by Melanie Nathan, December 11, 2011
Last week Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama in a statements and memo, respectively, called for sweeping pro LGBTI foreign policy and human rights recognition, noting emerging assistance for LGBT organizations and asylum seekers, worldwide.
Calling discrimination of homosexual and transgender people “one of the remaining human rights challenges of our time,” Secretary Clinton said “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.”
John Nagenda, a senior adviser to Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni, told The Christian Science Monitor that this view would be “anathema” to most African nations.
When I read remarks such as this, “I don’t like her tone, at all,” he said.
“I’m amazed she’s not looking to her own country and lecturing them first, before she comes to say these things which she knows are very sensitive issues in so many parts of the world, not least Africa.
“Homosexuality here is taboo, it’s something anathema to Africans, and I can say that this idea of Clinton’s, of Obama’s, is something that will be seen as abhorrent in every country on the continent that I can think of.”
Of course, this reaction is no surprise, and stands in direct contract to the plea by the LGBT leadership in a statement issued where they too, at great risk, are begging for recognition of their human rights by their local governments.
Kasha Jacqueline Executive Director Freedom and Roam Uganda, 2011 Laureate Martin Ennals Human Rights Defenders Award, while also noting the possibility of backlash against gays and lesbians in Uganda as a result of the week of U.S. support for their communities, said in response :-
“It is our fervent belief that the promotion of human dignity shall remain hollow unless we transform our social and political attitudes to eliminate hate and ensure tolerance for diversity.“Had the UN stepped up to protect and respect LGBTI rights in the last 63yrs we wouldn’t have experienced this misery. However I’m glad that they have realized and resolved to openly discuss LGBTI issues in the coming Human Right Council. I hope and really hope that this is the beginning of a very successful campaign around the world to respect and decriminalize LGBTI rights”
WAhat is critical to note however is the fact that the Ugandan adviser, as will be the case of many such representatives, is pointing the finger directly back at the U.S.A., noting that we here in the U.S.A. are a country where LGBT people do not have equality.
As I noted in my earlier posts , including this one, http://oblogdeeoblogda.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/lgbt-foreign-policy-applauded-and-human-rights-should-start-at-home-with-fiance-visas-and-greencards-for-same-sex-couples/ , we risk not being taken seriously until such time as American gays and lesbians have full equal rights under the law.
I have had many conversations with David Bahati, the author of the infamous “kill-the-gays-bill” and member of parliament in Uganda, who is known to have cavorted with U.S. Evangelical right winger Scott Lively before authoring the Anti-homosexuality, who has tried to in his words, “find common ground” with me on the question of homosexuality as a human right. Bahati questioned me in one such conversation:
“Surely if your country (USA) thought being gay is okay and a human right, you would have laws that protect your gays and not laws that work against gays?”
I have no doubt that unless we start to work fervently toward and ultimately repeal the Defense of Marriage Act in the U.S.A. those who think like Bahati will rest in what they figure is U.S. hypocrisy. They will turn the finger back at us and not believe we mean business.
While I understand that laws such as DOMA, although harmful and discriminatory against LGBT Americans , is in no way comparable to the criminalization of homosexuality and how that impacts African gays, for as long as gay people are marginalized in the U.S. and considered second class citizens, the pro LGBT foreign policy is destined for reprimand and invalidation by anti-gay governments abroad.
That said, I would be remiss if I did not caution the Ugandans that there would be absolutely no excuse for the passage of the impending anti-homosexuality bill. The bill is an insidious infringement of human rights and the Ugandans have now been forewarned through the passionate statement of Clinton and the bold memo of Obama.