World responds to Ugandan anti-gay law

    Uganda, one of the largest recipients of international aid in the world, will face major cutbacks in response to the controversial anti-homosexuality bill signed by President Yoweri Museveni last month. The bill, originally proposed in 2009, calls for life imprisonment for “serial offenders.”

    This could result in 14 years of imprisonment for sexually active homosexuals with HIV/AIDS and up to seven years in prison for those who have aided homosexual men or women in any way. Museveni initially rejected the original bill due to his belief that homosexuals should not be punished for a supposed genetic defect, but changed his mind last month after tests performed by Ugandan scientists implicated that homosexuality is a choice and can therefore be fixed. The initial bill, which proposed that the sexual orientation be punishable by death, received significant backlash from the international community.

    The response contributed to the bill’s prolonged approval. But the contempt that the Western community still holds over the recently reformed bill is no longer of great concern to Museveni, who has stated publicly that Western culture will no longer dictate the culture of the Ugandan people. Along with escaping the influence of the West, Museveni has expressed that the bill is necessary to preserve the family values of Uganda and to improve health standards, Al Jazeera reported.

    “This is not about healthcare,” DePaul alumnus Malcolm Simkoff said. Simkoff spent three months working for a public health non-governmental organization (NGO) in Uganda at the end of 2013. “All Museveni is doing is reaching for fumes to justify his radicalism with.”

    For some European countries, though, these justifications are insufficient. The Netherlands and Denmark plan to redirect $20 million in aid to private aid agencies and rights groups within the country, the Wall Street Journal reported. Norwegian officials, meanwhile, said at least $8 million in Ugandan aid would be affected by the country’s new law. The United States also says it is evaluating its ties with Uganda, and the World Bank has postponed the $90 million loan originally intended for a maternal health project.

    “All that cutting off aid does is take further steps away from Uganda reaching Millennium Development Goals,” Simkoff said. “This obviously tarnishes the Western world’s view, but they’re rescinding funds because of this radical and strong opinion that Museveni gets to express only because he’s been in power for 30 plus years.”

    When funding was appropriated in 2010, the World Bank reported that without aid, Uganda was unlikely to reach the Millennium Development Goals set forth by the United Nations to be attained by 2015. Museveni, however, seems unflinching.

    “Worried? Not at all,” he said, according to CNN.”If the West doesn’t want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space here to live by ourselves and do business with other people.”

    According to Simkoff, though, this stronghold is rooted in Museveni’s disregard for the rural areas on the outskirts of Kampala – Uganda’s capital – which tend to be the villages that are in dire need of healthcare funding.

    “You look at all of those outliers outside of Kampala, and that’s where healthcare initiatives take place. Look at Zambikes for example,” Simkoff said, referring to the NGO he worked for supplying ambulances for healthcare transportation to residents of rural Uganda. “Those are the people that are going to be affected by these cutbacks, not Museveni. All he’s looking at is the scope of big city populous.”

    Among all the flack from international organizations and donor countries, it seems the strongest, and perhaps the only, support Uganda has received from a unified group of people has been from its own Anglican Church. The church believes homosexuality is “incompatible with scripture,” the Huffington Post reported. In response, the Archbishops of Uganda’s mother church in England have pleaded for the acceptance of all people, no matter their sexual orientation.

    “The victimization or diminishment of human beings whose affections happen to be ordered towards people of the same sex is anathema to us,” the Archbishops said in a letter to Uganda’s church. “We assure homosexual people that they are children of God, loved and valued by Him and deserving the best we can give: pastoral care and friendship.”