‘Hypocracy’: Selective Attention to Human Rights




Unfortunately, in many parts of the world prejudice and hatred against homosexuals prevail as the status quo. Uganda recently passed a law criminalizing homosexuality in extremely harsh terms. President Obama condemned Uganda’s anti-gay law almost as vociferously as the law itself condemned homosexuality. He was not alone; countless Western leaders joined him in denouncing the law as a violation of human rights. Multiple European governments and the US have stated they may suspend military and economic assistance to the African nation.

Undoubtedly, the draconian  law, which imposes life in prison for any homosexual in Uganda, constitutes an egregious attack on civil liberties. However, the force behind so many westerners’ reactions belies a question: why did this violation of rights warrant such a reaction when many others do not? Further, why did Uganda, hardly alone in passing repressive anti-gay legislation, receive such a unique reaction?

The U.S. continues to maintain strong, healthy relationships with other nations that frequently abuse human rights. We sell weapons to Saudi Arabia, a nation that enforces many laws directly repressing women. America’s number one trade partner is China, whose track record on human rights is abysmal even in such basic areas as freedom of speech. The list goes on.


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Regarding other nations that have passed anti-gay legislation, a few major geopolitical players come to mind. In a surprise move, India’s Supreme Court recently upheld a law banning homosexuality. Russia certainly received plenty of criticism for its law that imprisons homosexuals, enacted in June of 2013, not long before the opening ceremony of the Sochi Olympics. Although all these countries received criticism from Westerners, indicating that homosexuality is indeed a touchstone issue, Uganda received much more flak. The US and Europe likely feel safer lambasting an African nation, heavily dependent on foreign aid, than major global powers like India and Russia.



It is unlikely that any aid will actually be cut in response to the anti-gay law, thankfully. The West depends on Ugandan forces for peacekeeping missions throughout the continent, and it does not want to lose out influence to China which has no such qualms about the anti-gay law. Apart from the flagrant hypocrisy of cutting aid on the basis of this law while continuing support to nations with much worse human rights records, a decrease in aid would hurt impoverished Ugandans, some of whom support the law and some of whom do not.

Why does homosexuality, of so many issues, get so much attention? Is homosexuality more important than state-sponsored terrorism? Unsafe working conditions? Human trafficking? Of course there is not a clear answer, but it is clear that the rights of the LGBT community enjoy a privileged status in the rhetorical concerns of Western nations’ leaders. Although it may only be rhetoric, such emphasis is important because it reflects the priorities of leaders. Perhaps focusing on gay rights is a politically popular strategy, but regardless, it begs the question: what makes one issue merit criticism while others generate only silence?


Colton Calandrella is a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be contacted at colton.calandrella@wustl.edu

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