Earlier this week, the Ugandan Parliament decided to postpone a vote on legislation that would make being gay or lesbian a capital offense. In other words, if enacted, the legislation would have made being gay punishable by death.
This isn’t the first time the have tried to pass this contemptible legislation, but each time the vote was postponed due to international criticism. Under current law in Uganda, it is illegal to be gay, but this new measure would mandate hanging for anyone found to be gay. While the capital offense portion of the bill has been removed, other punitive aspects remain, including jail time for anyone aiding and abetting a gay person (like renting an apartment to them or giving them a job) as well as anyone who knows that someone is gay (like a parent or friend).
I’ve been in countries where, yes, technically it was illegal to be gay. But the laws were not enforced and were frankly antiquated remnants of another era. That I can live with, even if I don’t like it. What I can never forgive is this move by Uganda to not only criminalize, but kill gay and lesbian men and women.
It’s not as if this is just a random, crazy bill that was introduced and forgotten about, it has support. There have been rallies in favor of it and, sadly, lynchings have begun to occur. In an unusual move, the potential government action has created public support for genocide.
Regardless of whether or not this legislation passes, the international image of Uganda has suffered terribly. A boycott on everything Ugandan, including travel, has been organized and I am participating. But it begs the question, what is the appropriate course of action in this circumstance? Is it right to avoid an entire country because of the actions of its leaders? Personally, I know that I cannot support a country that is trying as hard as it can to wantonly kill individuals because of the way they were born, but others may feel differently.
What do you think? What is the right thing to do in this situation?