The work of Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, a retired Anglican Bishop from the Diocese of Western Uganda, has become increasingly vital over time, heightened by the intensifying persecution of homosexuals in his country. Taking the courageous step of ministering to LGBT people in his country, the Bishop is calling on America to “stop exporting hatred” as he continues to advocate for the global decriminalization of homosexuality.
It is a well known fact that Christian Evangelicals from the United States of America have planned, funded and implemented a direct attack on homosexuality in Uganda, citing biblical interpretation and transporting myth and lies to a country plagued by poverty and seasoned for ‘scapegoating.’
Homosexuality is currently considered by most Ugandans to be criminal under current legislation. Section 140 of the Ugandan penal code criminalizes “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”. However, homosexuality is not explicitly mentioned in the Act, leaving room for judicial interpretation.
David Bahati, an ambitious young member of parliament, is seeking to close this legislative gap. After meetings with U.S. backers and receiving encouragement from Uganda’s first lady, the Anti-homosexuality Bill, (AHB) otherwise known as “The Kill the Gays Bill,” was born. The AHB takes existing legislation much further by mandating harsh sentences such as death and life imprisonment. It also provides for the arrest of those who fail to report people whom they know to be homosexual.
Currently the AHB is languishing in uncertainty, causing a conundrum, not only amongst the LGBT community and concerned activists, but within the Ugandan government itself.
In an explosive new Wikileak report out today by Paul Canning of LGBT Asylum News, it is confirmed that the Bahati Bill has the support of the wife of President Museveni: “According to a newly released US diplomatic cable, the wife of the President of Uganda, Janet Musceveni, “is ultimately behind” the Anti-Homosexuality (AHB, ‘Kill gays’) Bill. It is signed by the US Ambassador to Uganda, Jerry Lanier.
It quotes a 2009 private conversation with Senior Presidential Adviser John Nagenda, who had just published a column in The New Vision newspaper comparing the AHB to McCarthyism and the Inquisition. He told an Embassy Political Officer:
“President Museveni is “quite intemperate” when it comes to homosexuality, but that the President will likely recognize the dangers of passing the anti-homosexuality legislation. He said First Lady Janet Museveni, who he described as a “very extreme woman”, is ultimately behind the bill.”
“He added that the bill’s most vociferous public supporter, Ethics and Integrity Minister Nsaba Buturo, is a “very bad guy” responsible for a campaign of mass arrests – known by the Swahili term ‘panda gari’ – during the early 1980s under the Obote II regime while serving as Kampala’s District Commissioner. Nagenda said Buturo is using the anti-homosexuality legislation to redefine himself and “will do anything in his power to be a populist.” He advised the U.S. and other donors to refrain from publicly condemning the bill as it fuels the anti-homosexual and anti-western rhetoric of the bill’s proponents.”
Since the introduction of the AHB, the anti-gay sentiment in Uganda has increased dramatically, and the LGBT community has suffered greatly with targeted attacks such as the murder of gay activist David Kato. Street justice is not uncommon; gays and lesbians have been subject to arrest and torture. As Bishop Christopher notes in the video interview by GAY U.S.A. the Movie, “The Christian right from here (the USA) has caused a lot of these repercussions, these problems, and we wish that people from America should not export hatred. Christian religion is based on love and compassion,”
Early in his advocacy the Bishop attained the support of Bishop Desmond Tutu. Now the Bishop has also reached out (in an open letter) to the Archbishop of Canterbury in the United Kingdom:-
“As human beings, we must respect our differences and be united in our call for listening and sharing with each other. To understand God, we are all called to understand the mystery of each other, including our sexualities. God has given us this gift and to defame, condemn, imprison and kill human beings because of their God-given nature, is a great human error.”
The Bishop asserts that if the AHB passes: “It would be dangerous, and that is why we appeal to people (like) in the United States; (that) maybe doors will have to be opened, for many people that will all be seeking asylum.”
We cannot allow the uncertainty of the Anti-homosexuality Bill’s status to divert advocacy from the fact that homosexuality is already criminal in Uganda. The fate of the AHB should not derogate from the imperative focus on this “elephant in the room.” The current interpretation of the law encourages persecution of gays, lesbians and transgender people in Uganda. LGBT persons in Uganda will continue to live in these lethal circumstances until homosexuality is decriminalized.
The absolute decriminalization of homosexuality is the only way the AHB can be eradicated forever. In the name of human rights for all, religious and political leaders around the world must heed the current danger. A strategic educational and advocacy campaign is the only way to counter what Bishop Christopher describes as “misinformation and a lack of education.” This can only be accomplished through a collaborative effort between the groups which represent sexual minorities in Uganda, international activists, faith based leadership and the support of governments around the globe.GAY U.S.A. the Movie and Blog, 2011-09 © All Rights reserved.
Written by Melanie Nathan
Publisher: GAY U.S.A. Blog
Video & Photo by Kristina Lapinski
Producer: GAY U.S.A. the Movie
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Note: Chief Justice Willy Mutunga has advised lobby groups to debate gay rights arguing that they are human rights. Mutunga was speaking in Uganda yesterday when he launched a FIDA office in Kampala. “The other frontier of marginalisation is the gay right movement. Gay rights are human rights. Here am simply confining my statement in the context of human rights and social justice paradigm and avoiding the controversies that exist in our constitutions and various legislation,” said Mutunga. “We have succeeded in demanding our rights of movement and association although we cannot take them for granted. We should see less of the workshopping in hotels, less of flip charts and tooth picks as we move to the country sides and make sure our people own and protect the human rights and social justice messages,” Mutunga said.