Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill: Why Now, What Happens Next, What You Should Sign

We’ve been talking about the “Kill the Gays” bill in Uganda since November of 2009. Apparently Ugandan lawmakers have selected this week for “when the anti-gay bill will be voted on.” Although MP David Bahti said last month that the death penalty “was something we have moved away from,” the bill still proposes raising the punishment for homosexuality from 14 years to life. The death penalty had been proposed to punish those who commit in “aggravated homosexuality,” which is defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender.” Jail time is proposed for anyone who knows about homosexual activity happening but doesn’t report it.

A parliamentary committee has held two days of hearings and debates on the bill, which is the first time it’s been debated since its 2009 debut. What’s on the bill? That’s unclear as of yet but we should know soon. But according to an AP news agency, anti-gay activist Pastor Martin Ssempa told the MPs that, “The parliament should be given the opportunity to discuss and pass the bill, because homosexuality is killing our society.”

People on both sides have spoken to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. Anglican Bishop Christoher Senyojo, who opposes the bill, says that this bill won’t stop homosexuality but that further criminalization of gay people could fuck up their progress on curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“If we criminalise the LGBT [lesbian gay bisexual and transgender] community further, it will drive Ugandans further underground and compromise the relationship of medical, counsellors and clergy that is sacrosanct and needs to remain confidential. How can we expect doctors to treat everyone when this bill will require them to report on their patients who are LGBT?”

Many Ugandans believe this whole thing is just a tactic to divert attention from problems the country is having with food and fuel prices.

Over a week ago, opposition parties started a ‘walk-to-work’ peaceful protest which was met with violence from authorities. Ugandan Opposition Leader Kizza Besigye was hospitalized in Kenya, suffering from “rib-cage injuries” from police and army confrontations. While arresting him (in front of the press), police sprayed tear gas and pepper in his face, which required a surgical procedure to “clean his eyes from the inside.” This violent arrest was swiftly met with more riots and a strike and increased international scrutiny. Besigye says the protests are far from over. At GayUganda, a  gay blogger encourages journalists not to fall for this distraction:

So, the country is in a ferment. With the coronation to happen in just a few days time. So, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is being discussed… and ready to be passed.

So, it is a DIVERSION. The government needs a heady diversion for the country. For the outraged citizens of Uganda.

So, and this is very important, what is the government trying to do?

In actual fact, that diversion is not going to work. Because the citizens of Uganda are simply more concerned about the rising prices of food, and the deteriorating human rights situation. Their homophobia is a reflex which the government wants to use. But, it is not likely to work.

If you want to condemn the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, please CONDEMN in the strongest terms possible, the general state of Human rights in Uganda. Oh, the Bill will be passed in parliament. Have no doubt about that.

But, remember that this is time for the GAY MOVEMENT around the world to make COMMON CAUSE with the average citizen of Uganda to decry the abuse of human rights of ALL UGANDANS.

Nine civillians have already been killed while participating in a peaceful protest.

Regardless of the motivations behind taking this bill to court — as anyone in America can tell you, even bills used to mask other political problems still become laws, regardless of the reasoning behind it —  it couldn’t hurt to sign this petition:

Dear Friend,

I just signed a petition demanding that Ugandan President Musevini veto the “Kill The Gays” bill should it be passed in Parliament.

We just learned the “kill the gays” bill – a death sentence for LGBT people in Uganda – could come up for a vote in the next 24 hours if we don’t act now.

Conservative leaders are trying hard to push the bill forward before the millions like us who oppose it have a chance to speak out.  If we can create a massive international outcry, theres a chance to stop this bill from becoming law.

This hateful bill appears to be a political diversion, a way to distract from the legitimate grievances of pro-democracy activists, who have been beaten, teargassed, jailed, and even killed in recent weeks.

There are only days left to make sure your voice is heard.  Will you join me in demanding the Ugandan President Musevini veto the “Kill The Gays” bill should it be passed in Parliament?  Sign and share this urgent petition:

UPDATE: 250,000 around the world have already signed this urgent call. Add your voice now to keep up the pressure!

Inform yourself — Read more about the evolution of this issue and watch Current TV’s Missionaries of Hate.

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  1. Yes, because people that sign bills to kill gay people are really going to be persuaded with a petition on the internet.

    • It’s better than doing nothing, though, surely – at the very least if enough people sign, then it might stand a chance of getting into mainstream news sites in the Western world and then politicians over here might start talking about it and then something might get done. God knows if fb groups such as ‘Pippa Middleton Ass Appreciation Society’ can make the news, then you’d hope that this can stand a chance.

      And even if the chance of that happening is miniscule, for the sake of 2 seconds to add your name to the petition, surely it’s worth doing that?

      • I agree. Even if the chance that this petition will make a difference is small, that chance still worth the 5 seconds it takes to sign it.

        • i’m confused too — how will a petition signed by a bunch of americans have an impact on how this goes today? I’m not being sassy/argumentative, I wonder this about a lot of petitions, if anyone has insight I’m truly interested in knowing

          • I’ll start off by saying that I’m not qualified to answer this in any way shape or form – I’m a Psych major who has spent about 70% of last semester holed up in the library writing a thesis and knows nothing about international politics.

            That being said….

            I’m guessing that what the creators of this petition are hoping is that this will circulate so quickly that somehow the government will get wind of it, abandon all the issues they’ve been dealing with recently and make a gigantic public fuss and other nations will join and Uganda will be embarrassed and not pass/the president will veto the bill. In my opinion, the chances of all this happening before it goes up for a vote are slim to none, but I’m the kind of person who would feel guilty all day if I didn’t sign a petition, even if it probably won’t do anything.

          • Not to say that it’d be revolutionary, but it could show that the international community would not support it, and that this bill could harm international relations with the anti-gay bill countries. Again, not that we’re direct representatives, but any international press against this could pressure the Ugandans to reconsider how it would affect their country in other areas.

          • It’s not just Americans it’s the world – so like a global outcry, apparently this may make the Ugandan Government rethink a few things…but I don’t quite understand why..

          • I’m agreeing with everyone else – it’s not just Americans. As the girl who emailed you guys and asked you to put it on your site, I’m a British girl. I heard of it because it’s been circulating political groups and facebook and university societies, and I’ve seen people link to this from several different countries.

            And ok, it probably won’t have that much of an effect, but there is a small chance we can get people talking about it and then maybe our governments will, in their typical mercantile ways, think ‘oh, this is a good way to get public support’ and say something about it. A small chance, I know, but it has the support of groups like 38 degrees, which has recently made the UK government take u-turns on several issues, such as the sale of national forests, through petitions and donations used for advertising.

            Even if it gets people talking about it but doesn’t prevent it getting through, it will raise awareness of LGBTQ issues. And then the next time, and the time after that, people might also talk about. And then eventually, hopefully, something will get done. Some people thought it was a joke, a spoof, when I first sent it to them, and now they’re suddenly finding out about LGBTQ rights around the world. While a complete side-point to the aim of this, awareness is not something to complain about.

            Nobody has to sign this. It _probably_ won’t have any effect. But it _definitely_ won’t have one if people don’t sign it. And if that tiny little chance is the best that we, as individuals, sat at home on our computers can do – surely that’s better than doing nothing?

          • GayUganda has written in the past that Ugandans are proud and don’t like to appear uncivilised to the international community; that they were surprised and appalled to discover that the ‘kill the gays’ bill is seen to be unreasonable by so many outside Uganda. It was international pressure that forced the Ugandan government to shelve the ‘kill the gays’ bill when it was originally proposed, and which forced Bahati to remove the death penalty from the bill.

            It was also an international petition which forced the South African Department of Justice to rethink its policy on ‘corrective rape’: the petition crashed their server and caused so much administrative inconvenience and political embarrassment that they were forced to address it. After the rape and murder of (yet another) lesbian, the embarrassment became so acute that they have now set up a task-force (which includes gay activists) to deal with the problem.

            Do I think they will put a lot of time and money into this task-force? No. But it sends a strong message to people engaging in this behaviour, and it makes it much harder for courts to let off corrective rapists with a tiny fine, or for police to mock those who report cases of corrective rape (yes, they really did).

            So yes, I think it is *totally* worth signing these petitions.

          • Please excuse the generalisation of ‘Ugandans’: just repeating GayUganda’s point. I certainly don’t think any group of people can be generalised to that extent, but I imagine he means that this is his perception, as a Ugandan, of the most common attitude.

            Also, although Bahati has *said* that the death penalty has been removed from the bill, apparently this is the only evidence we have that it has been done.

      • Ooops, sorry – you had already made the point that I interposed above… I really should read all the way through before responding…

  2. Last week I met a Ugandan man who is the president of an evangelical theological school in Kampala. We were just talking about this. He told me the media has greatly exaggerated the likelihood of the bill passing. I hope he knows what he’s talking about. If anyone’s interested, I wrote about the conversation I had with him. His perspective was super fascinating. My name should link to it.

  3. Last week I met a Ugandan man who is the president of an evangelical seminary in Kampala. I asked him about the Kill the Gays Bill. His perspective was super fascinating. He says the media has grossly exaggerated the likelihood of it passing. I really really hope he knows what he’s talking about. If anyone is interested, I wrote about the conversation. My name should link to it.

  4. Last week I met a Ugandan man who is the president at an evangelical theological school in Kampala. I asked him about the Kill the Gays Bill. His perspective was super fascinating. One of the many things he had to say was that the media has grossly exaggerated the likelihood of the bill passing. I really really hope he knows what he’s talking about. If you’re interested in more, I wrote about the conversation I had with him here:

    • This was incredibly interesting (also horrifying). I’d love to see a follow up if you do end up going to Uganda. For those of you who haven’t clicked, the interview has a bit about the conflation between homosexuality and pedophilia, and it got me wondering about how deep that association goes for Ugandans – particularly on a linguistic level.

      Thank you for linking that, it took me out of my blind flailing horror about the “Kill the Gays” bill and made me feel a tiny fraction more educated on the issue. (Much like the AS coverage in general has done – thank you).

    • Thanks, this was a really helpful perspective on the roots of the legislation. But now I’m more angry about the Church, politicking, and what this says about women in Uganda. His attitudes were so simple and understandable that it was hard to read them. How do you undo such a toxic worldview that is so different from our own?

    • Thanks for the link. That was fascinating in a horrifying kind of way. I found the last bit interesting about how lesbians don’t exist. The whole way through this saga I’ve felt like the bill is largely targeting gay men and that homosexuality is seen as man + man because, obviously, two women can’t possibly have sex. I don’t want it to seem like I’m complaining about the apparent exclusion of women because the bill is horrifying regardless but I find it interesting how pervasive the idea that there must be a penis involved for it to be sex.
      e.g. where I live it’s never, to my knowledge, been illegal for women to have sex with each other but sex between men was only decriminalised in 1986.

  5. I think we (in this case, we being westerners) need to be careful about how we oppose this issue. With a strong history of colonization and exploitation by the west, I feel that our outward involvement could turn this into a struggle for independence and democracy instead of focusing on the rights and lives of the LGBT community.

    • I don’t understand what you mean, kokari, this is about signing a petition, not about the colonization or exploition of anyone.
      I don’t see what being a westerner has to do with it – there are people all over the world, not just Europe/USA that have signed the petition and realize that this bill is about fundamental human rights rather than politics.
      It seems to have worked too, as the bill has been withdrawn now.

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