Uganda shuns foreign aid threats, to pass anti-gay law by year end

by Rachel Ogbu

Christmas could be doom and gloom for same sex couples living in Uganda as a new law against homosexuality is underway and will be passed by the end of 2012.

Ugandan parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga said Ugandans were “demanding” the law. “If homosexuality is a value for the people of Canada they should not seek to force Uganda to embrace it.”

Homosexual acts in Uganda are thoroughly frowned upon with a bill currently in parliament proposes tougher sentences for people convicted.  However a section which calls for the death penalty against people found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” – defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender” – is to be dropped.

The bill, tabled by MP David Bahati, also prohibits the “promotion” of gay rights and calls for the punishment of anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality” or “abets homosexuality”.
Foreign donors have threatened to cut aid if gay rights are not respected.The bill was strongly condemned last year by Western leaders, including US President Barack Obama who described it as “odious”.

Kadaga said she hoped the bill, first tabled in 2009 and now before a parliamentary committee, would be passed by the end of the year, Reuters news agency reports.

“Ugandans want that law as a Christmas gift. They have asked for it and we’ll give them that gift,” Kadaga is quoted as saying.

Last month, Kadaga was involved in a row with Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird over gay rights at a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Quebec. When Bairn warned Uganda not to trample on people’s human rights, Kadaga replied: “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.”

She received a rapturous welcome from several hundred anti-gay activists, including religious leaders, at Uganda’s Entebbe airport when she returned from her trip. In June, Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo said 38 non-governmental organisations which he accused of promoting homosexuality would be banned.

Clare Byarugaba, the co-ordinator of Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, said the group would challenge the law in the constitutional court, Reuters reports.
“The international community supports us and we also believe in the constitution of our country which protects the rights and freedoms of everyone,” she is quoted as saying.

Correspondents say many Ugandans are deeply conservative, and say homosexuality is against their religious and cultural beliefs.


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