Developing a Decolonised Approach to Combating Anti-LGBT+ Legislation Statement of aims The

Developing a Decolonised Approach to Combating Anti-LGBT+ Legislation
Statement of aims
The purpose of this essay is to contribute novel hypotheses within neo-colonial theory regarding how donor countries can combat anti-LGBT+ legislature in recipient countries without using neo-colonial practices. The case study of Uganda will be used to identify and challenge the use of conditional aid as a problematic neo-colonial approach to protecting LGBT+ people. Through the re-interpretation of secondary data from a neo-colonial perspective, it will establish that withholding aid in an attempt to challenge anti-LGBT+ legislature resulted in greater harm to LGBT+ people in Uganda. It will then analyse and evaluate decolonised approaches to engaging with anti-LGBT+ legislation to establish a more effective way to protect LGBT+ people in Uganda. Ultimately, it seeks to support a shift towards a human rights narrative free of neo-colonial attitudes.
Research Questions
Why is conditional aid a neo-colonial practice?
How does conditional aid negatively impact LGBT+ people in recipient countries with anti-LGBT+ legislation?
How do we decolonise human rights to provide alternatives to conditional aid?
Why will decolonised approaches to anti-LGBT+ legislation succeed where conditional aid has failed?
Research Context
Colonial-era law is still present in the modern-day constitutions of many liberated countries. In many cases, there is often little to no challenge of these laws despite their foreign origin. These laws have been maintained and assimilated by independent governments and have played a role in shaping the culture of the liberated national identity. In 2008, a 150-year-old law punishing ‘carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal’ was red down before India’s High Court (Human Rights Watch, 2013: 83). This challenge was unsuccessful, with the India’s Ministry of Home Affairs stating that in Indian society, there was no tolerance of homosexuality. The Human Rights Watch claims this was a case of “sheer amnesia” (2013: 84). Before British colonialism arrived, homosexual practices were not criminalised within Indian society (Boyce, 2006: 89). As protesters put it, “[Although] India had got its independence from the British… in 1947, queer Indians were still bound by a British Raj law” (Diwan, 2021: 12). This outcome reveals how societal values regarding homosexuality are still being impacted by colonial legacy present in the constitutions of liberated countries.
British colonialism also has roots in homophobic legislature across many countries in the African continent, where in some cases, homosexuality is still punishable by death. In 2020, Botswana overturned these colonial-era laws, with judge Leburu stating that “the-anti sodomy laws are a British import” (Buckle, 2020). Yet, from an alternative perspective, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni claims homosexuality, rather than homophobia, is the “western import”, and former Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe went as far as to call it a “white disease” (Buckle, 2020). Despite success in some countries in repealing colonial-era homophobic laws (Since 2008, India has repealed these laws), there are some such as Uganda and Zimbabwe that have not.
Contemporary UK foreign policy now works to promote LGBT+ rights in countries where homosexuality is criminalised, including countries where British colonial-era policies serve as the basis for these laws. However, is this itself an act of neo-colonialism, or an effort to right the wrongs of British imperialism? In an effort to encourage countries to decriminalise LGBT+ acts, the UK and US government are now using conditional aid as a tool to encourage a change in legislature in countries like Uganda.
Attaching conditions to foreign aid is a neo-colonial practice criticised for exploiting the recipient’s dependency on the donor country to erode their legislative sovereignty. A practice by which the human rights narrative is used to further entrench the power of donor countries. As well as furthering neo-colonial practices within human rights language, conditional aid is an ineffective solution to challenging anti-LGBT+ legislature. This is evident in the case of Uganda.
This essay will evaluate the effectiveness of conditional aid by identifying the diplomatic and legislative reactions of the Ugandan government when presented with the threat of aid withdrawal by donors. It will argue that the reactions of the Ugandan government resulted in the exacerbation of risk to LGBT+ people, and therefore placing conditions on aid in order to challenge anti-LGBT+ law in Uganda is an ineffective solution. Alternative decolonised methods to combating state led attacks on LGBT+ people must be identified and adopted by donor countries.
In 2011 Prime Minister David Cameron made the decision to withhold aid to countries with anti-LGBT+ laws in a bid to improve LGBT+ rights worldwide (Rogers, 2014). His decision was met with backlash from recipient countries such as Uganda who claimed that conditionalising aid in such a way was simply an extension of British neo-colonialism (BBC, 2011). When faced with the public denouncement of British aid withdrawal, the retaliation from the Ugandan government was to maintain determined in passing its anti-LGBT+ legislature in what seemed a clear indication that Uganda was not going to be forced into sacrificing their sovereignty for the aid the UK were willing to give in return for legislative changes. Despite reigniting neo-colonial arguments concerning the problematic use of conditional aid (Moore, 2015), in 2014 The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and the World Bank all followed suit and withheld funds from Uganda following the introduction of further anti-LGBT+ measures (Aljazeera, 2014). This led to further criticism of the use of conditional aid from a neocolonial perspective (Itimi, 2018).
Despite this approach failing to make an impact in the protection of LGBT+ people, in 2019 Joe Biden claimed that if elected as the next US President, he would withhold foreign aid to countries that discriminated against LGBT+ people (Ax, 2019), continuing the policy of donor countries using conditional aid as a weapon against anti-LGBT+ legislature in recipient countries. Although conditional aid is becoming an increasingly well-established tactic of donor countries, neocolonial arguments are constantly challenging their use (Harvey, 2003; Hayter, 1971; ODI, 2014). Uganda is embracing these neocolonial arguments to protect anti-LGBT+ legislature and dismiss conditional aid as a threat to their sovereignty. Therefore, the use of conditional aid as a method for challenging anti-LGBT+ legislation needs to be understood by donor countries within the context of neocolonialism. This will facilitate a better understanding of how LGBT+ people can be protected alongside the sovereignty of recipient countries.
According to international law there is a responsibility to protect LGBT+ people from crimes against humanity (Olofson, 2020). In order to do this peacefully and without prolonging the colonial hangover, decolonising approaches to human rights abuses must be considered in order to create a human rights framework that is not grounded in neo-colonial power relations. This ideally includes analysis of the right to protect principles themselves, but this is not within the scope of this essay.
Developing upon key themes within the existing literature
Existing research identifies the disadvantages of using conditional aid (ODI, 2014; Svensson, 2003), both within the context of LGBT+ rights (Demone, 2016; Kretz, 2013; Shumba, 2017; Warwick, 2013) and neo-colonial perspectives (Ahmed, 2017; Durokifa & Ijeoma, 2018; Samson, 2020). My essay seeks to draw links between these existing studies and apply them to the case study of Uganda to understand how they interact within a specific context.
Similar studies have provided a US centric point of view of the relationship between LGBT+ rights and foreign aid (Comstock, 2016), which provides a useful starting point. I aim to develop these ideas from the broader perspective of donor countries in general, also taking into account neo-colonial perspectives that facilitate more in-depth understanding of how donor country foreign aid policy is interpreted by recipient countries.
Decolonising the human rights narrative is an idea at the forefront of neo-colonial studies. It is an ongoing and evolving process which has just started to appear in more mainstream academic literature as part of a wider movement to decolonise the field of International Relations (Lee, 2020). The nexus between human rights and sovereignty is often underestimated by scholars, and newly emerging approaches to human rights have largely been overlooked altogether (Ahmed, 2017). The presence of neo-colonialism within existing human rights paradigms is still an emerging literature. However, ideas of alternative state development cooperation (Kämpf, 2015; Fraser, 2011; Bromley, 2007; Cheney, 2012) have developed out of the critique of conditional aid and developing this within a neo-colonial perspective will be essential in creating a human rights narrative that doesn’t rely on power and dependency to prevail.
By understanding why using conditional aid to combat anti-LGBT+ legislation in Uganda failed, this essay aims to present an argument for adopting foreign aid policies that take into consideration the consequences of using existing neo-colonial practices towards combating human rights abuses. Understanding the neo-colonial causes of these failures help to inform new decolonised approaches which can be adopted by donor countries and international institutions to make progression in LGBT+ rights globally without contributing towards entrenched power dynamics between donor and recipient countries. These practices can then be adapted to tackle a range of different human rights abuses, contributing to a fully decolonised global human rights narrative.
My objective is to contribute towards neo-colonial theory regarding how donor countries can combat anti-LGBT+ legislature in recipient countries without using neo-colonial practices. By using the case study method, I aim to make theoretical contributions that can be generalised to other situations where there is a similar relationship between donor and recipient countries. This method will facilitate novel hypotheses to be drawn for further testing when the topic is researched and applied in different contexts.
I am using inductive secondary analysis to re-analyse and interpret existing external qualitative data from a neo-colonial perspective. Existing professionally collected data will allow me to build a comprehensive retrospective longitudinal understanding of the case study in a short amount of time. Through my initial research, the accessibility and availability of sources online and through the University of Bristol Library suggest that comprehensive research on this topic can realistically and feasibly be carried out within the target timeframe.
As no primary data is going to be collected, there are a few ethical issues to be considered for this study. The accuracy of secondary sources will be evaluated before use to prevent misleading conclusions being drawn, and reputable academic work will be used where possible to support journalistic sources such as the BBC or Aljazeera. Misrepresentation of existing data will be negated by ensuring that all sources are fully and accurately referenced.
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