It’s truly shocking to me that while gay marriage is being legalized in countries like the US and France, Uganda is choosing to move in the other direction. You may have already heard about the bill being debated in Uganda. The media calls it the “Kill the Gays bill” and officially it’s called the “anti-homosexuality bill”, but whatever it’s called it is appalling and the thought that it may get passed is frightening.
With estimates that there are at least 500,000 gay people living in Uganda, activists there are said to be preparing in case they need to start evacuating suddenly. Only 4 months ago they were celebrating the success of Uganda’s first-ever pride parade, with almost 100 people in attendance.
There are a lot of factors involved in this story, including a history of European colonization and evangelism that is directly linked to Ugandan views on homosexuality. But to pass a bill that encourages violence against a group of people is inexcusable. All governments should have to protect their citizens and this bill does the opposite.
The purpose of the bill is to “prohibit and penalize homosexual behaviour”; homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda with current penalties that go up to 14 years in prison. The anti-homosexuality bill originally included death penalties for certain “offences”. It was first introduced 3 years ago and after international pressure from governments, NGOs, LGBT and human rights activists some revisions have been made, and now it is up for debate again. The revised bill has not been released so there is still a lot of speculation about whether or not the death penalty is still included.
The anti-homosexuality bill proposes the same punishment for sexually assaulting a minor as it does for parents or people in positions of authority who engage in same-sex relationships (in the original the punishment for either of these was death). There is also a lot of language about protecting children and youth from predators. By throwing pedophiles in with gays, they stigmatize homosexuality and it helps get the bill passed faster. Well, if you’ve been following Canadian politics this strategy should be familiar; it’s the same argument that REAL Women of Canada presented this week at hearings about a bill in Canada that would protect trans human rights.
I’ll be watching closely to see whether or not the international community will be able to prevent this bill from being passed. You can help by signing this online petition and, if you’re in New York there will be a peaceful protest at noon TODAY (Friday, November 30th) Uganda Mission at 336 East 45th Street.
Guest post by Eden Hagos