It is with so much of a burdened heart that I write to you today in regards to the proposed anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda. As an African, a lesbian and a member of clergy, I am personally affected by the bill and its potential implications for my fellow LGBT African family who live not only in Uganda but in neighboring African countries that may follow suit and enact such hateful legislation.
According to the book of Micah 6:8, we are required by God "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God" and in Mark 12: 28-31, Jesus spells out the two commandments that encompass every other commandment in the bible which is that we must "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these".
The proposed anti homosexuality bill is in direct violation of these commandments from Jesus and yet, so called "Christians" are behind its proposed passage. I really feel saddened for Jesus due to the fact that even though he came to bring good news and hope to the world, his earthly "Christian representatives" often bring bad news, hopelessness, alienation/rejection and so much pain and suffering to the others in his name.
Stigma and discrimination are directly tied to risk factors for suicide. Having been an alcoholic and drug addict who attempted suicide due to the religion based oppression and rejection that I faced when I came out as a lesbian in Africa, I know firsthand how dangerous this form of rejection can be and I am sure that it is being magnified by this proposed bill. Members of the LGBT community are more at risk of suicide and substance abuse than the general population. A study that included 5,000 homosexual men and women revealed that 40% of adult gay males and 39% of adult lesbians had either attempted or seriously contemplated suicide (Jay & Young as cited in McFarland, 1998). Another study reported that gay and lesbian adolescents were two to three times more likely to attempt suicide and may account for as many as 30% of completed youth suicides each year (Gibson, as cited by MacFarland, 1998). More recently, Montreal researchers who just published a study on the subject this month of February 2010, have found that Gay, lesbian and bisexual teenagers are twice as likely to think about killing themselves or to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers and that society, not their sexuality is to blame (Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 2010).
With gay bashing on the rise worldwide, I fear that Uganda (an already heavily homophobic country) may start to experience higher rates of gay bashing if this hateful legislation becomes law and thus, "validates" homophobia. An FBI report released in 2007 indicates that not only have documented hate crimes increased in the United States, but that crimes targeted against gay people has increased from 14% in 2005 to 16% in 2006. Bias-related hate crimes increased 8% in the same time period. Crime related to one's sexual orientation ranked third in frequency behind race and religion. As a lesbian from Africa who has lived in 3 continents, I can tell you that there is absolutely no difference between the hateful bigotry I have felt due to racism and the hateful bigotry I have felt due to homophobia.
This is THE civil rights issue for our generation and we all must speak out and take a stand against such a blatant violation of fundamental human rights.
The proposed bill means that homosexuals could be put away in prison for life (at a minimum), or worse, put to death. It means that people who test positive for HIV may be executed. It forbids the "promotion of homosexuality," which in effect bans all organizations working in HIV and AIDS prevention. The 16,000 members of the HIV Clinicians Society of South Africa and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS condemn the bill and have warned that excluding marginalized groups would compromise efforts to stop the spread of AIDS in Uganda where 5.4% of the adult population is infected with HIV. The bill states that anyone who knows of homosexual activity taking place but does not report it would risk up to three years in prison (this would include one's family members, pastors, counselors and doctors). The bill doesn't only apply to homosexuals in Uganda but provides applies even to Ugandans participating in same-sex acts in countries where such behavior is legal and purports that they be brought back to Uganda and convicted there. Ugandan Lawmakers have indicated that they will pass the bill before year's end.
This bill will, if it is allowed to pass, lead Uganda back to its darkest era. The era of Idi Amin, who in the 1970's, ordered that Ugandan born Asians must be expelled because of their skin color and facilitated the targeted killing of so many people. The bill would in effect exile thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) Ugandans who would most likely flee the country to escape prosecution. It is also frighteningly reminiscent of the era of the sex police of apartheid South Africa, who would smash their way into people's bedrooms in an attempt to prevent inter racial sex.
The Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill is anti-human, anti-Christian and in violation of the fundamental rights that ALL people living in our world today are entitled to. It is in essence, government- legislated genocide and in the interest of humanity, compassion and justice, it must not be allowed to pass and that is why I have written this open letter to you. I am calling on you to stand up and speak out against this bill. I am also calling on all Christians to stand up against the proposed law so that it is not passed in Uganda or anywhere else in the world, and I ask Uganda's president (Yoweri Museveni) and all Ugandan lawmakers, to please engage in dialogue with the rest of the world on the importance of protecting the rights of minorities.
Please do whatever you can to stop this regressive and oppressive bill from becoming law in Uganda.
With hope, Reverend Rizi Timane of The Gospel Truth Music Ministry