Political reaction in South Africa
Days after President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda passed a law that expands the legal punishment for homosexuality in the country at least three European countries — Holland, Norway and Denmark — announced they were withdrawing millions of dollars of aid to Uganda, which depends on donors for about 20% of its budget.
Washington has also signaled it could cut aid to Uganda over legisaltion that the White House described as “abhorrent.” The new law allows life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and also criminalises the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality and the failure of reporting homosexual activity to the police.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday compared the law to oppressive government crackdowns on German Jews in the 1930s and black South Africans during apartheid, saying he was going to direct American ambassadors to look at ‘how we deal with this human rights challenge on a global basis’.
The legislation has also drawn widespread condemnation from the United Nations and rights watchdog groups.
Ugandan officials have been reacting with scorn to Western criticism and withdrawal of aid, saying that Western governments can keep their money.
Signing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Monday, President Museveni said: “No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature … That man can choose to love a man … is a matter of choice. After listening to the scientists, I got the facts.”
SA Govt avoids direct confrontation
A day later and in the wake of a new law passed in Nigeria last month prescribing imprisonment for people who enter a same-sex marriage, the South African government publicly defended the rights of homosexuals in Africa. But the SA government avoided mentioning Uganda, or any other country, for fear of deepening divisions on the issue with most of the rest of Africa. It said South Africa “took note of the recent developments regarding the situation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex persons worldwide”.
The government would seek clarification through diplomatic channels from “many capitals”.
Today (Thursday, February 27, 2014) the DA Youth held a silent protest outside the Ugandan Embassy in support of the LGBTI community in Uganda. The DA has criticised the SA Government for its lack of response to the Ugandan anti-homosexuality law and for preventing discussion on the matter in parliament.
In a statement released today, DA Youth leader Mbali Ntuli, says: “As a liberal party, the Democratic Alliance believes in the rights of the individual. Each person should live how he/she chooses, as long as it is within the constraints of our constitutional democracy. It is for that reason that we have a long history of showing support for the LGBTI community in South Africa. Constant presence at gay pride marches, assistance for support groups and campaigns speaking out against corrective rape have been a few of our efforts to stand in solidarity with this community. We do this because we believe in equal rights for all people.
“We would like to urge the South African government to honour its past and continue to fight against the violation of human rights under oppressive governments. We cannot simply stand by and watch as the freedoms of our fellow African brothers and sisters are encroached upon.”
ACDP opposed to jailing homosexuals
The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP) also released a statement yesterday, stating its opposition to laws providing for the imprisonment of homosexuals and clarifying its position on homosexuals and their rights, which is says has been misquoted in the wake of Museveni’s tough new legislation.
ACDP Member of Parliament, Cheryllyn Dudley says the party respects the rights and freedoms of all people to make adult choices with regard to their private lives and believes that no people should be subjected to discrimination or violence on any ground including sexual orientation.
Explaining the party’s record on opposing certain gay rights clauses in the SA Constitution, she says: “As a party representing a primarily Christian community, the ACDP objected to clauses in the constitution which we believed afforded ‘additional’ rights to homosexuals – we believed at the time, that the result of this would lead to a clamping down on religious freedom and the right of Christians and churches to warn about the dangers of homosexual behaviour – warnings which are clearly written in the Word of God on which the Church is founded. This concern was soon validated as veiled and overt threats were levelled at individuals and churches.
“The ACDP has always expressed the view that promoting the homosexual lifestyle will have negative repercussions for individuals and our country as a whole we do however make a distinction between people who refer to themselves as homosexual and what we see as a ‘homosexual agenda’ to promote a homosexual life-style, especially among the young and ‘very young’.
“Our position is one in which we defend the human rights of every person – including the right of homosexual people to choose their life style – we will however oppose any agenda which promotes a homosexual lifestyle particularly in schools. We have also opposed the use of the word ‘marriage’ in describing this lifestyle as the word marriage refers to – and has always traditionally referred to – a union between one man and one woman. We do however recognise that legal contracts can be drawn up to govern the sharing of assets and the designation of ‘next of kin’ status.
“We do not – and will never – support legislation criminalising homosexuality where it is a matter between consenting adults.”
In signing the Bill, Museveni said he wanted to deter Western groups from promoting homosexuality in Africa.
The anti-gay law is widely popular in Uganda, and some analysts believe Museveni’s enactment of the Bill boosts his popularity ahead of presidential elections in 2016.
Ofwono Opondo, a spokesperson for Uganda’s government, said today that the aid cuts by some European countries show Ugandans “that the world does not owe them a living”.
“It’s actually a trap for dependence,” he said, talking about donor support.
“It’s actually good that they removed the aid, so that we can live within the means we have.”