Uganda's anti-gay legislation needs to be understood in the context of American Religious Right activism in Africa. The New York Times reports that in 2009, Scott Lively, Caleb Lee Brundidge, and Don Schmierer of "ex-gay" group Exodus International participated in a conference on the "gay agenda" in Kampala, Uganda. The article reports that the three men presented talks on the alleged evils of the gay movement, the alleged sexual predations of gay men, and how to supposedly make homosexuals straight. (Lively posted a short report about the seminar at www[dot]defendthefamily[dot]com/pfrc/archives.php?id=2345952) A month after the Kampala conference, Ugandan MP David Bahati introduced a draconian anti-gay bill in Uganda parliament, which drew fierce global criticism. According to Alan Colmes, Lively called Bahati's legislation "a step in the right direction". He also admitted that he helped start Uganda's so-called "pro-family" movement in an interview with Vanguard correspondent Mariana von Zeller. Sadly, Lively is but one of several U.S. Christian figures (i.e., Lou Engle) who have promoted anti-gay sentiments in Uganda, a situation discussed in a 2010 report by the Advocate.
The legislation controversy takes place amidst a climate of homophobia in Uganda, where the LGBTQ community has endured persecution from political leaders and law enforcement. Below is a sample of homophobic rhetoric and official actions that have made headlines.
- Several weeks ago, the Daily Monitor reported that Ugandan parliament passed a resolution recognizing Kadaga stance on homosexuality, after she chided Canada's foreign minister for allegedly "attacking Uganda and promoting homosexuality."
- Earlier this month, Kampala police closed a theater production of "Lighting the Shadows" for allegedly promoting homosexuality.
- MP David Bahati, who first introduced the anti-homosexuality bill, warned attendees at a Kampala Kindergarten Association concert that 40 companies were allegedly recruiting children into gay business, according to the Daily Monitor.
- In May, Ugandan MP Cecilia Atim Ogawl, the head of Uganda's delegation to the Pan African Parliament, discouraged African legislators from classifying homosexuality as a human right. According to the Observer, Ogawl demonized homosexuality as "witchcraft", a western import, and an element alien to African culture.
- In February, Ugandan Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo, accompanied by police, disrupted an LGBTQ rights workshop in Entebbe, according to Amnesty International.
- In 2011, Ugandan LGBTQ rights activist David Kato was beaten to death several months after an Ugandan tabloid listed him among "Uganda's Top Homos", according to the New York Times.
Uganda's anti-gay legislation has been reintroduced and tabled since its creation, but that does not mean that we should disregard Kadaga's words now. If the proposed anti-gay bill is signed into law, it would mean increased persecution of LGBTQ persons and their allies in Uganda in a cultural climate in which they already face homophobia. LGBTQ rights supporters must continue to condemn this legislation and remind the Ugandan parliament (and Religious Right) that LGBTQ human rights deserve protection.
For an exhaustive overview of Uganda's anti-gay bill, see Box Turtle Bulletin's Slouching Toward Kampala page. For additional commentary, visit the following links.
Box Turtle Bulletin: Major Uganda Broadcaster Turns Cheerleader for Anti-Homosexuality Bill
Warren Throckmorton: Uganda’s Parliament May Pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill Soon
International Business Times: Uganda Uses Anti-Gay Bill to 'Blackmail the West', Leading Activist Tells IBTimes