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A travesty of justice: Uganda's parliament passes life imprisonment for LGBT people

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Uganda has passed its draconian anti-LGBT law that has been under consideration since 2009. The law does not include the death penalty provision it once did, but rather imprisons LGBT people for life. US anti-LGBT activists, like Scott Lively and Lou Engle, have been pushing Ugandan lawmakers to pass such a law since 2009.

"Uganda's anti-LGBT law specifically targets LGBT people with brutal persecution and is one of the worst human rights violations of our time." said Ross Murray, GLAAD's Director of News. "The Family Research Council, Tony Perkins, Scott Lively, and Lou Engle in our own country created this travesty of justice, and it is now up to fair-minded Americans to speak out for the very lives of LGBT people in Uganda."

According to Buzzfeed, the law was quickly and quetly passed. It was not on the agenda for the day, and many were not expecting it, including the president's representative. However, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who has been pushing the bill, quickly introduced the law to the floor, where it passed.

An anti-LGBT law got the most media attention when it was first introduced in 2009. Since then, mainstream media attention has waned. Last year, at about this time, Speaker Kadaga threatened to pass the bill as a "Christmas gift" for the Ugandan people. GLAAD pitched the story to mainstream media with little interest or response. One outlet said, "we covered that story and probably won't until something happens" -- meaning: until the bill passes.

For the past year, international LGBT stories have focused on the anti-LGBT laws and actions in Russia. Russia is hosting the Winter Olympic Games in February, which is bringing attention and scrutiny to the country's human rights abuses, particularly for the LGBT community.

The law was championed by US-based anti-LGBT activists. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Center previously said the Uganda bill simply "upholds moral conduct" (back when the death penalty was still attached). Scott Lively is currently facing a lawsuit brought by LGBT Ugandans, who have charged him with inciting violence against them.

The efforts to bring attention to LGBT people in Uganda has been picked up by documentary filmmakers. Two films have been circulating this year, one of them, Call Me Kuchu, followed the slain Ugandan LGBT advocate David Kato. The film has won both the Teddy Award for Best Documentary and the Cinema Fairbindet Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. 

The other film, God Loves Uganda, by Academy Award-winning filmmaker, Roger Ross Williams, highlights the U.S. roots of the bill. He interviews anti-gay activist Lou Engle, whose International House of Prayer has launched missionaries to go home to home in order to sell a version of Christianity that persecutes LGBT people, as well as Scott Lively. God Loves Uganda has made the short list of potential nominees for the Best Documentary Oscar/Academy Award for Best Oscar. Roger Ros Williams has engaged with faith leaders who were attempting to prevent the bill, and the ensuing violence, from passing.

Frank Mugisha of Sexual Minorites Uganda (SMUG), has released a statement concerning the newly passed law:

SMUG calls upon; the President of the Republic of Uganda H.E Gen. Yoweri K. Museveni not to sign this bill into law so as to prevent its dire effects on human rights work and HIV/AIDS progress in Uganda. We also call upon the entire international community to remind Uganda of its international treaty obligations and to join hands against the Anti Homosexuality Bill. SMUG remains committed to pursue all possible lawful means to challenge the existence of such an intrusive law on Uganda's Statute books, and to defend the fundamental human rights of sexual and gender minorities in Uganda. 

GLAAD supports SMUG and is also calling on US-based media to bring attention to Uganda's anti-LGBT law. We are pitching experts who have worked with LGBT Ugandans as spokespeople to describe the situation. This is a story that should no longer be ignored.

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