Friday, February 28, 2014, 11:18 by Fr Joe Borg
Last Monday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed a law that reinforced the already severe laws against gays in that African country. Jail sentences for life are now obligatory for those who have gay sex. The law also prohibits what it considers to be the “promotion” of homosexuality. Being gay is already outlawed in the country.
This homophobic attitude of the Ugandan government has reached such obscenely incredible heights that harsh international condemnation and punitive actions are a duty. But punitive actions have to be such as not to harm the vulnerable. One should learn a lesson or two from the results of the embargo mandated against the Saddam regime. It did not bring the regime down. Neither did it discomfort in any way Saddam or his cronies. But it did cause a lot of suffering to innocent people.
The Church in Uganda should not sit on the fence. In 2009 it mounted a very bold opposition to the gay legislation that was then enacted. Such an adversary position has not been taken against the present legal enactments. The lame excuse given by their spokesperson is that the bishops are in retreat and will not be able to comment until early March.
It is also a pity that the bishops of Nigeria were rather approving of the anti-gay legislation enacted by the Nigerian government. Those who go to gay clubs in Nigeria now face 10 years in jail and same-sex couples could face up to 14 years in prison.
On the other hand The Southern Cross, a weekly promoted by the bishops of South Africa, has taken an editorial position against legislative measures being adopted in several African countries that lead to discrimination against homosexuals. The paper said that legislation in Nigeria and Uganda and similar proposals in Cameroon and Tanzania lead to the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation.
A similarly positive position was taken by the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family, Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia. Earlier on in February he said that the church's affirmation of the full dignity of all human beings led him to oppose laws that outlaw homosexuality
This should be the way forward for the Church.
The practice of sending people to prison because of their sexual orientation or because of their practices of sexual intimacy should be condemned. The defence of the human rights of others is a basic duty of the Catholic Church and this defence includes the defence of persons whose actions may be contrary to its moral code. The trampling on the basic fundamental rights of others should be considered to be the same as the trampling on one’s own rights. We are not just our brother’s keepers. We share the same humanity and consequent dignity which should be protected. One’s religion, gender orientation or ethnicity are no excuse for denying people of their basic human rights.