The Ugandan government reportedly issued a statement Friday saying that it doesn’t discriminate against gays and that they are free to assemble whenever they like, with the AP reporting this as a marked climb down from the acutely hostile legislators–except it’s nothing of the sort.
Responding to growing international criticism of anti-gay efforts in Uganda, the government said in a statement Friday that it does not discriminate against people “of a different sexual orientation.”
“No government official is (supposed) to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others,” the statement said.
It was signed by Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo, the official accused by gay activists of orchestrating a hate campaign that includes breaking up gay conferences and threatening to expel civil society groups he says promote homosexuality in the conservative east African country.
This inaccurately portrays the statement because it misses out several key parts.
Uganda has come under criticism for intervening in a gay activists’ meeting that was taking place at a Hotel in a city suburb early this week. Police intervened in the meeting that was suspected to be promoting gay activities and questioned the participants who were later released.
The Government would like to state that much as promoting gay activities is illegal according to Section 145 of the Penal code Act, Uganda does not segregate against people of a different sexual orientation.
No government official is bent to harass any section of the community and everybody in Uganda enjoys the freedom to lawfully assemble and associate freely with others.
Cultural attitudes in Africa are very different to elsewhere in the world, 2/3 of African countries outlaw homosexual activity and 80% of East African countries criminalize it. Whilst at a global level more than 80 countries outlaw homosexual acts.
The government would like to encourage all Ugandans to be vigilant and stay away from unlawful activities that would get them in trouble with the law.
Rev.Fr. Simon Lokodo
Minister of Ethics and Integrity
Gays are free to assemble, the statement says, so long as they abide by Section 145 of the Penal Code.
Except, and as noted above, in just this past week a gay rights conference was raided by police, which Amnesty International said in a statement was an “arbitrary and an illegitimate infringement on freedom of association and assembly.”
So Lokodo must be using Section 145 of the penal code to justify this response–but the code actually only covers offences relating to “carnal knowledge,” a physical act highly unlikely at an LGBT rights conference, but one that nearly exclusively is wielded against the LGBT population. Lokodo is already subject to a court case over his breaking up a gay rights conference in February of this year.
The AP claims that Lokodo was forced to “own” Friday’s statement following him being reprimanded by fellow government ministers for giving unnecessary interviews regarding homosexuality. It bills this as a watering down of the Ugandan administration’s stance against gay rights. This simply doesn’t tally with the facts.
For instance, it was announced on Wednesday that Uganda’s government has moved to ban 38 non-governmental NGOs who it accuses of trying to promote homosexuality.
Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo told Reuters the organizations being targeted were receiving support from abroad for Uganda’s homosexuals and accused gays and lesbians of “recruiting” young children in the country into homosexuality.
“The NGOs are channels through which monies are channeled to (homosexuals) to recruit,” the minister, a former Catholic priest, said.
Once again, this appears to be double-speak from Uganda’s ministers.
Another matter that has to be attended to is that in the same AP article announcing this supposed change, the AP also says with reference to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009:
The bill has since been shelved. Uganda’s president said it hurt the country’s image abroad. The bill has been condemned by some world leaders, with U.S. President Barack Obama describing it as “odious.”
There is no evidence for the assertion that the bill, in its current form, has been “shelved.”
The Eighth Parliament ran out of time on the bill. It was reintroduced in the Ninth. As far as LGBT rights activists are concerned, current word is the bill is still active in the Ninth Parliament’s Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, with its author David Bahati having said that the legislation will be taken up during the next session, which starts next week.
The AP, and other international media, has continually referred to the bill as being “shelved” when this is inaccurate.
So it appears nothing has changed, the Kill the Gays bill is still a threat, and Uganda’s Parliament would seem to be just as hostile as ever, despite claims to the contrary.
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