High profile leaders of Uganda’s churches have dedicated their New Year’s messages to calling on the Ugandan parliament to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill while reports say police may be arresting people under charges that anticipate MPs passing the Kill the Gays legislation.
The bill, widely tipped to pass by the end of 2012 by Uganda’s own lawmakers but which stalled due to talks on other legislation, was featured in several New Year messages from Evangelical and Catholic leaders alike at the seventh annual National Prayer Day and Night at Nakivubo Stadium, where tens of thousands of people had gathered, as well as in wider calls made in religious buildings throughout Uganda.
According to the Daily Monitor, Bishop David Kiganda, the leader of Christianity Focus Ministries (CFM) and overseer of Bornagain Churches, said, “We ask Members of Parliament to stop wasting time debating the Bill but simply pass it to save school-going children, who are at risk of being recruited. Our leaders should desist from any act that would frustrate this proposed law because it has delayed.”
The leader of the so-called Born Again Federation of Uganda, Dr. Joseph Sserwadda, is also quoted as saying there is an urgent need for the bill and that when lawmakers reconvene in February the legislation should be their top priority.
The Bishop of Mbale, Rt Rev. Patrick Gimadu decried homosexuality among other issues like corruption, child sacrifice and recent murders.
This comes as a well known Ugandan LGBT rights advocate was arrested for supposedly recruiting minors into homosexuality.
Kaweesi Joseph, one among the founders of the Ugandan LGBT advocacy group Youth on Rock Foundation, was arrested on December 30. Police have said this is due to “acts of homosexuality and recruiting juveniles.”
This is especially worrying as, under current laws, there seems little to no provision for charging Jospeh on “recruitment” grounds, leading many commentators, including prominent civil rights attorney and journalist Melanie Nathan, to term this a preemptive strike in anticipation of provisions in the Kill the Gays bill.
“Although there is an existing law which people can be charged under for “carnal knowledge or defilement,” there is currently no law that speaks to the so called “recruitment” of homosexuals,” writes Nathan in a blog post. ”While we all know such is impossible to do, the Ugandan AHB seeks to make the misnomer a crime.”
Nathan goes on to say a competent jury would be expected throw out the charges given they have such little grounding–that is, until the Kill the Gays bill passes.
While calls to strip the legislation of its death penalty provision have at least been heard among some of Uganda’s lawmakers, with a (yet to be adopted) committee report recommending the death penalty be dropped, the legislation even without its death penalty clause is extraordinarily corrosive to human rights and not just for gay people but all in the country who risk being victims of the bill’s ill formed definitions of what constitutes a crime.
For instance, and as noted above, “attempted homosexuality” is a possible provision in the bill, yet how one would define such an offense is entirely unclear and seems a license for abuse and victimization.
There is at least one small good to come from recent events in Uganda, that being news the case against British theater producer David Cecil, who faced charges for daring to include a gay character in a play, has been thrown out by a Ugandan court, with the BBC reporting that the court found a ”lack of will or a lack of evidence” to try him.
Cecil was arrested in September for supposedly “disobeying lawful orders” by staging The River and the Mountain without authorization.
Image credit: Thinkstock