Rowan Williams (Pic: Brian from Toronto, Canada)
The White House, the Archbishop of Canterbury and even The Vatican have now expressed their opposition to Uganda’s draconian anti-gay bill, adding to growing international pressure against the proposed law.
In its first statement on President Barack Obama’s position on the issue, the White House said on Friday night: “The president strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalise homosexuality and move against the tide of history.” There was no comment, however, on what possible action, if any, the US might take if the law is passed.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has previously denounced the international criminalisation of homosexuality.
Following weeks of pressure, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also finally slammed the Ugandan bill.
“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity,” he said in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, “And I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades.”
Williams, who is the symbolic head of the global Anglican movement, had previously refused to speak out publicly on the matter; his office saying then that he was using his influence behind the scenes.
Meanwhile, during a landmark meeting last week by a United Nations General Assembly panel on human rights violations against LGBT people, a representative from the Vatican read out a statement also denouncing the proposed legislation.
The statement from the Holy See said that it “opposes all forms of violence and unjust discrimination against homosexual persons, including discriminatory penal legislation which undermines the inherent dignity of the human person… The murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.”
The meeting included discussion of the Ugandan legislation and of the role of American religious groups in promoting that bill and homophobia across Africa.
The panel featured speakers from Honduras, India, the Philippines, and Zambia, as well as Uganda. Sweden organised the panel in coalition with Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, the Netherlands, and Norway. The audience of 200 people included delegates from over 50 nations.
Speaking on the panel, Victor Mukasa, cofounder of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and program associate for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLRHC), described how he was forced to leave Uganda following police brutality and raids on his home. He said that Uganda’s “anti-homosexuality bill” reflects a pattern of state-sponsored homophobia spreading across the African continent.
“Lack of security, arbitrary arrests and detentions, violence, and killings of LGBT people have become the order of the day in Africa,” said Mukasa. “Nothing can change as long as LGBT people live in fear for their safety when they claim their basic human rights.”
Also at the panel discussion, the Reverend Kapya Kaoma, an Anglican priest from Zambia who is project director for Political Research Associates (PRA) in Massachusetts, presented the group’s new report, “Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia.”
Kaoma said that many anti-LGBT attitudes across Africa are fuelled by US groups actively exporting homophobia.
He called on US religious figures who have been promoting hatred and fear of homosexuality in Africa to denounce the Uganda bill unequivocally and support the human rights of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Citing their moral responsibility to prevent violence, he also urged them to make such declarations in Africa, not just before US audiences.