Kizza Besigye, Yoweri Museveni’s challenger in this year’s Ugandan presidential race, suggested Monday that he favors decriminalizing homosexuality, commenting that resources could be better placed instead of prosecuting what consenting citizens do in the privacy of their own homes.
From IC Publications:
“This is something that is done in the privacy of people’s rooms, between consenting adults,” said Kizza Besigye, who is challenging President Yoweri Museveni for the third time in a vote slated for February 18.
Besigye, who noted he was speaking individually and not on behalf of the four-party opposition grouping he leads, said the so-called homosexuality issue has “generated far too much excitement” among current government leaders.
Resources the police devote to investigating homosexuality “could be better spent elsewhere,” he added, during the recording of a town-hall style dialogue to be aired later on Ugandan television.
While hardly a glowing defense of gay rights, this is a marked change from the current president’s often hard-line opposition to homosexuality in a country which not only criminalizes gay and lesbian identity, but often openly vilifies it.
It is unlikely that Besigye’s position will lead to legislative action decriminalizing homosexuality should he be the victor in this year’s presidential election, yet, while outright advocacy is untenable, what may be more likely is Besigye’s party opposing a move to further expand Uganda’s anti-homosexuality laws.
Unfortunately this may be needed given that the author of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, David Bahati, has vowed to revive the legislation and do “whatever it takes” to see the bill pass.
The legislation, which under certain circumstances would mean the death penalty for gay and lesbian Ugandans, became a politically costly effort in 2009 when several world leaders condemned the move to aggressively and egregiously pursue gay and lesbian Ugandans in such a way that would have even seen family members of gay citizens imprisoned if they did not denounce their kin.
It was speculated that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill had been tabled, never to be taken up again. Not so, reports Dr. Warren Throckmorton who has closely monitored the legislation and has directly approached Uganda’s legislators to find out the status of the bill.
On Monday, Throckmorton wrote:
Today, Mr. Tashobya [member of the committee overseeing the bill] told me that nothing had changed regarding the time table for considering the bill. He said the Parliament will reconvene very soon after the February 18 elections and consider the remaining bills, including the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Jeff Sharlet reported a conversation with [David] Bahati on the matter. CNN interviewed David Bahati who said clearly that the bill would be considered. In November, Bahati told me that the bill would be considered before the Parliament ended in May. He confirmed that again to Rachel Maddow in December when he was in the US. Finally, Stephen Tashobya, the chair of the Ugandan committee which has jurisdiction over the bill, told me that the Anti-Homosexuality would be considered after the nation holds elections in February. Today, he said nothing has changed.
The bill has yet to be debated before parliament and last year the Ugandan president asked legislators to “go slow” on the bill because the legislation had received so much attention and had become an issue of foreign relations.
Whether there is enough support to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill remains to be seen, but clearly Kizza Besigye’s personal opposition to the prosecution of homosexuality is an interesting and perhaps important detail given that the threat of the bill lingers on.