KILL THE GAYS BILL- THE UGANDA STORY

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Anti Gay Bill Of UgandaUganda, an African country, is these days preoccupied not with fighting HIV/AIDS or poverty or other social and economic vices that mar the country. It has a far more pressing issue at hand- saving the country and possibly Africa from the curse of homosexuality. Yes! You read it right. If you keep yourself updated with the gay things happening around the world, you might already be aware of it. For those of you still in the dark, Gaylaxy documents the developments from the battle field that this African country has become for American Evangelicals and human right activists.

Though the whole of Africa is very hostile to homosexuals, the current movement in Uganda gained pace after the Anti- Gay Conference held in the capital city of Kampala from 5th– 8th March, 2009. The theme of the conference was: Exposing the truth about homosexuality and the homosexual agenda. The conference was attended by American evangelical Christians: Scott Lively, an author who has written several books opposing homosexuality; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-professed former gay man who conducts sessions to heal homosexuality; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, an organization devoted to promoting “freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ.” The talks they delivered in the conference centered on the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family.

Soon after in April, Ugandan parliament passed a resolution allowing MP David Bahati to submit a “private member’s” bill before Parliament to “strengthen” Uganda’s laws against homosexuality. On October 15, the Anti- Homosexuality Bill was tabled in Uganda’s Parliament by David Bahati. The bill was soon labeled as “Kill the Gays” Bill due to the draconian provisions it had.

The bill classified the simple act of touching too as a homosexual offence, and homosexuals could face imprisonment for seven years. It defined a new crime of “aggravated homosexuality” for those who engage in sex with someone under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender”, or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not); and proposed death penalty for such aggravated homosexuality. Aiding and abetting homosexuality would lead to a seven years imprisonment under this bill, while a person who fails to report a homosexual to police within 24 hours of knowing about the person’s sexual status risked a jail term of seven years. The provisions of the bill extended its ambit to extradite and prosecute a person committing such an offence outside the country.

The bill was criticised by all Western countries, who threatened to cut down the aid that Uganda currently received from them. All major world leaders from UK’s PM Gordon Brown, US President Barack Obama to Canadian PM Stephen Harper denounced this barbaric bill. However, Ugandan leaders remained unfazed with the criticism, with the country’s ethics and integrity minister James Nsaba Buturo proudly claimimg: “It is with joy we see that everyone is interested in what Uganda is doing, and it is an opportunity for Uganda to provide leadership where it matters most. So we are here to see a piece of legislation that will not only define what the country stands for, but actually provide leadership around the world.” The same minister later told journalists in a press conference that Uganda won’t bow down to the world demands. “If one chooses to withdraw their aid, they are free… we do not care,” he said.

An anonymous blogger GayUganda voices the concern of gays in Uganda. “This bill means the difference between life and death for me,” he writes. The atmosphere in Uganda is extremely homophobic, with even newspapers running stories of how the homosexual movement in Uganda is being funded by “outsiders”. In one such report published in December, Ugandan tabloid Red Pepper allegedly revealed how wealthy city tycoons bankroll Ugandan homos. “Promoters of gay activities do this by recruiting new members… who pocket a staggering SH$ 1.5m as a monthly net salary,” it wrote.

However, under constant world pressure and fear of losing millions in aid, Ugandan leadership soon started giving confusing signals and dropped hints that the “death penalty” might be scrapped. Many initial supporters too started expressing concern, with even the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Uganda opposing it mainly because of the death penalty clause, though retaining the view that homosexuality is immoral and violates God’s will. Finally, the cabinet agreed to drop the death penalty and instead change it to imprisonment for life, while retaining all other clauses. Even without the death penalty clause, the bill remains a barbaric and most inhuman one, criminalizing a person on the basis of his sexual orientation, and even sentencing those who express their support or have knowledge about any such person. It is also severely going to restrict the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country.

The general argument is that homosexuality has been imported from west and is un-African. However, ironically, the laws already existing in Africa against homosexuality were enacted by Europeans in the colonial era and Christianity, which remains the main religion of the country, never originated in Africa. As one European man puts it in a New York Times article: “It’s not homosexuality that it is imported… It’s homophobia.”

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