UGANDA’S notorious anti-gay bill will be passed before the end of 2012 despite international criticism of the draft legislation, the speaker of the country's parliament said this week, insisting it is what most Ugandans want.
Speaker Rebecca Kadaga said that the bill, which originally mandated death for some gay acts, will become law this year.
Ugandans "are demanding it," she said, reiterating a promise she made before a meeting on Friday of anti-gay activists who spoke of "the serious threat" posed by homosexuals to Uganda's children. Some Christian clerics at the meeting in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, asked the speaker to pass the law as "a Christmas gift”.
Anti-gay activists said in a petition:
Speaker, we cannot sit back while such (a) destructive phenomenon is taking place in our nation. We therefore, as responsible citizens, feel duty-bound to bring this matter to your attention as the leader of Parliament ... so that lawmakers can do something to quickly address the deteriorating situation in our nation.
The bigots paraded in front of Kadaga, with parents and schoolchildren holding up signs saying homosexuality is "an abomination." The speaker then promised to consider the bill within two weeks, declaring that:
The power is in our hands. Who are we not to do what they have told us? These people should not be begging us.
Uganda's penal code criminalizes homosexuality, but in 2009 a lawmaker with the ruling party said a stronger law was needed to protect Uganda's children from homosexuals.
Parliamentarian David Bahati, a Christian fundamentalist with strong connections to the religious right in the US, charged at the time that wealthy homosexuals from the West were “recruiting" poor children into gay lifestyles with promises of money and a better life. Bahati believes his bill is sufficiently popular among lawmakers to pass without difficulty.
Gay rights activists in Uganda, while opposing the bill, point out that it has helped their fight for equality by putting what used to be a taboo subject on the national agenda.
Pepe Julian Onziema, a prominent Ugandan gay activist, said the new push to pass the law was frustrating:
It's disappointing, but we are also going to seek a meeting with the speaker.
Onziema added that it was unlikely the speaker would agree to such a meeting.
While the bill appears to be popular in Uganda, it has attracted widespread criticism abroad. President Barack Obama has described it as "odious," while some European countries have threatened to cut aid to Uganda if the bill becomes law.
Meanwhile, Nigeria has reportedly passed a second reading of a bill to further criminalise same-sex relationships.
According to Nigeria’s Punch newspaper, the proposed legislation, which has already been endorsed by the parliament’s Senate, now awaits the approval of the Committee of the Whole House.
Same-sex relations are already illegal in Nigeria and the new law would mean gay couples entering into either marriage or cohabitation would face jail terms of up to 14 years.
Those “witnessing” or “abetting” such relationships would also face custodial sentences, and groups that advocate for LGBT rights could also be penalised.
The Prohibition of Same-Sex Marriage Bill passed through the Senate – Nigeria’s highest chamber – in December 2011.
Olamiekan Ayelokun had argued that he could not return to Nigeria because he was at risk of homophobic persecution.