ACT UP Protests Anti-Gay Laws at NYC’s Ugandan Consulate
Approximately 50 LGBTI activists protested outside the Ugandan Consulate on March 5 for over an hour decrying President Yoweri Museveni’s February 24 passage of three Draconian measures: the Anti-Homosexuality Law, Anti-Pornography Law and Public Order Management Law.
"Civil society and free public space in general are deteriorating in Uganda and Museveni’s government scapegoats LGBTI’s to distract from real problems like corruption, human trafficking, poverty and the suppression of media freedom," said Terry Roethlein of ACT UP New York, as he held a placard picturing "Uganda’s Top Five Human Rights Violators": Yoweri Museveni, David Bahati, Martin Ssempa, Rebecca Kadaga and Scott Lively.
Members of ACT UP New York, Queer Nation, Health GAP, LGBT Faith Leaders of African Descent, and the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) carried signs that read, "Hate is the new colonialism, "Fight real issues not the people," and "God loves Ugandan gays."
A twenty-foot long rainbow banner reading "Boycott homophobia" was draped along the gates outside the consulate as the group gave short speeches on human rights violations in Uganda and read emotional pleas from LGBT Ugandans who are in hiding, suffering beatings and sometimes committing suicide because of oppression.
In Uganda, accused homosexuals can be sentenced to seven years to life in prison and those who "promote" homosexuality can be sentenced to seven years. Health care providers offering HIV services to homosexuals are at risk for imprisonment, creating a deadly effect on gay and bisexual men who are then cut off from HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
"The new law drives Uganda on a very dangerous road where the people who have the highest risks and need the most support are criminalized," said Michael Tikili of Health GAP.
ACT UP members said that LGBTI activists in Uganda are calling for strategic cuts to Ugandan government sectors that support the offending legislation, such as the Justice Sector, but do not want cuts to health funds or NGO’s.
Anti-LGBTI legislation in Uganda is informed by the vestiges of British colonial law and the current day influence of American Evangelical Christians like Scott Lively, the president of Abiding Truth Ministries, who is allegedly tied to the controversial legislation.
Stacey Robinson, Convener of Riverside Church’s LGBT Ministry, said, "American evangelicals preaching hate only fuel the vitriol against the gay people of Uganda. But hate and fear have no place where faith resides. We all deserve to be proud and out," he said.
Activists called for foreign governments, celebrities, religious leaders and multinationals in Uganda (like Heineken, Barclays and British Air) to speak out against the laws. Visa bans for Ugandan officials and increased asylum admittances from Uganda were encouraged.
A sister action will take place Friday, March 7 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Nigerian Embassy, 828 Second Avenue between 44th and 45th Streets in New York City to protest that nation’s Same-Sex Marriage (Prohibition) Bill.