Every civilized society criminalizes some sexual behaviors, and Ugandans have the right to define the boundaries of legal sexual behaviors. More specifically, they have the right to consider homosexual acts as criminal offenses. The outage from Western political leaders and the United Nations is against any such legislation.
The East African nation of Uganda made big news this week as President Yoweri Museveni signed legislation establishing what The New York Times called “an anti-gay law” that was “condemned by the United Nations the European Union and rights groups.” Well, true enough, in that President Museveni did sign the law, and the law was opposed by many of the most powerful forces in the modern world, including the United Nations and the president of the United States.
The implication was that Uganda had done something unprecedented and out of step with the modern world. The law may well be out of step with the modern world, but it is hardly unprecedented. More than 30 of Africa’s 54 nations have similar legislation. Furthermore, other nations on the continent are considering legislation modeled after Uganda’s. In any event, a majority of African nations already have such laws on the books.
The Ugandan law does not criminalize homosexual identity claims, but it does criminalize all acts of sex between persons of the same gender. An older law had already made homosexual acts illegal, but the new legislation comes with more serious penalties and greater specificity.
This does not mean that the Ugandan law is right and just in every respect. Some of its penalties seem out of scale though they involve what are described as “aggravating” conditions.