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Executed for Being Gay

Matthew Cardinale

ATLANTA, Georgia, U.S., Aug 31 2011 (IPS) - Five nations still outlaw homosexuality and carry out executions of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, according to a recent report by the U.S. group Human Rights First.

Currently, the nations that prescribe capital punishment for homosexuals are Iran, Mauritania, the Republic of Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

South Sudan, the world’s newest country, may become a sixth nation to do so, while, if religious extremists have their way, Uganda may become the seventh.

The death penalty also is carried out against homosexuals in certain parts of Somalia and Nigeria.

Many of the countries that carry out the death penalty against homosexuals also have anti-democratic regimes, noted C. Dixon Osburn, director of the Law and Security Programme at Human Rights First.

“When other freedoms are opposed, any freedoms can be oppressed. When you don’t have freedom of the press, freedom of engagement, it makes it difficult. Certainly the countries that carry out the death penalty, these are countries where just speaking up contrary to the government can have dire consequences,” Osburn told IPS.


The current penal code of South Sudan – which may become the sixth county to execute gays – is a departure from the shariah law previously practiced in the region when it was part of Sudan, yet it still criminalises sodomy.

“Right now they imposed a 10-year criminal sentence, but have not adopted the death penalty yet,” Osburn said.

President Stealva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan recently said that democracy, equality, and justice do not extend to people who are homosexual.

Recognition of homosexual people is “not in our character… It is not even something that anybody can talk about here in southern Sudan in particular. It is not there and if anybody wants to import or to export it to Sudan, it will not get the support and it will always be condemned by everybody,” President Mayardit said.

“I’m sad to hear that Southern Sudan, as a new nation, is considering this,” Joe Beasley, president of the U.S. NGO African Ascension, told IPS. “I was hoping it would be a lot more progressive.”

“Given the prevalence of homosexuality in the communities, in the families of nations globally, South Sudan isn’t regarded any different, does not fall outside the human norm,” Beasley said.

Meanwhile, major disputes over the rights of GLBT people in Uganda continue, with one piece of legislation having been introduced to execute homosexuals who are HIV-positive.

David Bahati, a Ugandan parliamentarian, introduced the Anti- Homosexuality Bill of 2009 in the Parliament.

“You can see it creates a very difficult environment for anybody who’s gay there,” Osburn said.

The legislation would also criminalise people who advocate for GLBT rights, or who provide social or medical services to GLBT people, and would require Ugandan citizens to turn in anyone who they know is homosexual.

“In Uganda, there are those trying to keep the anti-homosexuality bill from becoming law,” Osburn said, adding that he does not see as much movement to overturn the existing death penalty laws in the five countries.

One prominent Ugandan gay activist, David Kato, was murdered in January 2011, after a Ugandan magazine published a list of prominent gay rights activists and their contact details, with a banner over the photos that urged, “Hang Them”.

“It’s a lynch mob mentality. You have an elected parliamentarian, Mr. Bahati, who introduced this bill and has been pushing. He believes gay people are evil,” Osburn said.

“You then have him getting the support of media where gay people are under the microscope, doing this McCarthyistic list, which adds to the mentality of going after folks who are a danger in the society,” he said.

One of the leading supporters of the movement to execute homosexuals in Uganda is a minister, Martin Ssempa.

Incidentally, one man connected with Ssempa who visited with his congregation in 2004, is a U.S. pastor, Peter Waldron, who currently works on the campaign of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican from Minnesota and one of the leading candidates for president of the United States.

“The sad, frightening part of it, the homophobic stuff in Uganda is being propped up by the evangelists from the U.S. They’ve come over there and whipped up a frenzy,” Beasley said.

And so, while the proponents of homophobic legislation in Africa argue that homosexuality is an Western import, there is evidence that the homophobia itself has been the U.S. export.

“I just left Uganda. I think it’s draconian, it’s totally out of step. The death penalty, regardless of what the offence is, is not in keeping with a civilized people,” Beasley said.

“The ultimate decision about judging life is left to God,” he added.

“My advice to the leaders is feed your damn babies, stop the neocolonialism, do that and the world will call you blessed and enlightened. With witch hunts, you’re not going to be able to change human nature. I think we need to get a life. God doesn’t make mistakes,” Beasley said.

 
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