22 January 2013

Uganda: Russia Plans to Enact Anti-Gay Law

Russia is planning to enact an even tougher Anti-homosexuality law than Uganda's to protect young Russians.

The legislation which is being pushed by the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church will make it illegal nationwide to provide young children with information that is defined as propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, beastiality and trans-genderism.

It includes a ban on holding public events that promote gay rights. The bill is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and Church see as corrupting Russian youth, the Associated Press reported on Jan.21.

However, cynics including human rights activists see the anti-gay bill as part of a Kremlin crackdown on minorities of any kind--political and religious as well as sexual-- designed to divert public attention from growing discontent with President Putin's rule.

The move has been met mostly with either indifference or open enthusiasm by average Russians.

Officials at the Levada Centre, a Russian independent survey firm, conducted polls last year and found out that almost two thirds of Russians find homosexuality morally unacceptable and worth condemning.

About half are against gay rallies and same sex marriage while almost a third of them think homosexuality is the result of a sickness, or psychological trauma, the Levada surveys show.

Russian lawmakers have accused gays of decreasing Russia's already low birth rates and say they should be barred from government jobs, undergo forced medical treatment or be exiled.

They further argue that Russian minors need to be protected from homosexuality propaganda because they are unable to evaluate the information critically. This propaganda goes through the mass media and public events that propagate homosexuality as normal behaviour.

The Russian bill is similar to Uganda's Anti-homosexuality bill that has stirred an unprecedented international uproar since it was first tabled before Parliament by David Bahati-- a member of Uganda's ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM)--in 2009.

Homosexuality is widely condemned in Uganda.

Uganda gained international notoriety when the original bill--which was one time described by President Barack Obama as 'odious'-- was unveiled prompting denunciations from governments and activists across the world.

Partly due to international opposition that has seen Uganda's donors threaten to peg aid to the gay rights, it has been on and off since 2009.

In 2010, President Museveni urged MPs to go slow on the matter following a long telephone conversation with the outgoing US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in which she reportedly told Museveni to stop harassing the gay community in Uganda.

Last year, when Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of the Uganda Parliament was in Canada to attend the 127th Inter Parliamentary Union Assembly, she was involved in a bitter exchange with the Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, who accused Uganda of violating the rights of gay people. Kadaga hit back saying that this was an internal and sovereign matter that Uganda has a right to legislate on.

On her 'heroic' return to Uganda, Kadaga promised a 'Christmas Gift' for Ugandans by passing the bill. However, her wish did not materialize by the time Parliament closed for recess on Dec.14.

Early this month, the UK's Buckingham University surprised students of Victoria University when it announced that it would no longer associate with the Ugandan private university and would immediately cease its role of validating some of Victoria University's courses. Buckingham University cited Uganda's proposed anti-gay legislation and the constraints on freedom of speech for its decision.

The debate on the bill in Parliament is expected to resume in the next session which opens on Feb. 4.

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