‘Kill the gays’ bill gathers momentum
Human rights advocates are once more calling on the Ugandan Government not to pass legislation known as the ‘kill the gays’ bill. The legislation could be approved by Christmas.
Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda, but this new bill proposes the death sentence for anyone caught engaging in homosexual acts for a second time, as well as for gay sex where one partner is a minor or has HIV.
It would also criminalise the public promotion of homosexuality – including discussions by rights groups – with a sentence of up to seven years in prison for a person convicted.
The bill’s preamble states it will toughen laws "to protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda... against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sexual promiscuity”.
First introduced in 2009, it was initially shelved following international condemnation. US President Barack Obama described its contents as "odious".
But speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Rebecca Kadaga (pictured), claiming she is responding to public opinion, has promised the new laws as a “Christmas gift” to the country – the current session of parliament ends December 15.
Kadaga wrote to the parliamentary committee reviewing the bill: “I write to reiterate my earlier instruction to your committee to expeditiously handle the review of the report on the Bill. As you are aware, there is high demand by the population to address the escalating problem of promoting and recruiting minors into homosexuality.”
Ugandan President Museveni has backed away from the bill once before, bowing to international pressure.
Despite this, Britain’s ITV reporter on African affairs Rohit Kachroo says Uganda is a conservative country where influential people from the church and the state have combined to lead popular support.
“And in doing so, many have been able to re-shape the public debate into one about the right of post-colonial African nations to decide for themselves what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’,” Kachroo said.
Gay rights activists in Uganda, while opposing the bill, point out that it has helped their fight for equality by putting what used to be a taboo subject on the national agenda.