundamentalism - yes, with limited exceptions such as the death penalty, this Bill is supported by so-called Christians from the Church of Uganda (aka Anglican Communion), Orthodox, Pentecostal, & Seventh Day Adventist Churches, as well as the usual "why aren't we surprised" homophobic suspects from the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council - are endemic in large areas of the world.

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