Does Ugandan MP Want To Kill Gay Boy Scouts?
February 16th, 2010
That’s what UK LGBT Activist Peter Tatchell said:
“The leader of the scout movement in Uganda is demanding the execution of all scouts and scout leaders who commit repeated homosexual acts,” reports human rights campaigner, Peter Tatchell of OutRage!.
“Chief of the Scout Board of Uganda, David Bahati, is proposing that all serial homosexual offenders, including scouts and scout leaders, should be hanged – even children.
“Mr Bahati is a Ugandan MP. His Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently before the Ugandan Parliament, stipulates the death penalty for repeat same-sex relations and life imprisonment for all other homosexual acts, even for mere kissing, touching or caressing.
“Scout leaders who fail to report gay scouts to the police will face three years in jail. Any scout leader who provides supportive advice to a gay scout will be jailed for five to seven years.
“This Bill is an expression of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and violence, contrary to scout principles,” said Mr Tatchell.
That appeared on the Gays Without Borders website. I’ve been badly burned by them before and have learned that this is not a trustworthy source. This story is nevertheless starting to make the rounds on the web.
Since the information that Bahati is the head of Uganda’s Boy Scout movement appears to have come from BTB, I feel a special responsibility to correct the record. Last December, we received a tip from an anonymous reader in Kampala along with several scans of a newspaper clippings, including one identifying MP David Bahata as chairman of the Uganda Scouts Board. Since that was sent to us exclusively by someone who does not have a web site himself and this article did not appear online, I’m quite confident that this is where Tatchell learned of Bahati’s role in Uganda’s scounting movement. We were the only major website to report this and we are the ones who first posted this photo.
Now, it’s true that his proposed bill would impose the death penalty on anyone who engages in sex with someone of the same gender under the age of 18, who are HIV-positive (disclosed and consensual or not), who is a “repeat offender” (so broadly defined as to include anyone who has had a relationship with more than one person, or who had sex with the same person more than once), or who had sex with a disabled person (consensual or not).
So, by this accounting it would appear that under certain circumstances, Boy Scouts could be convicted and hanged for “aggravated homosexuality” if they have sex with someone of the same gender and approximately the same age (under 18) — and if Uganda’s death penalty law allows for hanging people under the age of 18. So far, I have not been able to determine whether Ugandan law permits this. But more specifically, I can find no reports anywhere that Bahati is specifically “demanding the execution of all scouts and scout leaders who commit repeated homosexual acts.”
Focusing on Boy Scouts, while a nice trick, misses the larger point. This bill would impose the death penalty on Boy Scouts, altar boys, choir girls, soccer players, pastors, members of Parliament, chiefs, cooks and bottle-washers — everyone who falls into its trap. And it would impose criminal penalties to anyone else, gay or straight, who would help them in any way or fail to report them to police. The scope and breadth of this bill is beyond breathtaking. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the depth of evil behind this bill. But it is easy to pretend the bill says something that it doesn’t say, whether someone opposes the bill or supports it.
With all due respect to Mr. Tatchell, who has put his own health and safety on the line in Russia, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere around the world on behalf of LGBT people everywhere — and he is due all the respect that bravery warrents — this trivial sideshow distracts from the larger point. David Bahati did not call for the execution of gay Boy Scouts in his capacity as chair of Uganda Scouts Board. He called for the execution of almost all gays in his capacity as a member of Parliament for the ruling party which hold more than two-thirds of all the seats in Uganda’s legislature. And all of this in what is effectively a one-party state, in which real power rests in the hands of President Yoweri Museveni. We must never forget that it is Museveni, who easily blocks opposition political rallys and shuts down radio stations he doesn’t like, who can stop this bill with a wave of a finger.
Since Tatchell’s remarks made the rounds, I am now happy to see that he has issued a clarification:
(Bahati’s) Anti-Homosexuality Bill does not, of course, specifically cite or single out LGBT scouts or scout leaders. But, like other LGBT Ugandans, scout members who commit repeat homosexual acts will be liable for execution – if Bahati’s is Bill is passed. The Bill does not specify from what age the death penalty will apply. I am told that it could apply to young LGBT people under 18. Does anyone know what the age of criminal responsibility is in Uganda? Is there any Ugandan law specifying the minimum age at which a person can be executed? Good news: The World Organisation of the Scout Movement is, as a result of OutRage!’s representations, considering action against the scout movement in Uganda.”
Learning the World Organization of the Scout Movement’s position would be very useful, as would discovering whether Ugandan law actually allows the execution of those under the age of 18. That’s a question I’ve been trying to discover the answer to myself.