BY Advocate.com Editors
December 16 2009 12:35 AM ET
In his State of the Union Address in January 2003, President George W. Bush gave one of his more eloquent and moving speeches about his upcoming HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention program, and included specific praise for the African country of Uganda in paving the way to lower AIDS population rates on the continent. This fall, the international community, feeling helpless and stunned, watched as severe antigay legislation was introduced in Uganda on Oct. 14, which called for a life imprisonment sentence for homosexual acts and the death sentence for those engaging in homosexual activity repeatedly and for any HIV-positive person doing so.
The current law in Uganda states that anyone who identifies as a homosexual, bisexual, or transgender should be sentenced to a minimum of 14 years imprisonment. While 14 years is the stated term, being convicted as an LGBT person commonly results in a life sentence. While it has never been safe to identifying as a gay person in Uganda, the bill introduced October 14, if passed, would make a nonstraight lifestyle impossible in the African country. The new legislation calls for a life sentence as a minimum punishment for any LGBT person and further states that anyone who fails to report a homosexual to the government within 24 hours will be sentenced to three years in prison. The final part of the bill is perhaps the most shocking, given Uganda’s history of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. It states that death by hanging is the punishment for “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as any of the following: a repeat offender of the homosexuality law, having homosexual sex when any intoxicating substance is involved (for instance, if two men meet at a bar, buy each other a drink and then have sex, both of these men would be sentenced to death,) if one engages in homosexual activity as an authority figure, and finally, having sex if you’re HIV-positive.
After hearing about the new “kill the gays” legislation in Uganda, President Obama, international human rights groups (specifically Human Rights Watch), and various public figures around the world made statements against the proposed law. In fact, Christian groups, which have remained divided on issues like civil unions and gay marriage, came together to oppose the flagrant human rights violation. Still, though, among the authority figures who strictly opposed the potential law, there were a few famous and prominent faces in the crowd — familiar faces to the Ugandan government — who connect through a wide “family” network and are now hiding from the accusations that they may actually be connected to this disgusting and murderous legislation.