Homosexuality is inconsistent with African values – it threatens children, endangers society and destroys the family. This is what we were told back in 2009 by the MP David Bahati – the author of the Anti-Homosexuality Act. It’s what we continue to be told by many prominent Ugandan lawmakers and religious leaders as a new wave of LGBTI persecution spreads throughout Uganda.
Indeed, following the introduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Act, sexual minorities inside and outside of Uganda have been subjected to a rollercoaster five-year journey as the Act was signed into law in February of this year; for it to be later invalidated and deemed illegal by a Ugandan court in August. Disappointingly though, the court did not nullify it on the grounds that the law is discriminatory and immoral; rather, it was invalidated because the law was passed during a parliamentary session that lacked a quorum – a quorum being the minimum amount of parliamentary members necessary to pass a law legally.
‘A technicality’ is how the Ugandan anti-gay lobby described the court’s decision to throw out the law; and in a sense – they’re completely accurate. By pointing to the fact that not enough parliamentary members were present to legally pass the law, the court missed the perfect opportunity to help resolve the issue of LGBTI persecution. The court should have pointed to the wickedness of denying people their human rights; instead, they chose to postpone the debate until another day.
And that day has now come.
The Prohibition of the Promotion of Unnatural Sexual Practices Bill, 2014 is said to be the Anti-Homosexuality Act under a new name. A recently leaked draft of the proposed Bill reveals that there is very little difference between the former and the latter. ‘Exhibiting unnatural sexual practices’, ‘promoting unnatural sexual practices’, and ‘consent (is) not a defence’, are but some of the clauses that feature in the leaked draft.
So what now for LGBTI Ugandans living inside and outside of Uganda? Well, simply put, their fate remains balanced on the edge of a knife. Violent hate crime, arbitrary arrests, forced evictions, joblessness, extortion and harassment have dramatically increased throughout the country – with scores of Ugandans fleeing their homes and seeking asylum in neighbouring states as a direct consequence of David Bahati’s Private Members Bill, five years ago.
Current Ugandan law still criminalises homosexuality, which means that those found guilty of disregarding the ‘order of nature’ by partaking in a consensual same-sex relationship will be arrested and charged.
Now, with the anticipated introduction of a new Bill, Ugandan sexual minorities face a new battle – another wave of discrimination and persecution will almost certainly befall the LGBTI community.
Thankfully however, we have the benefit of hindsight. We now understand how the Ugandan anti-gay movement uses humiliation and intimidation to push their agenda forward – we know their tactics.
But more significantly, we now understand that the Ugandan anti-gay lobby has inadvertently galvanised a very strong LGBTI rights movement throughout the country. An increase in international funding, coupled with a great deal of media attention and individual support worldwide has placed Ugandan LGBTI rights organisations in a position of strength and influence.
We who believe in human rights and equality now have a responsibility to support our allies in Uganda. With a new anti-gay Bill around the corner, we need to reignite our campaigning and fundraising efforts. We need to be asking our governments what they are doing about this state-led homophobia. But most importantly, we must never forget to voice our condemnation of LGBTI persecution, no matter where it can be found. Spreading information is activism.
– let us remember that.