Jackson Mukasa, a 19-year-old transgender woman, and Kim Mukisa, a 24-year-old gay man, are currently standing trial in Uganda for having consensual sex. Uganda’s maximum sentence for sodomy is life in prison. Here’s what you need to know and why you should care:
- Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was signed into law by Ugandan president, Yoweri Museveni, on February 24, 2014. Early drafts of the law called for the execution of those who commit gay sex acts, as well as the criminalization of those who fail to report such acts. The bill signed into law—after revision amidst international outrage—calls for a maximum sentence of life imprisonment. Those who recognize or promote homosexuality may face a sentence of up to ten years in prison.
- Uganda has had anti-sodomy laws on the books since 1950, but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill broadens the parameters for prosecution, as well as increases the penalties.
- Mukasa and Mukisa are the first Ugandans to stand trial under the new law. Mukisa has been charged with “having carnal knowledge of someone against the order of nature.” Makasa is charged with “permitting a male person” to have carnal knowledge of her against the order of nature.
- Mukisa was forced out of his home in January “for being homosexual.” He was then subject to an anal examination—which the U.N. has condemned as torture—as a humiliating and futile attempt to find empirical evidence that he had sex with another man. The exam, which is a key piece of evidence for the trial, is illegal under Article 24 of Uganda’s constitution.
- Both Mukisa and Mukasa have been denied bail on multiple attempts, and while Mukasa is currently out on bail, Mukisa remains in prison. Key witnesses failed to appear in court on May 7, so the trial start-date has been postponed for June 12.
Where’s the Christian outrage? Regardless of your opinion on the issue of gay marriage or homosexual acts as sinful, Mukasa and Mukisa are facing an unprecedented trial and possible conviction that irreparably impacts the rights and freedoms of countless others. Even if you stand under the belief that such a trial is “just” because it’s Ugandan law, we cannot ignore or neglect the fact that the trial is the direct result of mob violence. In fact, much of the support for the law has been perpetuated through LGBT-witch hunts and public outings, such as a tabloid publishing photos of Uganda’s “Top 100 Homos,” resulting in the murder of David Kato, who was beaten to death by a hammer.
This trial reveals one of the many gray areas in which Christians, even those who hold to conservative views of sexuality and marriage, should stand alongside those with whom they disagree because much more is at stake: our ability to disagree openly with one another. For example, while Christians should certainly not support or encourage a Satanist monument on state property, we can at least encourage the primacy and importance of religious freedom. Such pragmatism can be used by conservatives on the LGBT trials in Uganda. We should never turn a blind eye to injustice because the offense aligns within our moral framework.
Christians can stand up for Uganda’s LGBT community, not because we support open definitions of sexuality, but because we stand against injustice, mob violence, and unfair treatment under the law. Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill infringes on the freedom and privacy of its people, and when such a questionable law is then celebrated by murder and only carried out at the bludgeoning threats of a violent mob, what’s “legal” becomes mired in the unlawful. This is neither the justice nor the mercy for which we Christians long to see reign in the kingdom of God.