Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds. – Thomas Jefferson
This is not a real news story; I cobbled it together out of bits and pieces of five real articles, removing identifying details and changing just a few words here and there to make the point I wish to make.
Last Friday, the President signed the new Anti-Pornography Act into law; in addition to banning actual pornography it outlaws suggestive music videos and revealing clothing, specifically miniskirts and tops that show cleavage. Then on Monday, he signed into law another bill toughening penalties for prostitutes after legislators agreed to remove a clause criminalizing those who do not report them to the police. The new law allows life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of “aggravated prostitution”, which includes prostitution while infected with HIV; coercing anyone into prostitution; and paying for sex with a minor whether the customer was aware of her age or not. The bill originally proposed the death penalty for these offenses, but that was later removed amid international criticism. A section imposing a 14-year sentence for first-time offenders was removed, but a sentence of seven years for “attempting to commit prostitution” remains in the law. It also criminalizes the “promotion of prostitution”, which includes allowing prostitutes to advertise in a publication or on a website; businesses or non-governmental organizations found guilty of “promotion of prostitution” would be fined $40,700 and have their certificates of registration cancelled, and directors could face seven years in jail.
The President said in an interview that prostitution is “unnatural” and not a human right. “They’re disgusting. What sort of people are they?” he said. “I’ve been told recently that what they do is terrible. Disgusting.” He denied that prostitution had always been practiced in the country, claiming instead that it was a recent import from the West caused by pornography and the other “immoral influences” banned by the bill he signed Friday. Lawmakers said the influence of Western lifestyles risked destroying family units.
Activists sharply criticized the new laws, claiming that both of them are designed solely to win votes from the evangelical churches in the 2016 elections. “They are shallow and oppressive pieces of legislation that violate a host of fundamental human rights, including the right to freedom from discrimination, to privacy, freedom of association, peaceful assembly, opinion and expression and equality before the law — all of which are enshrined in the constitution and in the international treaties the legislature has ratified,” said one activist who wished to remain anonymous. It was also alleged that the ministerial task team asked by the president to advise him on prostitution falsified the information contained in the report given by legal and psychological experts, twisting it to show that prostitution should indeed be further criminalized. The Scientist Consensus Statement concluded that prostitution “needs regulation like any other human behavior, especially to protect the vulnerable”, and concludes: “Prostitution has serious Public Health consequences and should therefore not be tolerated.”
The President insisted that activists are motivated by “mercenary reasons”, and stated that prostitution is more common in Western societies because “on account of random breeding, they have generated many abnormal people.” His views are espoused by 96% of the population, leading activists to fear violence against those whose names appeared on a list of the “200 most wanted prostitutes” a tabloid published the day after the law was signed. The front-page story included some pictures and many addresses, and carried the headline: “EXPOSED!”
Most of you have probably already guessed that the real country is Uganda, the real president is Yoweri Museveni, and the real activity being prohibited is homosexuality rather than prostitution (except for the first sentence, which is almost verbatim from the original article). All the quotes from the president and others are also essentially verbatim. There is one major difference between my patchwork construct and the originals, however: the originals contain statements like, “The White House issued a statement [saying] ‘Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President Museveni took Uganda a step backward’…” But as we know all too well, there isn’t a government in the world with the nobility and decency to openly criticize other countries’ abusive legal regimes against sex workers, and the Hypocrite-in-Chief of the United States feels entitled to criticize one other country’s treatment of one sexual minority while at the same time he actively promotes horrific abuse of another all over the world.