Ugandan Gays Now Allowed To Meet? Anti-Homosexuality Bill “Shelved”?
June 22nd, 2012
That’s what the Associated Press is reporting. But I think it’s safe to say that the best way to approach this AP article is to read it and then believe the opposite. It has two whoppers: 1) it claims that the Ugandan government says that LGBT advocates are now free to meet, and 2) that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been “shelved.” From what I’m seeing, neither appears correct.
Let’s take the first point first. In response to growing international criticism over two recent raids of gay rights conferences, the Ugandan government issued this statement signed by Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo:
Uganda has come under criticism for intervening in a gay activists’ meeting that was taking place at a Hotel in a city suburb early this week. Police intervened in the meeting that was suspected to be promoting gay activities and questioned the participants who were later released.
The Government would like to state that much as promoting gay activities is illegal according to Section 145 of the Penal code Act, Uganda does not segregate against people of a different sexual orientation.
No government official is bent to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others.
Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in the world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of East African countries criminalize it. Whilst at a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts.
The government would like to encourage all Ugandans to be vigilant and stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law.
Rev.Fr. Simon Lokodo
Minister of Ethics and Integrity
Lokodo continues to sign himself as “Rev. Fr.” even though he was defrocked by the Vatican last year. So already you know something of the veracity of the man’s statements. But look at what he says in the second paragraph. He references Section 145 of the Uganda penal code and claims that it makes LGBT advocacy illegal. But this is what the code actually says:
Any person who
(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature;
(b) has carnal knowledge of an animal; or
(c) permits a male person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature, commits an offence and is liable to imprisonment for life.
As far as I know, no one was having any sort of carnal knowledge at the conference that Lokodo broke up earlier this week. Everyone I saw in the news reports were fully clothed. What’s more, when he appeared on Ugandan television to talk about the raid, he used Section 145 to justify his actions then. His predecessor used the same justification to cancel the screening of a documentary that included LGBT human rights workers in 2010. This latest statement posted on the Ugandan Media Centre’s web site merely repeats what Lokodo said on Monday when he took credit for the raid. And not only did he use Section 145 to justify the raid, he closes this statement with a warning to “ stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law” — or at least his strange reading of Section 145 of that law. The Associated Press’s report has woefully misread Lokodo’s statement.
But it does appear that Lokodo has become an embarrassment for the Ugandan government. Whenver we see confusion being sown like this, it often comes during times of heightened international scrutiny. The AP claims to have spoken with an un-named official who says that Lokodo was told to tone things down. If so, then this confusing and contradictory statement appears to be the product of that order. Its appearance on the official Ugandan Media Centre web site, which is an official press clearing house for the Ugandan government, suggests that the government is feeling the pressure. But it also can be read as trying to ease the pressure without committing to any changes in policy.
As for the second point the Associated Press got wrong:
Parliamentarian David Bahati said at the time that homosexuals deserved to die for recruiting young, impoverished children into gay culture by luring them with money and the promise of a better life.
The bill has since been shelved. Uganda’s president said it hurt the country’s image abroad. The bill has been condemned by some world leaders, with U.S. President Barack Obama describing it as “odious.”
But the bill is highly popular among local Anglican and Pentecostal clerics. Some recently petitioned the authorities to quickly pass it. Bahati said he had been “assured” that the bill would be passed one day.
How many times have we seen reports like this before in the past three years? There have been numerous false reports claiming, variously, that the death penalty has been removed (it hasn’t) or that the bill has been shelved (it hasn’t). The bill died briefly at the close of the Eighth Parliament, only to be revived again in the Ninth. The bill is currently in the hands of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. The Associated Press is just one more in a long line of news outlets to get this wrong.
What’s more, it was just last Tuesday when Bahati said that Parliament would take up the bill during its next session. That next session begins next week. Bahati should know what he’s talking about: he’s the caucus chairmain for the ruling National Resistance Movement in Parliament.