II. SEXUALITY AROUND THE WORLD: MAIN DEBATES
Since its very first issue, this section of the SPW newsletter has underlined the sharp paradoxes of sexual politics in our times, when major breakthroughs in policies, laws and mobilization coexist and contrast with regressive measures that curtail further erotic justice. In this issue, such a paradox is illustrated, on the one hand, by the regressive legislation proposed in Uganda, which aims to further criminalize “homosexual” behavior and which includes a provision for capital punishment of persons prosecuted for having infected others with HIV. On the other hand, we highlight the same sex marriage legislation recently approved in the Federal District of Mexico, as it goes beyond other Latin American countries’ laws and court decisions on the matter.
In SPW’s view, however, the Ugandan law provision should not be analyzed as mere regression. It must be understood as a culmination of a series of regressive laws — on marriage, same sex relations and the criminalization of HIV infection — that have been proposed in Africa, and elsewhere, since the early 2000s. However, it should be reminded also that these regressive propositions, to a large extent, materialized as a response to political mobilizing around sexuality and rights. More importantly, what is particularly remarkable in the recent Ugandan case is that it has triggered remarkable and broad mobilization, both internally and internationally, which has extended far beyond the boundaries of LGBT and human rights communities that have expressed their voices when similar episodes have occurred elsewhere in recent years. Read the complete analysis.
This mobilization has included state representatives (such as ministries of cooperation and external affairs), UN Special Rapporteurs and a wide range of religious voices, among them the Ugandan Catholic Bishops, who condemned the capital punishment article while at the same time harshly condemning homosexuality. On March 12th, Bishop Desmond Tutu also raised his voice, writing broadly about threats and fears affecting transsexuals, lesbians and gays in Africa (read the article and more). Those protesting against the law also comprise local African and human rights organizations, as well as, more recently, prestigious professional associations. On the Web, a number of online petitions have been launched, including one by Avaaz, which quickly collected more than 500,000 signatures.
It is impossible to predict what the final outcome may be, as the situation is extremely complex. Since the law has been proposed in October, strong connections between Ugandan evangelicals and the US religious right have been identified. Most principally, as we know, strong global mobilizing around sexuality issues can trigger unanticipated setbacks at local levels. Even so, some privileged observers have considered that the Ugandan regressive law episode could, eventually, represent a turning point in the landscape of African sexual politics. While the episode is too complex to be fully analyzed here, we have selected writings and articles that may guide our readers into discussions of its many intricacies.
Lastly, as this edition was being finalized once again, the first pages and TV screens around the world were talking of sexual abuses perpetrated by Catholic bishops. This time, however, a direct link has been identified with Rome and the Pope. Information and analyses on this new round of “Catholic Church” sexual episodes information can be found in the Sexuality and Religion session.