Sen. Inhofe and the Ugandan anti-gay bill

Politics

Uganda, a country already rife with institutionalized homophobia, is considering a new law making “aggravated homosexuality” (that is, gay sex with someone under 18; gay sex while in a position of authority over the partner; repeated gay sex; or gay sex while HIV-positive) an offense worthy of the death penalty. According to a piece in The Guardian from 2 days ago:

Life imprisonment is the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex, under an anti-homosexuality bill currently before Uganda’s parliament. If the accused person is HIV positive or a serial offender, or a “person of authority” over the other partner, or if the “victim” is under 18, a conviction will result in the death penalty.

Members of the public are obliged to report any homosexual activity to police with 24 hours or risk up to three years in jail – a scenario that human rights campaigners say will result in a witchhunt. Ugandans breaking the new law abroad will be subject to extradition requests.

Several people, including Rachel Maddow, have brought up The Family, the secretive evangelical group in Washington that puts on the National Prayer Breakfast, also mentioning Sen. Jim Inhofe’s connections both to the group and to Uganda. In fact, Inhofe has taken a special interest in Uganda, having traveled there about twice a year since 1998. According to a piece in The Oklahoman, Charles Ssentongo (deputy chief of mission at the Ugandan Embassy in Washington) said Inhofe “has been a good friend of Africa and Uganda in particular. Senator Inhofe has been one of the leading voices on the various issues facing our continent.”

As a constituent of his, I wrote a note to Sen. Inhofe using the form on his web site:

Dear Sen. Inhofe,

Charles Ssentongo, deputy chief of mission at the Ugandan Embassy in Washington, described you as “a good friend of Africa and Uganda in particular.” As your constituent, I would like to ask you to exercise your friendship with Uganda to clarify your position on an issue that has been raised there recently.

According the British newspaper The Guardian, Uganda, a state that already has strong anti-homosexuality laws, is considering the passage of an even stronger new bill. From the article:

“Life imprisonment is the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex, under an anti-homosexuality bill currently before Uganda’s parliament. If the accused person is HIV positive or a serial offender, or a “person of authority” over the other partner, or if the “victim” is under 18, a conviction will result in the death penalty.

Members of the public are obliged to report any homosexual activity to police with 24 hours or risk up to three years in jail – a scenario that human rights campaigners say will result in a witchhunt. Ugandans breaking the new law abroad will be subject to extradition requests.”

There have been several articles written recently insinuating your support for this action, even going so far as blaming your and others’ humanitarian interest in the country for this bill, currently under consideration. This seems doubtful.

However, given your particular relationship with Uganda, I would imagine you are uniquely qualified to comment on this “aggravated homosexuality” bill, and that your condemnation of it might carry special weight.

I would appreciate hearing your comments and, hopefully, even some kind of public statement. Thank you for your time.

It is not what I would call strongly worded by any means, but I feel it gets the point across. I’ll post any reply that I receive.

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