Uganda’s Anti-Gay Bill Shelved
May 1, 2011
The Ugandan Parliament closed out their current session today without debating or adopting pernicious anti-homosexual legislation that has threatened to become part of the legislative agenda for months. Parliament initially pushed back the debate and adoption of the bill after outcry from rights groups, the internet and U.S. leaders. Human rights organizations Avaaz and Allout gathered more than 1.4 million signatures via online petitions and had the internet buzzing with discussion of the bill. The bill could still be considered at the next session when the Ugandan Parliament reconvenes on May 18.
The bill was first proposed in 2009 and would criminalize homosexuality, and could include the death penalty. Anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality” would face seven years in prison. The bill was influenced in part by a group of US Evangelicals with close ties to Uganda, and supported publicly by Ugandan pastors. President Yoweri Museveni supported the bill when proposed in 2009, and in February was re-elected president. While bill author David Bahati said a new version of the bill doesn’t contain the death penalty, there has been no release of the amended version.
Uganda has taken an aggressive stance against homosexuality. The plight of gays and lesbians in Uganda has been the subject of scrutiny after parliament introduced the bill in 2009. Since the introduction of the bill, the harassment of gays has increased according to gay rights groups. In 2010, a tabloid newspaper published the names and photos of those they alleged were gay with the words “hang them.” In 2010, Gay rights activist David Kato was beaten to death after his picture was published in a Ugandan newspaper with the same slogan. Many of those whose names were published have been either attacked, arrested or are in hiding.