Uganda’s Parliament Speaker Promises to Revive Anti-Homosexuality Bill
October 31st, 2012
Uganda’s Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga returned home to Entebbe Airport to a hero’s welcome after attending a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec, Canada. The rally at Entebbe’s airport was organized by religious leaders, former Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, and Anti-Homosexuality Bill sponsor M.P. David Bahati. She told supporters and the press that she would instruct the chair of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee “to quickly bring the report on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill” to the House floor for a vote.
Kadaga was also defiant in the face of threats by several foreign governments to withhold aid and visas if the bill passes. “If the price of aid is going to be the promotion of homosexuality in this country,” she told supporters, “I think we don’t want that aid.”
Kadega made those remarks in response to criticisms by Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird over Uganda’s proposal to execute gay people and for its refusal to protect LGBT people in the country. As Uganda’s independent Daily Monitor reported last Thursday:
She told IPU organisers that she was not aware that the assembly had been summoned to promote gay rights.
Earlier, at the inaugural plenary on Monday, Mr Baird had demonised Uganda on allegations of persecuting sexual minorities. The Foreign Minister referred to the specific incident of gay-rights activist David Kato, who was bludgeoned to death in January 2011.
Responding to the unprovoked Baird attack, Ms Kadaga said: “When we came for this Assembly, to which we were invited, we expected respect for our sovereignty, our values and our country … “I, therefore, on behalf of the Ugandan delegation, and, indeed, the people of Uganda, protest in the strongest terms the arrogance exhibited by the Foreign Minister of Canada, who spent most of his time attacking Uganda and promoting homosexuality.”
…For that matter, Ms Kadaga said: “If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it. We are not a colony or a protectorate of Canada. The subject under discussion is ‘Citizenship, Identity and Linguistic and Cultural Diversity in a Globalised World’, please stick to it.”
No Ugandan politician has ever lost anything by resorting to appeals to Uganda’s sovereignty. Until just fifty years ago, Uganda was a British colony subject to the whims of a (white) government on a different continent and more than four thousand miles away. Uganda recently celebrated is fiftieth anniversary this past summer. On Friday, Daily Monitor reported that Kadaga’s comments were receiving considerable support from among its readers:
By press time, Ms Kadaga’s retort carried in the Daily Monitor yesterday had attracted numerous comments on this newspaper’s web site with most of them applauding her for defending the culture, values and norms of Ugandans from “Western cultural perversion”.
In one of the comments, an online reader writes: “Hahaha!! I have read so many of these forums but trust me, I have never seen so many comments yet all speaking with a single voice! Kudos Ugandans, I am proud of all of ya (sic). It means all is not lost of our society.”
The incident in Quebec also elicited this comment from the government:
Weighing in on the diplomatic spat, State minister for International Relations Henry Okello Oryem said the position of government is that sodomy is a crime and that Uganda does not persecute sexual minorities. “We have no business with the people who are behind closed doors but those who flaunt sexual activities in public will be dealt with,” Mr Oryem said.
Mr Okello Oryem observed that in Britain – Uganda’s former colonial master – the law books described “sodomy as a crime long before Uganda even got its independence”.
Ugandan police have routinely shut down conferences in which human rights for gay people were a topic of conversation, including a workshop in Entebbe in February and another conference in June. Speaker Kadaga promised then that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would be taken up in the next session of Parliament. The Second Session of Parliament has been meeting since August.
In September, British national David Cecil was arrested and charged with “disobeying lawful orders” when he staged a pro-gay play at a small theater in a Kampala suburb after the Media Centre refused to allow him to mount the production at the National Theatre. Cecil was released on bail pending trial, where he faces the possibility of two years in prison.
The Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced into Parliament last February and referred to the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee for possible modifications. When the same committee considered the bill in May of 2011, the committee recommended a sly change to the bill, removing the explicit language of “suffer(ing) death,” and replacing it with a reference to the penalties provided in an unrelated already existing law. That law however specifies the death penalty. Which means that the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee actually recommended that the death penalty be retained through stealth while the bill’s supporters publicly stated that the penalty had been removed. The previous Eighth Parliament expired before the house could vote on the committee’s recommendations. After the Ninth Parliament convened, the original language of the bill, including its death penalty, was reintroduced and referred back to the same committee.