Ugandan MP David Bahati’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill postponed indefinitely?

On 7 September 2011 Uganda’s Parliament Business Committee was scheduled to discuss inclusion of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the new legislative programme. It discussed topics to be brought before the Parliament in the next quarter but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 was not included.

According to Frank Mugisha, Executive Director at Sexual Minorities Uganda, who monitored the situation at Parliament, “information is that the bill cannot be debated in a 2nd reading. It has to be reintroduced and has to go through all the initial stages.”

Behind the Mask contacted sources in Uganda’s Parliament and believes that “debate on the anti-gay bill is postponed indefinitely.” According to sources in the House Business Committee, the Parliamentary body that was supposed to have met in Kampala on Wednesday, the meeting had to be put off because the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament, Ms Rebecca Kadaga was out of the country. She was in the US attending the on-going Uganda North American Convention in Denver, Colorado.

The Anti Homosexuality Bill and the HIV/Aids Control Bill 2010 are amongst the bills that expired in the course of the previous parliament which legislators now want to dispose off as a priority.

Last week far right religious groups renewed their campaign to reintroduce the bill in Parliament and were challenged by LGBTI activists in Uganda.

On 10 August, Freedom and Roam Uganda (FARUG) and The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law (CSCHRCL) launched the “HATE NO MORE CAMPAIGN” with a Press Conference at the Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala. The coalition of over 30 organisations called for an end to hate towards the LGBTI community.

Frank Mugisha and Joanitah Abang comment

Speaking against the homophobic lobby, the director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), Frank Mugisha said “They are full of lies, and their NGO’s are made of lies. When they mobilise, they spread lies about the LGBTI people, and this in turn fuels homophobia and because they are Christians they get a lot support. But very soon they will be seen as irrelevant because they use false information such as telling everyone that we are recruiting children into homosexuality. Eventually the truth will come out.”

Mugisha added “The discussions [in Parliament] can go on, but now this actually means that as the gay community we need to do more advocacy work and speak strongly against the Bill even though we are currently doing a lot at the moment. We need to intensify our efforts.”

“Things are not exactly normal, but it is not as bad as when the Bill was discussed in Parliament, because we have been able to do a lot of advocacy work and have not met any backlash like before, even after I appeared on national television.”

Joanitah Abang, Freedom Roam Uganda (FARUG) Programs Manager echoed Mugisha’s sentiments, adding, “I am thinking this will bring a lot of very negative impacts for the LGBTI community given the fact that the [homophobes] are still emphasizing recruitment. And with this I am anticipating increased violence against LGBTI persons because this clearly is spreading and preaching hate and lies about the community.”

Abang added, “This means a lot to the LGBTI community. It means we need to re-strategize, have collective thinking and continue with the advocacy and lobbying through both our local and international partners. We are not working underground, we are working under the same environment as before though with a lot of caution because you can never tell what can come up. The time is now. I am calling upon all our partners to join us in stopping this Bill and tell the truth that we don’t recruit and have no intentions whatsoever to recruit.”

Despite heightened levels of homophobia sparked by the draconian Bill, arbitrary arrests and even death, activists have vowed never to stop mobilising against the Bill.

Future of Bill unclear

What is unclear is whether the lobbying of the government and individual politicians, which is happening, both locally and internationally, is causing a delay in – or halting of – the Anti-Homosexuality Bill’s reintroduction.

Some have interpreted the new, loud campaign by Pastor Steven Langa for the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which includes political threats against any MPs who might oppose it, as a sign that its proponents are losing. Langa was the organiser of the infamous March 2009 conference in Kampala which featured American anti-gay religious extremists which some cite as the real origins of the Bill.

Another sign could be the ability of Ugandan LGBT and allies three month anti-hate campaign to get a hearing in Uganda. Organisers are reporting no issue with media coverage and supporters coming forward.

US government to campaign “forcefully” against gay hate bill

The American government once again said it was apprehensive about anti-homosexual laws in Africa and promised to campaign forcefully against them.

The US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson spoke of his concern about the passage of laws in Uganda and Sub Saharan Africa seeking to criminalise consensual adult gay relationships.

Carson was speaking in response to demands by US and Ugandan activists for more State Department condemnation of the threatened reintroduction of the Anti Homosexuality Bill in Ugandan Parliament. Carson said that the US Embassy in Kampala would continue to speak out “forcefully” against the passage of the bill.

The New Civil Rights Movement’s official website reports that the activists including Ugandan Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, his wife Mary and Rev Canon Albert Ogle, President of St Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation and Mr Clinton Fein, an activist among others wrote to Carson to prevail on the Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni and to “to strongly encourage him to permanently shelve the Anti-homosexuality legislation.”

In his reply to the activists, Carson wrote, “We believe that gay and lesbian citizens should enjoy the same rights and individual freedoms as other citizens. The Department of State has spoken out clearly and repeatedly against this type of discriminatory legislation in Uganda, and we will continue to do so.”

He added, “In this regard, I have spoken to the most senior officials in the Ugandan government about this issue, and stand ready to add my voice as required in the future. Our ambassador and embassy in Kampala will continue to monitor any anti-gay and lesbian legislation and we will speak out forcefully to prevent its passage.”

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