UPDATE: This from petition site Avaaz.org: “Uganda’s anti-gay law has failed! It looked sure to pass last week, but after 1.6 million petition signatures delivered to Parliament, tens of thousands of phone calls to our own governments, hundreds of media stories about our campaign and a massive global outcry, Ugandan politicians dropped the bill!
It was down to the wire – religious extremists tried to push the bill through on Wednesday, and then convened an unprecedented emergency session of Parliament on Friday. But each time, within hours, we reacted. A huge congratulations to everyone who signed, called, forwarded and donated to this campaign – with our help, thousands of innocent people in Uganda’s gay community do not wake up this morning facing execution for whom they chose to love.”
It’s never over, Uganda can try again in 18 months, but it’s a nice reprieve.
The African nation of Uganda has been mulling a bill that would attach the death penalty, or life imprisonment, to those who are gay since 2009. While the bill has been delayed, there is no telling if and when it might be back on the agenda. It’s just one more example of the kinds of twisted attitudes to homosexuality in Africa.
The fate of the Kill The Gays Bill in Uganda, which could result in the death penalty for those charged with engaging in same-sex acts, remains unclear. Even if capital punishment is taken off the table, homosexuality – already illegal in Uganda – may soon carry the penalty of life in prison.
Following protests, worldwide political pressure and parliamentary walk-outs, the vote was delayed and the death penalty for gays, proposed in 2009 by Ugandan MP David Bahati, was apparently dropped. Though details coming out of Uganda have been scarce and often unreliable, the Associated Press commented that some positive news in relation to the severity of the Bill had been ‘misread’ by the media and online world as it being completely scrapped, when it was not. Other sources suggest another proposal, The Penal Code and Sex Offences Bill, could be fast tracked to pass similar laws to ‘kill the gays’.
Passed or not, the negative impacts of the ‘Bahati Bill have already begun to show with assaults against the LGBT community rising dramatically since its announcement. The Ugandan Rolling Stone magazine went as far as to publish a list of the ‘Top 100 Homos’, including pictures and their addresses under a banner that read ‘Hang Them’. This lead to stoning, their houses being burnt to the ground and suspect tenants being removed by concerned landlords.
The past weeks have also seen Uganda subject to widespread rioting in reaction to sky rocketing food and petrol prices; the emotionally charged Bill is considered a positive “diversion” for the deeply conservative population.
Speculation has also built around the Bills inspiration, coinciding with a tour by an American evangelical Christian group funded by members of the US Republican party. It spread the message that homosexuality will destroy African families. This is a sentiment that was later echoed by the Bishop of the Canadian Anglican church in saying: “Please go ahead and put the anti-Gay laws in place.”
Understandably there have been few within country protesting the bill, Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo bravely went on the record calling for those within the gay community to come out in protest: “God created you and God is on your side.” He later softened his stance saying: “I am not advocating for the LGBT community. I am just dealing with reality.”
Despite not making the headlines in Australian this week, (celebrities were dancing and chefs were throwing fake tantrums), the ‘All Out’ petition and the Azaaz.org World in Action petitions protesting the bill have collectively picked up over 2 million signatures World Wide within days. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been condemned politically around the globe including members of The European Parliament and The White House, which released a statement that President Obama ‘strongly opposed the Bill’. The Ugandan Ethics Minister has since responded to the criticism by saying: “Why do they feel that they can tell us what we should do in the interest of our people?”
The reality here is most terrifying. I have signed the petition myself but my cynical side questions the impact of an Internet petition upon a corrupt government, though it has been effective in getting this horror story attention online.
We must also direct some of our concern towards American Evangelists and their supporters, like Stephen Langa, spreading the vile message of a need to ‘cure homosexuality’ calling it a ‘deep dark agenda’. We dismiss these people as inane extremists but their words were spoken in front of the very politicians who are proposing that Bill. Why do we excuse this, surely not under Freedom of Speech? Would we excuse a call for genocide against a race or religion?
Finally, consider this: Our government’s latest ‘solution’ to appease hysterical voters is to send asylum seekers to Malaysia. What do you think happens to LGBTs in Malaysia? They go to prison or are denied public employment and are ousted from society. Despite this being a supposedly one-off trade it does raise the question: When a Ugandan teenager ‘jumps the queue’ to flee the death penalty for loving someone of the same gender will you still be waving that Stop the Boats flag?