What’s Next For Uganda’s Gays?

Last week, a Ugandan court struck down the country’s draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act. Melina Platas Izama gives credit to “the vital role played by concerned citizens and the legal community in Uganda”:

Ten individuals and organizations — including a journalist, professor, doctor, activists and current and former legislators — petitioned the court to repeal the law on the grounds that it was passed illegally, having contravened parliamentary rules of procedure requiring quorum, and that it violated constitutional rights. Their efforts, combined with those of a robust legal team, were integral to the law’s repeal. Their victory demonstrates the power of domestic actors and the courts in promoting social and legal change.

But Uganda might get worse for gays before it gets better:

If we look at attitudes toward homosexuality over time using opinion polls, we find that it can take decades for attitudes to shift. Further, negative attitudes toward homosexuality sometimes increase before they decrease.

In South Korea, for example, one of the countries with the longest record of opinion polling on the topic, opposition to homosexuality, again, as measured by the percentage of respondents who say homosexuality is never justifiable, jumped from 60 percent in 1982 to 90 percent in 1990 before declining again. It’s worth noting that levels of anti-homosexuality sentiment in South Korea in 1990 are nearly the same as those in Uganda today. In South Africa too, anti-homosexual sentiment increased before declining. Meanwhile, in the U.S., opposition has fallen only gradually over time and has yet to dip below 20 percent.

Jay Michaelson fears an anti-gay backlash:

In the case of Uganda, records kept by Sexual Minorities Uganda show that violence against LGBT people has increased tenfold since the passage of the AHA. Add in fiery preaching by anti-gay zealots, often funded by American organizations, and you have a volatile brew ready to explode. Activists worry that this court decision could provide the spark. If the law won’t protect Uganda from Satan, people will have to take up arms themselves.

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail. There are supportive African (and African-American) clergy calling for coexistence rather than violence. Maybe the Obama administration, instead of merely backpedaling reactively, could support these voices pro-actively as well. Maybe Museveni could call for a period of national reflection. Or maybe, things will continue to get worse.

Previous Dish on the predicament of Uganda’s gays here.