Protests Reignite Media Storm Surrounding Anti-Gay Bill in Uganda

By GLAAD |
February 18, 2010

Passions over Uganda’s anti-gay law continue to roil. Reuters reported that a major anti-gay protest in Jinja, Uganda, had to be quelled by police.  At the same time, a largely unpublicized pro-gay Unitarian-Universalist event allowed local Ugandan LGBT people to strategize together under the banner, “Standing on the Side of Love.”

An article in The Huffington Post details the “monstrous implications” of the Ugandan anti-gay bill:

The more controversial provisions of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill would sentence HIV-positive homosexuals to death for their sexual acts, make it illegal to publicly defend LGBT rights, or provide social and medical services to LGBT individuals, and turn Ugandan citizens into anti-homosexual informers…

…LGBT Ugandans endure verbal insults, physical and sexual harassment, arbitrary arrests and torture, and humiliating publicity. They are victims of correctional rape and other sexual abuse, blackmail, and arbitrary detention, and are denied health care, housing, education and other social services on account of their sexual orientation. Since the introduction of this bill in October, 2009, there have been reports of death threats against LGBT individuals and police have raided the offices of some human rights activists.

The Washington Post published a column this week challenging American lawmakers and faith leaders to act now and not be lulled by the passing of time:

In a time of constant calamity and crisis fatigue, proposed legislation in Uganda to execute gays passes through the American consciousness with the impact of a weather report. Corrupt politicians count on the brevity of the American attention span, but certain items demand a tap of the pause button…

... A country where gays are routinely harassed, rounded up and incarcerated doesn't need stoking by American fundamentalists on a mission from God.

With the horrific realities of this proposed law, it is was deeply shocking when Christianity Today reported that Ugandan Anglican bishops support everything but the death penalty or throwing priests and counselors in prison for not turning in gay people.  Family members of gay people would still be required to turn in family members.

Around 35% of Ugandans are Anglican. 42% are Catholic.  Bold individuals like Canon Gideon Byamugisha, a prominent member of Uganda’s Anglican Church, have called the bill “state-legislated genocide.”  The Archbishop of Canterbury, head of the global Anglican Church, opposed the legislation saying, “Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I cannot see how it could be supported by any Anglican….”  More recently, he called the bill “infamous” and “repugnant” but has been very slow to speak.  The Vatican has been mostly silent except for a little publicized statement in December at a United Nations panel—despite the fact that roughly 45% of Ugandan’s are Catholic.

The World Council of Churches published an open letter to President Museveni saying they are “saddened and distressed” by the proposed law.  American World Jewish Service leaders organized an open letter to members of Congress and are emphasizing that people from within Uganda are speaking out and working against this legislation at great risk to themselves.

GLAAD continues to urge mainstream media to shine a light on Uganda’s virulently anti-gay measure and expose the potentially lethal injustices that gay and lesbian Ugandans could face simply by being who they are.

Updates can be found on GLAADblog.org