By Paul Ndiho, Washington D.C.

AUGUST 26, 2010

Earlier this year an anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda’s parliament received strong reactions and media attention on both sides of the debate. The bill criminalizes anyone who promotes or engages in homosexuality and issues the death penalty to serial offenders. Now African Bishops are weighing in.
African bishops meeting in Entebbe, Uganda this week condemned homosexuality, saying it is against the “word of God.” The Anglican Church has been torn for years by disputes about authority over Church teaching, especially on gay rights. The second All African Bishops’ conference brings together more than 400 African bishops to discuss issues on the continent. Luke Orombi, Archbishop of Uganda, says African churches are not going to compromise their stand against homosexuality.
“The orthodox believers like we in Africa, the majority of us have stood clearly to say what my brother Bernard has said. Homosexuality is incompatible with the word of God. In this country we cherish the word of God and if you are proclaiming that word of God, you want to stick to it faithfully.”
Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill was introduced by parliament member David Bahati in October 2009. The bill seeks to eradicate homosexuality from Uganda. David Bahati 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. Ugandans demonstrated in Kampala recently in support of the bill.
There is already a law on the books in Uganda that criminalizes homosexuality. Pepe Julia Onziema is a gay rights activist in Kampala who asked that her identity be hidden. She and her partner spend most of their time together indoors, and she says the law is archaic.
” I am at risk I can’t move on the streets as I used to, I can’t go to a shop. The normal or the relaxed kind of life has gone. You know. I can’t just go across and buy myself food; I have to go to particular places where I know that I will be safe.
The reason why I move like this is, I have been picked off the streets, detained for some time, ridiculed, intimidated , some money taken away from my wallet and then I am.., you know, they release me, they tell me ‘go’.”
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has come under pressure from donor countries, including the United States, to drop the proposed law. The spiritual head of the world’s 80 million Anglicans, Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams spoke at the conference but did not mention the gay rights. But he prayed for clergy working in areas where it is difficult to speak against injustices.
“In our own times, there have been many who have courageously continued in this tradition and here we may think specially today with celebration of thanksgiving, of our brothers in Sudan, in DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) in Zimbabwe, whose authorities as pastors in the Church of God, rests so deeply on their willingness to take risks alongside their flock, and for them,”.
Gay rights in Africa came to the fore this year with the arrest and conviction of a gay couple in Malawi, who married in a traditional ceremony.

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