Draconian anti-gay law could soon be enacted in Uganda

Posted Oct 29, 2010 by Andrew John
The controversial Ugandan anti-gay bill that threatens even the death penalty for homosexuality in some circumstances could become law soon, media reports claim.
Peter Tatchell (right) pictured on a demonstration against homophobia in Uganda
Peter Tatchell (right) pictured on a demonstration against homophobia in Uganda
Picture: Brett Lock
The member of parliament behind the move, David Bahati, told CNN: “We are very confident, because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children.”
Human-rights groups and governments that have given aid to Uganda have protested against the Bill, and it was thought it had been shelved, says the South African gay news outlet Behind the Mask.
But this is not so. The outlet quotes Bahati as saying: “Every single day of my life now I am still pushing that it passes.”
The bill also recently brought howls of protest from the top scouting chief in Britain, Derek Twine, who said the proposed legislation was “discriminatory” and “incompatible” with scouting values.
Twine’s comments – relating to the fact that Bahati is also chairman of the Scout Association of Uganda – followed representations to the UK and international scout movement by the London-based gay human-rights organization, OutRage!. Twine said in a letter to Peter Tatchell of OutRage!: “We find the Bill not only discriminatory and contrary to the sanctity of life, but also completely incompatible with our interpretation of the values of our worldwide Scouting Movement.”
In his letter, Twine – chief executive of the Scout Association UK – continued: “We have already drawn our grave concerns on this to the attention of the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement (WOSM), and we are subsequently aware that the issues are now subject both to WOSM’s direct engagement with the Chief Scout of Uganda (Mrs Maggie Kigozi) and to ongoing global consideration by members of the World Scout Committee.”
Swift action
Twine’s statement follows simultaneous direct representations by OutRage! to the World Organization of the Scout Movement in Geneva.
“At our request, the world scout headquarters has written to the Chief Scout and the Chief Commissioner of the Uganda Scout Association concerning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and the sponsorship of this Bill by the Chairman of the Uganda Scout Association, David Bahati MP,” said Peter Tatchell at the time of Twine’s protest. “This swift action followed our protests against Mr Bahati to the Scout Association UK.
“Scouting is very big in Uganda and Mr Bahati derives great prestige from his position as chairman of the Scout Association of Uganda. If we can get him removed from office it will be a significant personal blow to him. He’ll be weakened and his credibility undermined.
“OutRage! is urging the disaffiliation of the Ugandan scout organization from the world scouting movement, as a way of adding further pressure on the Ugandan government to drop the Bill.
“Our request for disaffiliation was immediately forwarded by the Scout Association UK to the World Organization of the Scout Movement in Geneva.
“OutRage!’s actions,” said Tatchell in a news release, “are an attempt to open up a new front in the campaign against the Bill and to graphically expose the full ramifications of the proposed legislation on youth and civic organizations in Uganda, which have received little coverage so far.
At risk
“By highlighting the particular threat to LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered) scout members, we are not detracting in any way from the wider issues and consequences of Mr Bahati’s draconian legislation.
“LGBT scouts and scout leaders are, of course, only one section of the Ugandan LGBT community. All Ugandan LGBTs are at risk if this Bill becomes law. We are concerned about the danger to them all – and the threat to their straight families, friends, supporters and allies,” added Tatchell.
A motion from British MPs, meanwhile, urged the Ugandan government to “uphold international humanitarian law by abandoning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, decriminalising same-sex acts between consenting adults in private, and outlawing discrimination against gay people.”
The British MPs are especially appalled that the Ugandan Bill proposes the death penalty for “serial offenders” (people who commit repeat homosexual acts) and life imprisonment for merely touching or kissing another person of the same sex with sexual intent.