In 2011, a similar list was published in the Ugandan version of Rolling Stone magazine, calling publicly for the execution of homosexuals. One of the people on the list, Gay Rights activist David Kato, was subsequently murdered. Gay Rights groups have called ever since for an external intervention for gay people in Uganda, but many of the people on the original list and the list published today have already fled the country. The world is beginning to react by withdrawing aid to Uganda, but reportedly the decision to pass the bill was made "to demonstrate Uganda's independence in the face of Western pressure and provocation". Until now, President Museveni had delayed signing the bill in lieu of further US sponsored research into the science behind sexuality, but the sponsors behind the law are insistent that homosexuality is a "behaviour that can be learned and can be unlearned". The bill had become so controversial that the media were invited to witness a public signing of the document; an action completely out of character for the President and his government.
The end of apartheid is the perfect example of how western pressure can affect the laws and policies of a country far overseas. The international focus on the issue and the campaign to “Free Nelson Mandela” eventually accelerated the change that not only levelled South Africa’s racial freedoms, but also transformed the country into an arguably western model of financial, cultural and political stability. External pressure can make a difference.
I have never had any intention of ever visiting Uganda. My personal freedom will not be harmed by the passing of this new law, but that laws like this can still be passed, that Russians are being persecuted by the general public, that some countries still carry the death sentence for homosexuality, incenses me. Western countries are beginning to rally behind the Human Rights issues surrounding homophobic laws, but things should be happening faster than they are. It’s still a delicate topic. It’s still a contentious issue. If racism inside a country is grounds enough for UN intervention, then why isn’t homophobia? The change toward that will come eventually, but I just wish it could happen now. Because without that, how are places like Uganda going to even begin to change?