Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, chairman of
the Senate Finance Committee's subcommittee on International Trade,
has threatened to reverse Uganda's advantageous trade status if it
approves a proposed bill that would strengthen the criminal penalties
for having gay sex in the African country.
Wyden has advised Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to communicate
to the Ugandan government that a preferred trade status would be
“revoked should the proposed legislation be enacted” in a letter
Wyden, a Democrat, said the country
would be in violation of the African Growth and Opportunity Act
(AGOA), which requires that beneficiaries not engage in “gross
violations of internationally recognized human rights.” Ugandan
imports to the United States enjoy a duty-free status under the law.
The move is widely believed to be the
first proposed U.S. sanction against MP David Bahati's bill that
would outlaw gay sex and which includes a death penalty provision for
repeat offenders and people who are HIV-positive, increasing the
penalties for having gay sex in a country where it's already a crime.
The bill also makes the “promotion of homosexuality” illegal,
which would effectively ban political organizations, broadcasters and
publishers that advocate on behalf of gay rights, and turn friends
and family members of gay men and lesbians into criminals if they
fail to report a violation.
Obama officials have rejected calls to
use PEPFAR funding as leverage to discourage the bill's passage.
Uganda is among the program's 15 focus countries that share billions
of dollars for AIDS education. Congress has allocated roughly $48
billion to fund the program from 2008 to 2013.
Wyden also announced he would sponsor
legislation that would add LGBT protections to trade agreements.
“I intend to sponsor legislation to
amend U.S. trade preference programs, including AGOA, to make clear
that failure to appropriately respect sexual orientation and gender
identity as human rights shall preclude a country from benefiting
from any U.S. trade preference scheme,” Wyden said in his letter.
“Before us is a concrete opportunity
to demonstrate our commitment to ending violence and discrimination
against LGBT persons worldwide,” he added.