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Different but equal

Sign the petition against Uganda's proposed 'Kill the Gays' Bill and celebrate our differences, says Sarah Leeves

Mon, 26 Nov 2012 15:08:58 GMT | Updated 4 years today

When I was a child, I always thought the world was a magical place. I learnt in some countries there were people who lived in tribes and had fantastic dress codes and mystical medicines. I heard that in Australia you could dive into the sea and explore the beauty of coral reefs and come face to face with sharks. I saw that when the sun and the rain combined a rainbow would form and the colours would unite as one glorious banner. The world seemed a brilliant, most magical and positive place to be. Then I grew up.  

I always knew that the world was one place filled with billions of different people from hundreds of different countries with thousands of different opinions on millions of different subjects (you do the maths) and, as a kid, I appreciated the fact that our difference would ultimately unite us, or so I thought. There seems to be a trend throughout history to be intolerant of difference, no matter the context; someone's country of origin, their religion, the colour of their skin, their gender and their sexuality. The latter has certainly caused a stir in recent years, so much so that the Ugandan government have a special Christmas gift for their people; the proposed passing of their Anti-homosexuality Bill.

The bill is, well, less than an easy read; alleged gay and lesbian people can be imprisoned for life. Parents are expected to 'out' their children to the authorities, landlords can be sent to jail for housing 'suspected' homosexuals and even doctors, religious leaders and professionals can be punished or fear their reputation being ruined for working with groups that help LGBT people. Seems fair I guess, I mean if your private life is offending people you don't know, then you would obviously expect a lifetime spent in jail as a fair punishment, right?

Of course, Uganda is not the only country to have a less than friendly approach to gays. Nigeria has a similar bill that it is hoping to pass, however they too have recently dropped the death penalty clause. Although homosexuality is illegal in 37 African countries, let's not forget this is happening all over the world; Russia has banned gay pride marches for 100 years as well as introducing a rather draconian law to impose a fine of up to the equivalent of £1,000 for "public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors." Maybe if someone had given me a leaflet on being straight when I was young I would be in a 'conventional' marriage by now…?

In 1961, John Lennon asked us to "Imagine all the people living life in peace" and, sadly, this is something our world is still striving for. Love is an emotion that is unprejudiced; it's a raw and electric passion that all humans hold within themselves. Hate on the other hand is a feeling of intense dislike that comes from our own fear or something that we have inherited from the tainted views of others. Hate is infectious, like panic; it spreads like wildfire and destroys. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law" but when the law actively discriminates against certain peoples then hate manifests and becomes the norm; if the law says it's OK to do something then most people accept this.

As I write there are women and men around the world asking for our help. We don't know these people and we won't ever meet them, but we could change their lives. Across oceans and countries, thousands of miles between us and them, we are united by love and a want for freedom. An online signature is as much as we can do, but it could speak volumes.
I'm not the only one out there who would like to see intolerance eliminated. It won't happen today or tomorrow, it won't happen next year and probably not in my lifetime, but what we do now could, one day, change history. Like John Lennon, I may be a dreamer but I'm not the only one.

When I was a kid, I used to look at the stars and dream of the world outside my window. We all see the same stars and though we may not all be the same maybe, one day, we'll all be united in difference.

Sign the petition against the Ugandan bill here

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