Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

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Canada was suitably vocal about the imposition of Russia's anti-gay law that fueled anti-homosexual sentiment and attacks in that country. Vigorous public protest, however, may be counterproductive in response to Uganda's draconian anti-gay legislation, signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni.

Withdrawal of aid, as has been suggested, from the Museveni government may do more harm than good, risking humanitarian and health projects, while falling prey to the agenda of anti-gay activists -- ironically, encouraged by American evangelical promoters -- who warn Ugandans that the growing gay-rights movement is thinly veiled western "social imperialism."

Mr. Museveni, pondering a fifth term, sees political capital in playing to the anti-homosexual campaign, which has egregiously linked homosexuality to the very real problem of exploitation of children by sex tourists. In this, he is following suit with Russian President Vladimir Putin who sees political gain in demonizing gays as a threat to the morality of children.

Unlike Mr. Putin, Mr. Museveni makes no pretence of global leadership. With rising potential in its oil reserves and stronger ties with China, Uganda may be beyond international pressure.

So it is with many countries, 83 at last count, where homosexual activity is criminalized; some on penalty of death, or life imprisonment as in Uganda. In each, Canada and its counterparts must find the most productive response, as complicated as that can be. Ugandan activists say they need resources to fight the law, which ultimately may be overturned by a national human rights panel.

Denmark and Norway have chosen to redirect their aid to non-governmental organizations in Uganda. Canada, which like the United States is "reviewing" its relations with Kampala, should heed Uganda's human rights groups, offer financial support so Ugandans, themselves, can push back on this and other repressive laws undermining core freedoms and civil rights there.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 26, 2014 A10

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