The Republican Party wants the United States to stop pushing for repeal of 76 countries’ laws that make homosexuality a crime.
In its newly unveiled 2012 party platform, the GOP criticizes the Obama administration for its warnings that U.S. foreign aid might be curtailed to countries that throw gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in jail for sexual activity. The platform describes that effort as “attempting to impose … the homosexual rights agenda.”
The platform states:
The effectiveness of our foreign aid has been limited by the cultural agenda of the current Administration, attempting to impose on foreign countries, especially the peoples of Africa, … the homosexual rights agenda. At the same time, faith-based groups — the sector that has had the best track record in promoting lasting development — have been excluded from grants because they will not conform to the administration’s social agenda. We will reverse this tragic course, encourage more involvement by the most effective aid organizations, and trust developing peoples to build their future from the ground up.
It’s true that faith-based groups have accomplished much good in developing countries, but their efforts have also done much damage. Many fundamentalist Christians have worked hard at promoting harsh anti-homosexuality laws, most prominently the so-called “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda, which in its original version would impose the death penalty for people repeatedly convicted of engaging in same-sex sexual activity.
In recent years, the United States has stood firmly in opposition to that bill, as well as to the laws against same-sex relationships in 75 other countries ranging from Belize to Bangladesh and from Senegal to Singapore. President Obama called the Uganda bill “odious.”
In a speech last December, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” After her speech and an even stronger appeal by British Prime Minister David Cameron, two nations’ leaders have spoken out against their countries’ discriminatory laws. In Malawi, President Joyce Banda said her country should repeal its law that calls for up to five years in prison for homosexual activity.. In Jamaica, Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller rejected anti-gay discrimination and said the nation’s anti-homosexuality law should be reviewed. U.S. embassies in many nations have organized pride celebrations to advocate for the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people.
In contrast, the GOP platform suggests that a Republican administration should “trust developing people to build their own future” by adopting a hands-off approach to Third World laws that define LGBTI people as criminals. By using the phrase “homosexual agenda,” the platform incorporates “a term used by anti-gay crusaders to imply that people asking for equal rights have some kind of sinister plan for society,” in the words of the Think Progress website, which advocates for LGBTI rights. That website adds, “And while it’s true that the Obama campaign has worked to protect gay rights internationally, foreign aid dollars aren’t going to marriage equality campaigns — U.S. money is being used to finance legal and journalistic efforts to protect LGBT Africans from being murdered or jailed for their sexual orientation.”
Anti-homosexuality laws reinforce the tendency of many societies to stigmatize LGBTI people. Last year in the West African country of Cameroon, for example, Roger Jean Claude Mbede was repudiated by his family after he was sentenced to three years in prison for sending amorous text messages to a man. His father declared that he would rather have a madman for a son than a homosexual. That’s a typical experience for many gay men in Africa who are forced out of the closet. As a result, many prefer to enter into loveless heterosexual marriages while indulging their sexual preferences secretly. If they become infected with HIV, so too do their wives.
The same laws are cited by police and government officials as a reason for forbidding meetings about human rights. In Uganda, Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo has repeatedly dispatched police to break up gatherings of LGBTI activists discussing how to campaign for fair treatment. He has also vowed to block a proposed conference of religious leaders to discuss the theology of human sexuality. Earlier this year in Cameroon, police raided and dispersed a human rights meeting because participants advocated LGBTI rights. This month, national police cracked down on the activist group Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe, arresting 44 members who had gathered to learn about the group’s latest report on human rights violations.
Damage from anti-homosexuality laws extends deep into the LGBTI community and far beyond it, especially because those laws, combined with the power of social stigma, make health services difficult or impossible for LGBTI people to obtain. Because they don’t learn how to avoid the risks of contracting HIV, closeted gay men become infected in secret extramarital liaisons and often pass the virus on to their wives. National strategies for fighting AIDS exclude men who have sex with men because public health officials aren’t willing to devote resources to treating criminals. Doctors are unwilling or reluctant to accept criminals as patients.
As a result, in many countries with anti-homosexuality laws, the HIV infection rates for men who have sex with men (MSM) are much higher than in the population overall. For example:
- Benin: estimated adult HIV infection rate of 1.2 percent, according to UNAIDS, but 25.5 percent for MSM.
- Ghana: 1.8 percent overall, but 25 percent for MSM.
- Guyana: 1.2 percent overall, but 19.4 percent to 21.3 percent for MSM.
- Indonesia: 0.2 percent overall, but 5.2 percent for MSM.
- Jamaica: 1.7 percent overall, but 25 percent to 31.8 percent for MSM.
- Kenya: 6.3 percent overall, but 10.6 percent to 43 percent for MSM.
- Malaysia: 0.5 percent overall, but 3.9 percent to 7 percent for MSM,
- Nigeria: 3.6 percent overall, but 13.5 percent for MSM.
- Sudan: 1.1 percent overall, but 8.8 percent to 9.3 percent for MSM.
- Uganda: 6.5 percent overall, but 12.4 percent to 32.9 percent for MSM.
- Zambia: 13.5 percent overall, but 32.9 percent for MSM.
More than a million people die of AIDS each year, so those HIV infection rates are a grim indicator of misery and early death. Anti-AIDS advocates at this year’s International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., declared that they are close to achieving the possibility of an AIDS-free generation. But that’s not possible with the hands-off approach the GOP platform proposes.
In many developing countries, people are building a future that’s not only marred by legalized hostility toward LGBTI people but also wracked by AIDS, which cannot be defeated because of anti-homosexuality laws. Those nations and all their citizens deserve a helping hand from the United States, not a hands-off attitude.
For more on how anti-LGBT laws contribute to HIV/AIDS, see these posts on this blog:
- AIDS rebounds in Uganda with help from anti-gay law
- AIDS experts: Decriminalization needed to combat AIDS
- Fatal flaw in official anti-AIDS declaration (which lists 11 countries with anti-homosexuality laws and high HIV infection rates).
Other related articles
- World Bank may join fight against anti-LGBT bias (76crimes.com)
- Report on anti-LGBT laws cites ‘reason to hope’ (76crimes.com)
- New activist network fights AIDS and anti-LGBT laws (76crimes.com)
- GOP Draft Platform: ‘Homosexual Agenda’ Advanced By Obama Foreign Aid (thinkprogress.org)