Uganda anti-gay legislation

Posted by Sappho on December 16th, 2009 filed in Africa news and blogwatch

New anti-gay legislation is pending in Uganda and also in Rwanda. Global Voices has an update today on the legislation:

The impending anti- gay bill 2009 in Uganda that plans on criminalizing homosexuality and locking gays in prison or killing them has raised concerns all over the world. Chances that the bill will pass are very high.

A few amendments on the bill by the legislators and supporters of the bill like dropping the death penalty and life imprisonment and by February 2010 the bill will be passed (see below) and be part of the law. The bill that has terms like “aggravated homosexuality” and “promotion of homosexuality” and provisions on attempt to commit, aiding and abetting, conspiracy to commit, using threats, detention with intent to commit are on the penal code….

The bill has drawn widespread criticism abroad. There is now a Facebook group opposing the bill, the White House has issued a statement condemning the bill, and Rick Warren condemned the bill (after some pressure over his initial silence). Last week, on Human Rights Day, Uganda civil society groups called for withdrawal of the bill. But it is still considered likely to pass.

@kenyapundit passes on the story of a young Ugandan gay couple.

A teenage girl, a relative of Ms Kalende, was doing the dishes as some children lazed around the house. Then Ms Kalende headed for the door, leading the way to her veranda, away from the children she considered too young to know she was gay, for the sake of children she wanted to protect.

In a narration of the kinds of people she was not too comfortable around, Ms Kalende’s account would include inquisitive children, illiterate motorcyclists, gossipy parishioners, bigoted employers and, most recently, a lawmaker named David Bahati. “My first reaction was, ‘Who is Bahati?’ He is the last person I knew,” Ms Kalende said, launching into a decidedly personal explanation for why, “for the first time, I am very scared”.

In October, Ndorwa West MP Bahati brought an anti-gay law to the House, proposing in his document a new felony called “aggravated homosexuality” …

Homosexuality has been a crime in Uganda for over a hundred years, but the new proposed legislation would drastically increase penalties, as well as making people guilty of a crime for various actions condoning other people’s homosexuality.

I am not sure why the sudden push against homosexuality now in particular. Time magazine had an article last week on Uganda’s anti-gay movement. Some, such as Box Turtle Bulletin blog, have suggested that certain US evangelicals have been stirring the pot. Back in March (months before the legislation was introduced), Box Turtle Bulletin was reporting that a US Holocaust revisionist had spoken at an anti-gay conference in Kampala, blaming gay people for the Rwandan genocide. The people pushing the legislation within Uganda, naturally, are reported to describe their effort as homegrown.

I know that Ugandan initiatives related to AIDS have been part of US culture wars in the past. Years ago, Uganda dramatically turned around a very high HIV infection rate with its ABC (Abstain, Be faithful, use Condoms) program; controversy naturally followed in the US, among people citing the program’s success, as to whether the success was more due to the “Abstain” part of the program or the “use Condoms” part. In turn, US funding policies have affected Ugandan AIDS policies.

Meanwhile, in Rwanda, the parliament is set to vote on draft legislation that would, for the first time, make homosexuality a crime. The Guardian reports that, though Uganda’s anti-gay legislation is extreme, it is part of a larger trend.

There is wide support for Bahati’s law which, while being an extreme piece of anti-gay legislation, is not unique. As far as gay rights are concerned, it would appear that much of Africa is going backwards. Nigeria has a similar bill waiting to reach its statute books and already allows the death penalty for homosexuality in northern states, as does Sudan. Burundi criminalised homosexuality in April this year, joining 37 other African nations where gay sex is already illegal. Egypt and Mali are creeping towards criminalisation, using morality laws against same-sex couples.

The Ugandan bill extends existing laws to make it illegal to promote homosexuality by talking or writing about it, and forcing people to tell the authorities about anyone they know who is gay….

Human Rights Watch has a ten page report on the bill titled Comments to Uganda’s Parliamentary Committee on HIV/AIDS and Related Matters about the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Bill.

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