When you live in a country where human rights and the equality of every man and woman is revered, it is difficult to comprehend a society where Parliamentarians debated and considered imposing the death penalty for people who are gay, lesbian or transgendered.
Uganda’s gay agenda, introduced in 2009, made international headlines in 2011 with the murder of Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death in his home in Kampala.
Mr. Kato was one of a large group of gays and lesbians “outed” by the Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone (no relation to the American publication) in October 2010. The headline read: “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Homos Leak”. The article contained Mr. Kato’s name and home address. It also identified venues frequented by gays and lesbians. Its subheading read “Hang them”.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda and imprisonment of up to 14 years may be imposed. However, it was a bill introduced by politician David Bahati in 2009, and recently resurrected, that has upped the ante for Uganda’s gay population.
The original Anti-Homosexuality Bill imposed the death penalty for serial homosexual offences; for sexual activity with persons under the age of 18 or the disabled; and for sexual activity where HIV is passed to another.
It has now been reported that after world-wide criticism, including from Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the death penalty provisions have been abandoned in favour of life in prison.
However, government fervor behind the bill has not faded. In November 2012 the Speaker for the Ugandan Parliament announced that the amended bill would be passed before the end of 2012 as a “Christmas gift” for Ugandans, which has support from 96% of the electorate. Fortunately, this deadline passed with no new law, but law makers are expected to vote on the legislation this month.
Some media outlets report that Bahati’s bill came to fruition after he spent time with certain evangelical christians who came to Uganda in 2009, espousing family values and denouncing homosexuality as a sin. Barack Obama’s inauguration “Pastor”, Rick Warren from Saddleback, California, has been named as a Christian leader who influenced Mr. Bahati and other high-placed politicians.
Warren’s mega-church has focused considerable charitable efforts in Africa, including Uganda, however, Mr. Warren has forcefully denounced the death penalty bill, while adhering to biblical standards concerning sex outside of marriage and the sanctity of marriage, between one man and one woman.
A leading evangelical group in Canada, Crossroads Christian Communications, has also come under fire in recent days. Crossroads receives over $500,000 in funding from the Canadian government to bring aid to Uganda by building wells, latrines and promoting good hygiene.
Critics, however, decrie the organization’s public stance against homosexuality and it is reported that Crossroads funding will be reviewed in light of this position.
What cannot be overlooked, however, is that while many world religions consider homosexuality a sin, discrimination against gays, lesbians and the transgendered is a human rights issue and unlike the hateful Westborough Baptist Church in Kansas, there is no evidence to suggest that Rick Warren or Crossroads support human rights abuses. To the contrary, these organizations are bringing hope and change to Uganda.
Lawdiva aka Georgialee Lang