In a last ditch attempt at rallying support among lawmakers for Uganda’s virulently homophobic and much condemned “Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009″ before the close of Parliament in May, it has emerged that Rev. Martin Ssempa, a high-profiled proponent, recently presented a petition he claims has over 2 million signatures in support of the bill, though the legitimacy of those signatures remains suspect.
The New York Times also reports that, in presenting the petition to Parliament, he brought with him two men he claimed had been cured of their homosexuality and blamed Western influence for lawmakers not yet having taken up the bill:
Mr. Ssempa, reading from the petition, began the meeting by saying he was “distressed” that the bill was being “deliberately killed” by “undemocratic threats” from Western nations, and called the political bullying “homocracy.”
“These young people,” Mr. Ssempa said, pointing toward the two young men, sitting stiffly across from him in front of the speaker, “will share their experiences having been recruited into homosexuality and coming out. And that is why we are here.”
The focus turned to the two men sitting quietly on the other side of the table, Paul Kagaba and George Oundo. Mr. Kagaba, 27, went first.
“For me, I was lured into homosexuality by a headmaster of a primary school, who recently died,” said Mr. Kagaba, speaking of the recently killed Mr. Kato. “He was our neighbor,” Mr. Kagaba said, “and we embraced him.”
Mr. Kagaba said that Mr. Kato offered to pay his school fees, and soon Mr. Kagaba, 17 at the time, moved in. One day, Mr. Kagaba claimed, Mr. Kato bought him chicken and two Guinness beers, and raped him that night. The next morning, Mr. Kagaba says, Mr. Kato gave him $130.
Other gay activists have vouched for Mr. Kato’s innocence, and Mr. Kagaba himself said he became an outspoken gay activist for six years, until his family held an intervention and he met Mr. Ssempa. Now he says he counsels others at the pastor’s One Love clinic in downtown Kampala, where they preach sexual purity and sing a cappella.
One person identifying as trans who at the meeting also voiced support for the bill later renegged and told The New York Times that the slurring of Kato, a prominent LGBT-rights activist who was murdered earlier this year in circumstances that have yet to be properly investigated, is a strategy Ssempa is using to try and show that homosexuals, backed by foreign money, are supposedly recruiting and are an active and present danger to the community. There is also the allegation that Ssempa is in fact paying people, even LGBTs, to support the bill.
The meeting concluded with the parliamentary speaker thanking Ssempa for his views but saying the bill’s chances of being debated and passed were slim given that strong international pressure means lawmakers are skittish about even taking up the legislation. Still, there is just over a month before the close of Parliament and there have been fears that the bill could still be fast tracked for a full floor debate before the end of the session.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality bill of 2009 would, under certain conditions, mean the death penalty for repeat offenders. Other stipulations say that family members of a gay citizen could be arrested for not outing them to police. The legislation would also call for the extradition of gay Ugandans, returning them from abroad to face charges for their homosexuality. The legislation could also effectively exclude LGBTs from the judicial process by making legal defense of LGBTs an act of collusion and therefore punishable by fines and a prison sentence.
At the time of writing, a Care2 petition calling on Ugandan lawmakers to abandon the anti-gay bill has garnered over 8,000 signatures. Thank you to those who have signed the petition. Every voice counts though, so if you haven’t please do consider signing and encouraging others to sign.
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