MSP James Dornan: We must pressure Uganda to drop its anti-gay law during the Commonwealth Games

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Writing for, Scottish National Party MSP James Dornan says the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow represents a key moment where Scotland can urge Uganda to repeal its anti-homosexuality law.

The summer is going to be an exciting time in Glasgow. The Commonwealth Games will bring a huge boost in visitors and with that a real buzz to our city. It will showcase Glasgow at its very best; when we are entertaining others. However we cannot ignore the fact that in some Commonwealth countries not everyone will be rushing to be part of the action – particularly some LGBT citizens.

The case of Uganda has had a particularly high profile recently, followings its President signing the Anti-Homosexuality Act into law just days ago. A law that can see gay people put in prison with a life sentence just for being gay. I was both outraged and saddened that a country as beautiful as Uganda, where I experienced some of the warmest and most hospitable people you could ever hope to come across, could enact a law that is so oppressive.

I am in the unique position of being one of the few Scottish politicians who have visited Uganda. When I was there I visited many communities and local schools, and was amazed by the determination of people to improve their lot. Their belief in education as being the route out of poverty was one side of Uganda that will always stay with me. When I was there I vowed to promote links between Scotland and Uganda back here at home and I have tried to do so.

However that does not mean turning a blind eye to things I consider to be wrong. After President Museveni signed this bill I wrote to the Ugandan High Commission asking to meet with her and her officials during her visit to the Glasgow Games. I also urged the Scottish Government to make clear to the UK Government – who has control over asylum policy – that Scotland will play its part in assisting those fleeing persecution as a result of this law. I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has done this.

I know some people believe that we should isolate the Ugandan Government during the Commonwealth Games, and not have representatives from the country on the guest list. Whilst I respect everyone is entitled to their opinion on how best to deal with this problem, I think it is important that we listen to those most affected by this legislation and that is the LGBT community in Uganda.

Countries change. Scotland has not always been the bastion of equality that it is today. In fact the major strides towards equality have really only come in the past 15 years or so. We have made remarkable progress – the latest being the equal marriage legislation – and our society is much better off as a result of it. Whilst we do have more work to do in changing attitudes, I want to share that story with the Ugandan High Commission when she is in Glasgow. I want to show her that all of us benefit when LGBT people are treated equally, and how society is the better for it. That is why I have asked her to meet with me and LGBT organisations when she attends the Games.

I will seek out and use every opportunity that I can during the Games to promote equality and human rights. I will challenge the ideas that are behind this law head on. The Games provide us with the perfect opportunity to tell Scotland’s story, and it is an opportunity that I am not going to miss out on.

James Dornan is the SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart.