Obama Administration Sanctions Uganda for Anti-Gay Legislation

Illustration for article titled Obama Administration Sanctions Uganda for Anti-Gay Legislation

In an explanation on the White House website, two senior aides to President Barack Obama have outlined further United States restrictions in its bilateral relationship with the country of Uganda. The restrictions come over Uganda's passage of an extreme "Anti-Homosexuality Act" that criminalises LGBT individuals with penalties up to life in prison.


These restrictions outlined in the explanation include refusal of entry to certain Ugandan officials, removal of funding and support for a community policing program, redirecting of healthcare funds to non-governmental organisations, the relocation of facilities to other African nations, and the cancellation of joint military exercises.

The Government of Uganda's enactment of the "Anti-Homosexuality Act" is precisely such a step in the wrong direction. As President Obama made clear in February, the enactment of the AHA is more than an affront to the LGBT community in Uganda — it calls into question the Government of Uganda's commitment to protecting the human rights of all its people, and complicates our bilateral relationship.

In large part these further sanctions on Uganda are being conducted underneath a general White House policy of pro-LGBT international relations. In 2011, the Obama Administration directed federal agencies to "ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad." This direction meant that the available paths for affecting the bilateral relationship with Uganda were quite clear given the Anti-Homosexuality Act passed in that country.

In taking the measures that we have described, the U.S. government is mindful of the wide range of issues encompassed by our relationship with Uganda — including our development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people, our efforts to counter the murderous Lord's Resistance Army, and a partnership that advances our security interests in the region. We will seek to advance these interests while also working with both governmental and non-governmental partners to end discrimination against LGBT people in Uganda and around the world — a struggle central to the United States' commitment to promoting human rights.

It is my contention that the Obama White House will go down in history as the presidential administration which most changed the US government's stance on LGBT issues. From a history of actively persecuting LGBT Americans to a government committed to marriage equality, fair treatment in workplaces and in the military, to the appointment of LGBT (yes even T) officials, the proclamation of LGBT Pride Month (which I imagine will eventually morph into LGBT history month as we move forward in time), an outspoken Vice President who has been as plain spoken about the need to treat LGBT Americans fairly as he is about anything else (even when it gets him in trouble), and finally a federal policy of ending LGBT discrimination globally, with real consequences for countries which discriminate.


Image via AP Images.



This isn't a good move on Obama's part, and will possibly make the situation for gay and lesbian Ugandans worse. It plays right into homphobic Ugandans views of Western preoccupation with homosexuality. In may parts of Africa, homosexuality is seen as in import from the West (and in many ways the idea of "gay" is, i.e. Foucault analysis of sexuality), so when Western countries become so preoccupied with anti-gay stances of certain African countries, that proves in many people's minds that it is something foreign and something being imported (and promoted) from the West. Most Ugandans themselves are more concerned with corruption and economic issues in Uganda than homosexuality. So when Western governments only pay attention to anti-gay laws and not corruption or economic woes (which the Western governments themselves are often a contributor of), it shows to many that Western governments really don't care about Ugandans. Not to mention plenty of Ugandans are just fine not being shackled to foreign aid to their country.

Anyway, here is an pro-gay rights Ugandan talking about his opposition to Western meddling in Uganda: