On May 26th, Uganda’s parliament signed into law the “Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023”, which prescribes life imprisonment for homosexuality and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”, as well as harsh penalties for the “promotion” of homosexuality.
The West’s reaction was swift.
President Biden called the Act the “the latest development in an alarming trend of human rights abuses and corruption in Uganda”, and said that his administration is considering the “application of sanctions”. Likewise, EU Foreign Affairs Representative Joseph Borell described the Act as “contrary to international human rights law”, and said that Uganda’s failure to protect its citizens “will undermine relationships with international partners”.
Now, I should mention that I agree with Biden and Borell: homosexuality should not be illegal. Yet I can’t help but notice their glaring hypocrisy.
Here are some of the countries where homosexuality is currently illegal: Nigeria, Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Qatar and the UAE. Notice anything? They’re some of Europe’s biggest energy suppliers, and in the case of Saudi Arabia one of America’s most important “allies”.
When was the last time you heard the US threaten sanctions against Saudi Arabia for its stance on gay rights? And how brave of the EU to condemn Uganda’s law, while buying billions of dollars of energy from Qatar and the UAE!
Uganda’s problem isn’t that it’s blatantly denying rights to gay people; it’s that it’s doing so without being able to offer anything to the West. Perhaps if the country managed to raise oil and gas production, they could pass anti-gay legislation without the threat of sanctions. Until then, they won’t have any such luck.
Western leaders’ double standards actually undermine their efforts to promote gay rights, since people can see they’re not willing to pay a cost. “So you care about gay rights – just not enough to stop buying energy?” And good luck to the politician who runs on the platform, “Let’s stop buying energy from the Middle East until they respect gay rights. Who needs an economy, anyway?”
The fundamental problem for Europe is that, with the exception of Norway, all the countries able to offer them energy have a habit bit of either bombing their neighbours or not respecting human rights. And that isn’t about to change.