UGANDA’S ANTI- GAY BILL SPARKS DEBATE ACROSS THE WORLD
By Paul Ndiho
January 12, 2010
A anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda’s parliament is receiving strong reactions on both sides of the debate. The bill criminalizes anyone who promotes homosexuality, is accomplice to, or procures another to engage in homosexuality. It also issues the death penalty to serial offenders.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 would sentence HIV-positive homosexuals to death for having sex, and severely punish any homosexual with up to life imprisonment. David Bahati introduced the bill to parliament, and says the legislation promotes strong family values.
“The constitution of Uganda outlaws same-sex marriage. The penal code of this country talks about unnatural behavior and there are gaps. It falls short of explaining what homosexuality is and what penalty there should be. So, on that case of the legal angle, there is a need to bridge the gaps within our legal frame works to make it very clear.”
Uganda’s gay community says this legislation will only formalize the persecution of gay and lesbian community. Some Ugandans demonstrated in Kampala recently in support of the bill.
There is already a law on the books in Uganda that criminalizes homosexuality. It refers to crimes committed against the order of nature. But Rick Rosendall, with the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C., says the law is archaic.
“That’s right out of the old British penal code, which is no longer the case in Britain. It’s no longer part of the law in Britain. But it remains the law in many former colonies including Nigeria and Uganda. And as a result there is victimization of Africans ongoing because of the legacy of colonialism.”
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has come under pressure from donor countries, including the United States, to drop the proposed law, saying it violates human rights. Museveni says he opposes the death penalty provision in the proposed legislation. Rosendall says he stands with the gay people in Africa, and that they face far greater risks and threats every day.
“My own partner is an African whose parents are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and he and other African gay activists that I have seen and gotten to know are among the most courageous people I have ever known.” Rick said.
In a related development, a Malawian judge rejected a bail application by two gay men charged with public indecency after getting engaged to be married. They are believed to be the first gay couple in Malawi to start the marriage process, and pleaded not guilty to the charges last week. Homosexual acts carry a maximum prison sentence of 14 years in Malawi.
Several African countries have a law that makes homosexuality a crime. South Africa is the only African country that has legalized same-sex marriage. Again Rick Rosendall, Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance of Washington, D.C.
“Now there are a lot of people in Africa, including rulers of various countries that say that homosexuality is not indigenous to Africa, that it was imported by colonists from Europe and elsewhere and that it is un-African. Mr. Mugabe, for example, has said that many times. But in fact studies, ethnographic studies, throughout the continent of Africa have shown, have found indigenous forms of homosexuality everywhere on the continent.”
The issue has spilled over to the church. African archbishops, especially Nigeria’s Peter Akinola, led a schism in the Anglican Communion following the election of Gene Robinson, a gay bishop in New Hampshire. Churches in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda followed suit, principally by refusing grants from the American Episcopal Church.
Here in the U.S., many states have outlawed gay marriage, but others allow it. Around the world, there are many places where gays and lesbians can obtain civil unions, but only seven countries allow gay marriage.