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Posts for November, 2011

The Daily Agenda for Thursday, November 10

Jim Burroway

November 10th, 2011

TODAY’S AGENDA:
Senate Judiciary Committee to Hold Markup for DOMA Repeal: Washington, D.C. The Senate Judiciary Committee will hold an Executive Business Meeting this morning to go over, among other things, Senate Bill 598, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.  This bill was scheduled to be marked up last week, but Republicans on the panel forced a delay for a week. The Washington Blade has obtained copies of three proposed  amendments:

Of the three amendments, only one is germane: a measure that would strike Section 2 of the Respect for Marriage Act. That portion of the bill enables federal benefits to flow to married gay couples even if they live in states that don’t recognize marriage equality. Under the bill as it currently stands, a couple could marry in a state such as New York, where same-sex marriage is legal and still receive federal benefits if they move to a state such as Michigan, which doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage. The other two have no relevance to the Respect for Marriage Act, but still can be offered under Senate rules, which allow non-germane amendments to legislation.

The committee, chaired by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) will meet at 10:00 a.m. in Hart Senate Office Building, room 216, and will be webcast here. The House version of the Respect for Marriage Act has 128 co-sponsors, but because the House is under Republican control, it is extremely unlikely it will take action on the bill.

Frank Mugisha to Receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award: Washington, D.C. Ugandan LGBT advocate Frank Mugisha will be presented the prestigious human rights award in a ceremony at the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building. The award will be presented by Kennedy’s widow, Ethel Kennedy, and Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

United States Conference on AIDS: Chicago, IL. Billed as the largest AIDS-related gathering in the U.S., the conference organized by the National Minority AIDS Council will kick off today, bringing together over 3,000 workers, including case managers, physicians, public health workers, advocates, people living with HIV/AIDS, and policy makers, to build national support networks, exchange the latest information and learn cutting-edge tools to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. The three day conference begins today at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

TODAY’S BIRTHDAY:
Phyllis Lyon: 1924. The Oklahoma native earned a degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley in 1946 and worked as a reporter for a California paper before moving to Seattle to work at a magazine in 1950. That’s where she met the love of her life, Del Martin. They became a couple in 1953 when they moved to San Francisco together. “We really only had problems our first year together,” she later told The Washington Post. “Del would leave her shoes in the middle of the room, and I’d throw them out the window.” Del responded “You’d have an argument with me and try to storm out the door. I had to teach you to fight back.” Their life together was all about fighting back. In 1955 Phyllis and Del, along with six other women, formed the Daughters of Bilitis, the first national lesbian organization in the U.S. Phyllis was the first editor of the DOB’s groundbreaking newsletter, The Ladder from 1956 to 1960, when Del took over. Pseudonyms were common then, and Phillis edited The Ladder as “Ann Ferguson” for the first few months, but she dropped it to encourage their readers not to hide. By October 1957, they had 400 subscribers across the country. In 1964, they helped found the Council on Religion and the Homosexual, bringing together national religious leaders and gay and lesbian activists for a national discussion of gay rights. Phyllis was also the first open lesbian to serve on the board of the National Organization for Women in 1973. Phyllis and Del were also active in San Francisco’s Alice B. Toklas Democratic Club.

On February 12, 2004, Phyllis and Del married for the first time when San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom ordered that marriage licenses be granted to same-sex couples. That marriage lasted until August 12, but not because the couple split up. That was when the California Supreme Court voided several thousand marriage licenses given to same-sex couples. Del and Phyllis were deeply dissapointed. “Del is 83 years old and I am 79,” she said. “After being together for more than 50 years, it is a terrible blow to have the rights and protections of marriage taken away from us. At our age, we do not have the luxury of time.”

But they had the luxury of just enough time. They were married again on June 16, 2008 after the California Supreme Court ruled that prohibiting same-sex marriage was against the state constitution. Del and Phyllis were given the honor of being the first same-sex couple to be married, and they wore the same outfits in which they were first married in 2004. Del passed away two months later, on August 27, 2008.

If you know of something that belongs on the Agenda, please send it here. Don’t forget to include the basics: who, what, when, where, and URL (if available).

As always, please consider this your open thread for the day.

Ugandan LGBT Advocate Awarded Rafto Prize

Jim Burroway

September 29th, 2011

The Rafto Foundation, a Norwegian human rights and democracy advocacy organization, announced today that they are awarding the 2011 Rafto Prize to Sexual Minorities Uganda and the group’s Executive Director, Frank Mugisha. According to the Rafto Foundation’s press release, “The Prize is awarded to SMUG for its work to make fundamental human rights apply to everyone, and to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.” The Foundation explains the reason for the recognition:

The human rights situation in Uganda in general, and the plight of sexual minorities in particular, is getting worse. They are blamed for social problems and are “the good enemy” that politicians can attack in order to garner support. In this situation, SMUG’s work is especially important. The battle they wage is for human rights’ most basic purpose: to protect individuals from abuses by the authorities and the majority. The Rafto Foundation hereby gives its support to the work against what former SMUG leader Victor Juliet Mukasa, characterized as a “state-sponsored homophobia that is spreading across the African continent”.

SMUG is a coalition of organisations that work for the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI people, or sexual minorities, which is the term used by SMUG). Since its inception in 2004, SMUG has become a powerful voice for a stigmatised and persecuted minority. The coalition has played an important role in opposing the proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” and has successfully used the legal system to fight harassment and violence from government and private actors. SMUG also does important work supporting individuals who suffer from abuse.

Frank Mugisha and his colleagues in SMUG have demonstrated great courage in fronting the fight for LGBTI people’s rights.

The 2011 Rafto Prize will be awarded in Bergen, Norway on November 6. Earlier this month, it was announced that Mugisha has been chosen to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Uganda LGBT Advocate Receives Human Rights Award

Jim Burroway

September 15th, 2011

Frank Mugisha

Frank Mugisha, Executive Director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), has been chosen to receive the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. From the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights:

“Frank Mugisha’s unbending advocacy for gay rights in Uganda in the face of deep-rooted homophobia is a testament to the indomitability of the human spirit,” said RFK Human Rights Award Judge Dean Makau Mutua, Professor of Law and Dean of the University at Buffalo Law School (SUNY).

…“Frank Mugisha has fought courageously in support of the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda, despite death threats and even exile,” said Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. “He has become a leading advocate for sexual minorities in a country where they are persecuted, jailed, and their lives destroyed. We are proud at the RFK Center to begin our partnership with Mr. Mugisha to advance his invaluable work within this movement.”

…“For me, it is about standing out and speaking in an environment where you are not sure if you will survive the next day; it is this fear that makes me strong, to work hard and fight on to see a better life for LGBTI persons in Uganda,” said Mr. Mugisha. “The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award gives me courage and hope that my work, which may not be accepted and recognized in my own country, is making a change with this international visibility.”

Mugisha has been an LGBT advocate since 2004, when he began advocating for LGBT and HIV/AIDS awareness as a college student. He started a support group, Icebreakers, to help LGBT people who were struggling through the issues of coming out. He had to flee the country when police targeted him for arrest, but he has since returned to continue his advocacy work in the face of death threats and governmental efforts to impose the death penalty on gay people.

Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill Postponed Until Friday

Jim Burroway

May 11th, 2011

[Update: 8:00 p.m. EDT: Jacqueline Kasha Facebook status says:

The Bill kept being raised but because of time it wasnt discussed. However after all the reactions that came from MPs it has strong support.On our way out the Government whip together with another MP Odong Otto told security that we shouldnt be allowed back in parliament and that we should all go to the West.

Those statements mean that should the Bill be discussed on Friday which is the next date agreed by the house. Its very possible it will sail through. Today a Bill was discussed for the 2nd and 3rd reading and voting within 20mins, it didnt pass because of lack of quorum so meaning should the AHB reach the floor it will pass because it has a lot of support.

We need a HUGE miracle.

Jacqueline's assessment is considerably more pessimistic than Melanie Nathan's source. It's very difficult to handicap this race.]

[Update: 3:10 p.m. EDT: Melanie Nathan has an update: I have received word from a source in Uganda's Parliament that although the Bill is on the agenda for Friday, tomorrow being a national holiday for the swearing in of President Museveni, they assert that there is a very strong chance the Bill will not make it to the floor and that Parliament will be prorogued before it can be debated and voted upon. The source, stated that Cabinet members and government have been overwhelmed with e-mails, statements and complaints from all around the world.  The source believes this may well factor into preference given to other Bills in the last moments of this Parliamentary Session.  The source went further to state that it was made as a commitment to him from the Speaker that "there would not be time" to hear it.  He did not necessarily trust the commitment."  I think it is wise not to trust that commitment.]

[Update: 1:50 p.m. EDT: Frank Mugisha told the Associated Press that today's Parliament proceedings were interrupted by a walkout among women MP's who were upset over an unrelated bill (Both the Marriage and Divorce Bill and the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Bill have drawn fire from women's groups. It's unclear which bill triggered the walkout.) Parliament was then unable to continue due to a lack of quorum.]

Uganda’s Parliament has suspended business for the day without having taken up debate and a vote on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Sexual Minorities Uganda’s Frank Mugisha, who has been on hand at Parliament (and enduring insults from Parliament members as a result) just posted on Facebook that Parliament will reconvene on Friday with the Anti-Homosexuality Bill back on the agenda.

Daily Monitor, Uganda’s largest independent newspaper, has been focusing its resources on the larger ongoing turmoil over nationwide month-long riots, demonstrations, and today’s return of opposition leader Kizza Besigye from Nairobi, Kenya. He was expected to return to Entebbe today after having been treated in a Nairobi hospitals for injuries sustained at the hands of Uganda’s security forces. Ugandan security forces reportedly tried to block his return, and as of this writing it is still unclear whether he will be allowed to do so. Debate over Besigye’s return has overtaken events in Uganda’s Parliament, which may account for its sudden recess until Friday.

Warren Throckmorton also confirms that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be scheduled for Friday. While the 8th Parliament remains constitutionally in effect until May 18, a Parliament spokesperson told Throckmorton that Friday is the last day the current Parliament can act because swearing-in ceremonies for the 9th Parliament will begin on Monday.

Contrary to widespread mainstream media reports, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is neither dead nor dropped. This isn’t the first time mainstream media has gotten this wrong.

ADDENDUM, 5/14: It turns out that the walkout by women delegates was over the Marriage and Divorce Bill. The bill would have “it would abolish forced marriage and allow women to divorce their husbands on the basis of cruelty, among others,” according to Daily Monitor. The walkout occurred when the Attorney General said that he was not ready for the bill to be voted on.

Hearings Continue In Uganda’s Parliament on Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Jim Burroway

May 9th, 2011

[Update: Paul Canning alerted me to this 30-minute audio snippet from today's hearing. Beginning at the two-minute mark, the speaker describes how the bill is based upon false premises and is not supported by science:]

Warren Throckmorton has his ear to the ground on the rapidly developing situation in Uganda, where Parliament may be set to pass the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill into law. He reported that  the Human Rights Commission, Sexual Minorities Uganda and the Coalition on Human Rights all testified against the bill during hearings today. The Associated Press reports that pastor Martin Ssempa testified again this morning, calling for the death penalty to be removed and replaced with seven year’s imprisonment. This is a remarkable backtracking from supporting lifetime imprisonment previously. Ssempa went on to call for the bill’s passage “because homosexuality is killing our society.”

LGBT Advocate and retired Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo also testified against the bill. He warned the committee that the bill would not make gay people suddenly disappear, but would instead turn Uganda into a police state. He also warned that the bill would result in an increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS because gay Ugandans would fear seeking treatment.

The AP also reported on the bill’s future:

Stephen Tashobya, the head of the parliament committee, said it is time legislators give the bill priority. He said a report on the bill would be ready by Tuesday and could be presented to parliament by the end of the week.

“Due to public demand the committee has decided to deal with bill,” Tashobya said. “The bill has generated a lot of interest from members of the public and members of parliament and that is why we spared some time deal with before this parliament ends.”

Parliament is due to end on May 11, although Parliament itself doesn’t constitutionally expire until the 18th. It’s not clear whether there is enough time for the bill to make it to the floor before the 11th, but Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda said that if Parliament does take up the bill, it will be almost certainly be passed. Warren Throckmorton, who is constantly updating this thread with new information as he finds it, comments on the bill’s prognosis:

Tashobya is quoted as saying he would have the report completed by tomorrow. However, he just told me a few minutes ago that he cannot promise to complete the report by tomorrow. He did say that he would complete the report before the end of Parliament which is the 18th of May. When I asked him how the Parliament could vote on a bill in this manner, he said that the Speaker (Edward Ssekandi) makes those decisions. Theoretically, the Speaker could call Parliament into session anytime before May 18 for a vote on any left over bills.

According to Tashobya, the Company bill did not pass today, and the Procurement bill was pushed to tomorrow, thus making it even more difficult for any new bills to come to the floor before Speaker Ssekandi’s end of official business date of May 11. The AHB coming to the floor appears to hinge on the completion of the committee report by Mr. Tashobya  sometime tomorrow and the Speaker’s willingness to bring it to the floor on Wednesday. If this does not happen, the Speaker would have to call the MPs together sometime during the festivities of the Presidential inauguration and the swearing in of the new Parliament on the 18th.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill, if passed in its current form, would impose the death penalty for those who are HIV-positive, who is a “repeat offender,” or whose partner is deemed “disabled” regardless of whether the relationship was consensual. It would also impose a lifetime sentence for other cases. Those provisions may be modified, although that still remains uncertain.

Even with those proposed modifications, the bill would still remain a potent threat to human rights. The bill would lower the bar for conviction, making mere “touching” for the perceived purpose of homosexual relations a criminal offense. It threatens teachers, doctors, friends, and family members with three years imprisonment if they didn’t report anyone they suspected of being gay to police within twenty-four hours. It also would broadly criminalize all advocacy of homosexuality including, conceivably, lawyers defending accused gay people in court or parliamentarians proposing changes to the law. It even threatens landlords under a “brothel” provision if they knowingly rent to gay people.

There is an AllOut petition which is now at about 40,000 signatures with a goal of 100,000 signatures by tomorrow. This will be presented at Parliament by Bishop Senyonjo tomorrow.

Action Alert from Sexual Minorities Uganda

Jim Burroway

January 31st, 2011

Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda sent out this action alert, offering practical advice of actions you can take in the wake of David Kato’s murder. I think one of the most salient pieces of advice he can give is this: In whatever you do, please, please not spread misinformation. “A highly political and delicate investigation is underway in a dangerous environment in Uganda,” he writes, “and therefore misinformation could be seriously damaging.”

Several resources are available to help you avoid inadvertently spreading disinformation. Val Kalende has an excellent update on the events and background surrounding David Kato’s murder. (Val was bravely featured in this Ugandan newspaper article here.) You can also review our own coverage of events in Uganda from 2009 through the Spring of 2010.  For more recent events, you can follow our tags for Uganda and David Kato. Warren Throckmorton also has excellent coverage under his Uganda category.

ACTION ALERT
HOW GLOBAL ALLIES SHOULD RESPOND TO THE MURDER OF DAVID KATO
29 JANUARY 2011

Our dear friend and colleague, David Kato, was brutally murdered on Wednesday, the 26th of January 2011. David was the advocacy officer of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) and a longtime leading activist for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights.

The condolences and offers of support from the global community have been tremendous. On behalf of David’s family, colleagues and friends, we thank all of you.

We fully understand that many of you are full of sadness and anger and would like to take action on David’s behalf. However, we believe that first and foremost Ugandan civil society must be respected in leading and coordinating events and actions over the coming weeks and months. We also believe that it is crucial that we as Ugandans are able to document the national and international response to David’s brutal murder, which requires your regular communication with us.

WHAT ACTION TO TAKE

  • Send letters urging the Government of Uganda (contact information below) to take the following steps:
    • Publicly condemn David’s murder;
    • Carry out a full and fair investigation into David’s murder;
    • Prosecute the perpetrator(s) to the fullest extent of the law;
    • Investigate David’s hacked email account in the days preceding his death;
    • Assume that, until proven otherwise, David’s death was motivated by homophobia and not routine or arbitrary violence;
    • Communicate frequently with LGBT leaders throughout the investigation into David’s murder;
    • Ensure that members of Uganda’s LGBT community have adequate protection from violence;
    • Take prompt action against all threats or hate speech likely to incite violence, discrimination or hostility toward LGBT Ugandans;
    • Eliminate any possibility of consideration or passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
  • Contact your own governmental authorities and urge them to communicate these concerns to the Ugandan authorities in direct and private advocacy.
  • Continue to expose and denounce U.S conservative evangelicals spreading homophobia in Uganda
  • Organize respectful and non-violent vigils at the Ugandan embassy or consulate in your country.

HOW TO TAKE ACTION:

  • Inform SMUG of all action you take around David’s murder, so that we can monitor all developments. Send copies of your press releases, statements, audio/video recordings of vigils, pictures, and action plans on this subject to SMUG email: justicefordavidkato@gmail.com
  • Ensure that you do not spread misinformation. A highly political and delicate investigation is underway in a dangerous environment in Uganda, and therefore misinformation could be seriously damaging.

We call for respectful responses towards David Kato’s murder and NOT to use this tragic incident for fund raising campaigns. We thank and encourage everyone who has supported SMUG’s work to continue with us in the fight for LGBT rights.

CONTACT INFORMATION FOR THE UGANDAN GOVERNMENT:

President of The Republic of Uganda H.E Yoweri Museveni
Parliament Building
PO Box 7168
Kampala, Uganda
Email: info@govexecutive.net
Fax: + 256 414 346 102
Salutation: Your Excellency

Inspector General of Police Major Kale Kayihura
Police Headquarters
PO Box 7055
Kampala, Uganda
Fax: + 256 414 255 630
Salutation: Dear Major

Minister of Justice Hon. Makubuya Kiddu
Parliament Building
PO Box 7183
Kampala, Uganda
Email: info@justice.go.ug
Fax: + 256 414 234 453
Salutation: Dear Minister

SMUG Contacts:

Frank Mugisha: fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org

Val Kalende: mailto:fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org

Pepe Julian: mailto:fmugisha@sexualminoritiesuganda.org

In solidarity together as one

Frank Mugisha
Executive Director
SMUG

Australia’s SBS Television Focuses on Uganda

Jim Burroway

September 8th, 2010

Australia’s SBS network, which fills a role similar to that of PBS in the United States, delved into Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill last Sunday in a segment of the documentary program Dateline by Canadian journalist Aaron Lewis. The non-embeddable video is available online at the Dateline web site, along with a full transcript.

This documentary explores similar ground covered in other documentaries on Uganda that have appeared in the U.S. and Britain. Regular readers of BTB are unlikely to learn many new facts, but this documentary does a wonderful job of re-telling the story in different contexts. As with the other documentaries, Lewis obtained interviews with M.P. David Bahati, chief sponsor of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo, one of the bill’s most ardent supporters in Uganda’s Cabinet. It also features brief appearances from pastors Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male, who both have been involved with hurling accusations of homosexuality toward rival pastors during last year’s vigilante campaign.

Among the things this documentary covers that we’ve seen before is Bahati’s assertion that many American evangelical leaders privately tell him that they support the Anti-Homosexuality Bill bill:

We have friends who are evangelicals in the US and they are being supportive. Some confidentially supporting this, others, very few openly, in support of this because of the fear to be blamed back home and we truly accept that.

Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda

But where this documentary truly excels is in covering the impact the debate over the the Anti-Homosexuality Bill has had on Uganda’s LGBT community. Frank Mugisha, head of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said that since the bill has been introduced, life has become much more difficult:

Many Ugandans have taken the law into their own hands and started attacking homosexuals, beating them up. Landlords have thrown people out of their houses because they are saying “If this legislation is passed and I have a homosexual who is a tenant, then I become a criminal, so it is better I throw you out now before the law is passed”.

Pepe, a transgender advocate for SMUg, agrees:

Kampala is one of the places that is known for mob injustice – anything can happen. You can move on the street and someone can say “Look, the homosexual is doing something” – just that word alone is going to draw attention and something can happen so that we live in fear of all the time.

SheilaMore compelling is this recounting of a case of “curative rape,” a common threat against lesbians throughout Africa.

SHEILA MUGISHA: At the age of 12 I had a friend at home – and actually these things are done by friends. I had always told him my stories, my secrets, my encounters in bed. So, he would tell me, “You know what? I want to teach you how to play with boys, not with girls.” He put his leg here, and here, and then he got into my body, into my vagina, and I screamed because I’d never had any sex, I’d never known, you know, any of those practices. “So, from now, you are going to learn how to play with boys.”

As a result of the rape, Sheila became pregnant at the age of 12. Her family took her to have the child aborted but the effects of the rape continued.

SHEILA MUGISHA: I went to a certain AIDS information centre in Mengo with a friend – I took a test – and it was positive.

Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba ButuroSheila has been living with HIV for almost twenty years. When the reporter told Minister for Ethics and Integrity James Nsaba Buturo about Shiela, the cabinet minister who has been one of the anti-gay bill’s staunchest supporters said that the entire story is a lie:

I have never heard of that, actually. But they lie a lot. Lies. They use that as a major tool because you see that’s the only way they garner sympathy from all over the world. Now the idea that in Uganda we have plans to kill gays you know, that the bill of Honourable Bahati is intended to kill homosexuals – that is the view that the entire world has got, yet it is not the case.

Stanley NdualaBut what has to be the most interesting element of the documentary for me is that for the first time we get to hear from Stanley Nduala, who writes for the notorious tabloid Red Pepper. He has been in the forefront of that tabloid’s outing campaigns. Apparently, making life miserable for LGBT people pays very well in Uganda; we see Nduala driving around Kampala in a late model Mercedes. Incredibly, he claimed that he, too, would fall under the bill’s provisions against “promoting” homosexuality:

STANLEY NDUALA, JOURNALIST ‘RED PEPPER’: For them, they believe that anything you write about homosexuality is promotion. So they think that I’m working with the activists to promote homosexuality in Uganda. So it is quite strict.

Far from promoting homosexuality, ‘The Red Pepper’ goes so far as to out homosexuals in its most popular section. No-one is spared.

FRANK MUGISHA: I know very many people who were outed in that tabloid who lost their jobs, who lost their families, who lost friends. I know people who were even bashed, I know people who were beaten. I know people who were harassed because they were outed in ‘The Red Pepper’.

REPORTER: Do you feel that you are persecuting a minority?

STANLEY NDUALA: I don’t know why they believe like that. We are just being journalists – True journalists.

Stanley tells me that the reason for such interest is that no crime is as hated as homosexuality here.

STANLEY NDUALA: When you commit homosexuality, they think all these other things, like rape, what, are just minor. If you have done that one, you could do everything.

REPORTER: So here in Uganda, being a rapist is minor compared to being a homosexual?

STANLEY NDUALA: Yes, to the public eye

Lawyer Lad Rekefuzi confirms that rapists and murderers fare better in Uganda’s courts than do gay people.

Also making a brief appearance is retired Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a brave man who I had the distinct pleasure of meeting last May in Southern California. This documentary is a great addition to the body of work being done all over the world to call attention to the deplorable treatment of LGBT people in Uganda.

Vanity Fair: Uganda Parliament To Discuss Anti-Gay Bill This Week

Jim Burroway

June 29th, 2010

Alexis Okeowo at Vanity Fair discloses:

Though widespread international criticism, especially from the United States, derailed the bill in its original form and forced Uganda to drop its death-penalty provision, parliament is set to discreetly pass amendments that would prevent all residents and local and international non-profit organizations from “promoting,” advocating, or associating any of their activities with homosexuality.

The punishment would effectively end all health and sexuality programs geared towards gays and lesbians, allow the government to round up and punish activists at will, and make it essentially illegal for gays to exist.

“I don’t think it’s going to be withdrawn, I don’t think it’s going to stay on the shelves, I think it’s going to pass,” [LGBT Advocate Frank] Mugisha tells me bluntly and calmly as he sips from his soda at an open-air bar in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. “We know now that they’re working on something new—they want to water the bill down and raise it again in a new form.” The bill’s most controversial elements—those criminalizing sexual practices or an H.I.V./AIDS diagnosis—are being scrapped to deflect the attention of critics so that the rest of the bill can pass. Parliament, which opened in early June, will be discussing the measure this week.

This appears to confirm earlier reports suggesting that Uganda’s political leaders will try to pass portions of the draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill quietly and in piecemeal form so as to escape notice from critics. One report indicated that the Cabinet subcommittee tasked with examining the bill observed that Clause 13, the section outlawing “promotion of homosexuality” had “some merit.” It is this provision that health care workers point to as potentially criminalizing providing health services to LGBT people.

The fact that Parliament is expected to take up the measure again this week suggests that, despite the Cabinet’s recommendations, the bill has experienced a new lease on life. Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, recently wrote that the bill’s sponsor, David Bahati, along with his assistant, Pastor Julius Oyet, were “ecstatic at what they perceived as [American pastor Lou] Engle’s strong support of the bill.” Their ecstasy was stoked by Engle’s rally in Kampala held on May 2. Engle is on record as supporting criminalization of homosexuality, along with measures “to not allow it to be legalized, so to speak, so then it just spreads through the legal system of the nation.”

Ugandan LGBT Activist To Tour Eastern US

Jim Burroway

March 18th, 2010

I just received this announcement from the good folks at Political Research Associates. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to attend any of these events. But if you are anywhere near these venues, I strongly urge that you go and listen to Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorities Uganda to talk about the connection between U.S. conservative religious forces and increased harassment of LGBT people in Uganda.


Frank Musgisha, Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) spokesperson, will appear at several public events in New York City, Boston, and Washington, D.C. this month to explain the connection between U.S. conservative religious forces and increased harassment of LGBT people in Uganda .

Mr. Mugisha is visiting the United States to publicize the crisis in LGBT human rights in Uganda. Conservative religious leaders from the United States have targeted African nations such as Uganda, Kenya, and Nigeria as anti-gay arenas where they can encourage support of homophobic sentiment at home. African LGBT people have suffered discrimination in the form of “collateral damage” from these campaigns. While it is already illegal to be a homosexual in Uganda, pending legislation would make it punishable even to know an LGBT person and not to report them to the authorities.

Mr. Mugisha was among the first gay Ugandans to come out in order to challenge the myth that homosexuals do not exist in Uganda. The law that prohibits homosexuality in Uganda has successfully keeping LGBT people in the closet. He is among those whose names were printed in the Ugandan media, after which he lost jobs, friends and family. He has faced hostility, threats, arrests, intimidation, and discrimination for his fight for the recognition of gay rights in Uganda. Mr. Mugisha has worked internationally with religious leaders, NGOs, and diplomatic missions to stop the latest anti-homosexuality bill and is a moving speaker on international human rights.

He will be accompanied by Rev. Dr. Kapya Kaoma, author of the recent report published by Political Research Associates, Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches , and Homophobia. Rev. Kaoma attended the infamous anti-gay conference in Uganda in March 2009, collecting video footage undercover. He has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show, been cited in media such as the New York Times, Time, and Newsweek, and he has testified before Congress and the UN on how US evangelicals are exporting homophobia to Africa.

Frank Mugisha appearances:

March 22; 6-7:30 pm
Astraea Foundation
116 East 16th St.
New York, NY 10003
(212) 529-8021

March 23; 7-9 pm
The Riverside Church
490 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10027
(212) 870-6700

March 26; 7-9 pm
Harvard Epworth UMC Church
1555 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 354-0837

March 27; 12-2 pm
Cathedral Church of St. Paul
138 Tremont St.
Boston, MA 02111
(617) 482-5800

March 30; 7-9 pm
Foundry UMC Church
1500 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
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