Sunday, November 6, 2011
Some may be disappointed by David Cameron's attempt to influence countries that make homosexuality illegal by threatening to cut off foreign aid. Uganda feels that Britain is bullying them and treating Ugandans like children, and I agree. I think homosexuals should be entitled to do whatever they do as long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others. Nor do I think people expressing their sexuality in whatever way they choose constitutes an infringement on the rights of others.
But why should money that is supposed to be used to improve health, education, social services and infrastructure be used to threaten the government to pass legislation that suits current tastes in Britain? If aid is just a tool to get developing countries to become 'model states' in the eyes of Western countries, this is unlikely to work any better now than it has in the past.
Are Cameron and other Western leaders going to produce a list of desiderata, which can be ticked off as developing countries comply and be rewarded with another project, program, scheme or plan, and a handful of brownie points? The problem with aid in its current form is that it is not working very well. Some might say that is does work, it's just that it was never intended to work for developing countries, that the beneficiaries of foreign aid are the donor countries. That may be so, but what does that have to do with gay rights, or any rights?
Throwing money at the latest CNN moment, Aids, famines, earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis, is what it is, sheer posturing. But would Cameron and his fellow statespeople consider it acceptable to say to a country currently being devastated by a disaster, that aid money will be sent as soon as they improve their gender equality situation or their use of child labor (which is probably of far greater benefit to western countries than it is to developing countries)?
People here, and anywhere, can be whipped up into a frenzy about gay rights and all sorts of other things. But these are not the biggest day to day worries faced in poor countries. There's poverty, bad health, low educational standards, rotten infrastructure, inequalities of all kinds, failing governance, corruption and lots of other problems. Gay rights in Uganda are a political issue that can be milked for what it's worth or ignored, whichever political leaders and opinion makers choose at a particular time.
All Cameron is doing is adding to the frenzy. Instead of kicking someone for being gay, they can be kicked for threatening foreign aid monies. But no Ugandan politician, or politician of any country, is just going to back down and say, 'OK, we'll rewrite our legislation, sorry about that'. Bribing and threatening national administrations is not the way to change the attitudes of entire countries and it makes Cameron, and the UK, look stupid. It makes them look as if they don't really understand the concept of 'human rights'.
Cameron needs to go back to the drawing board. Threatening a country with suspension of aid, whatever kind of aid is involved, is not a way of bestowing rights on a population. Rather, it's just another way of taking away people's rights. No doubt, Cameron's tabloid reading supporters will be delighted, but he should keep his tabloid deplomacy for the UK, where he has a democratic mandate.
Interestingly, the BBC reminds us that "Some 41 nations within the 54-member Commonwealth have laws banning homosexual acts. Many of these laws are a legacy of British rule." The problem is not that former British colonies are refusing to be spoonfed, just that they now choose which of the spoonfuls to swallow and which to spit out.
What Cameron could do is go and have a word with his American puppet masters, who have done a lot to stir up the anti-gay fervor in the first place. But before that, he'll have to withdraw his idiotic remarks about withholding aid in return for 'gay rights' in Uganda. Otherwise, rights are whatever those paying the most say they are. Unfortunately, he's going to have to go through quite a transformation to follow this logic.