Surely everyone reading this is well aware of the issues surrounding the LGBT bill in Uganda. And as the world leapt to its feet, passionately denouncing this one bill in this one country, I waited for that same outrage to be directed at all the other places where this is happening in equal measure.
I'm still waiting.
If one followed the media frenzy, they'd be led to believe that Uganda is the only country with troubling legislation to this regard, when in fact, Uganda's law falls perfectly in line with those of an array of other countries. Yet most cases are met with a silent impunity.
Uganda is a mere drop in the bucket. It's a scapegoat.
The hypocrisy is alarming.
So why are we turning a blind eye to the vast majority of the places where this is happening? How do we decide who gets a free pass and which LGBT communities throughout the world do not, in fact, deserve our advocacy? I believe that if we, as a global community, are serious in our concern about the issue, then the concern must be distributed equally. Otherwise it's a sham, a stunt for the cameras.
To put the issue in proper context, according to the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA), there are 78 countries with criminal laws against sexual activity by those who identify as LGBT. This includes nearly all of the Middle East, South Asia, Africa, the Indonesian Archipelago, and the Caribbean. These laws range from prison sentences, to corporal punishment, and to execution in some cases.
The list includes "friendly" countries that enjoy generous Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with the U.S. -- many of which punish convicted LGBTs with anywhere between 7 years to life imprisonment. Those countries include: Malaysia, Kuwait, Kenya, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Barbados, and others.
Several beneficiaries of other high-profile trade agreements with the U.S. even uphold the death penalty for members of the LGBT community who are "caught in the act," including: Qatar, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia.
Not only that, but the U.S. is also home to 13 states that are currently ignoring a 2003 Supreme Court decision that declared anti-sodomy laws to be unconstitutional. So we have some work to do on the home front as well.
It would be so much easier if the problem was limited to one place, but it's not. We shouldn't turn a blind eye to the many while condemning the few, there is no virtue in that. Let's lay down our pitchforks and torches for a moment, take a breath, and consider the facts. This is a global issue and we need to recognize that reality and confront it in earnest.
We need to work with communities across the globe, including some key allies, to raise awareness and encourage progress. And if we have a zero tolerance policy for this, then our leaders and the media must apply pressure evenly, across the board.
Meanwhile, acting as though Uganda is the standalone offender is an absolute farce.