Uganda’s Now Accepting of Gays? The Facts Say Different


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.

The AP reports:

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.

The full statement was actually the following (and was partially cribbed from earlier responses), emphasis mine:

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.

Reports Reuters:

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.


Related Reading:

Ugandan LGBT Rights Activist Now Allowed UK Entry

Suspicious Burglary at Ugandan Gay Rights Organization

Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” Bill Set to Return

Photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution License, with thanks to US Army Africa


Roger M.
Past Member 5 years ago

Thanks for the update.

Alan G.
Alan G5 years ago

I would think that there are much bigger concerns for the government of Uganda that the risk of gays "recruiting" people, what with a corruption ration of 2.4 from Transparency International, with 37.7 percent of the population living on less than $1.25 a day, with widespread illiteracy, etc.

Rebecca S.
Rebecca S5 years ago

yeah no, not really.

Christine Stewart
Christine S5 years ago

Gays are not a danger to one's country or religion or mental health or whatever the bigots might believe. let's focus on murderers, rapists, child abusers, and other miscreants that are the danger to the rest of us...

Carl Oerke
Carl O5 years ago

Uganda the country that brought you Idi Amin Dada is back with even more craziness. Uganda now accepts gays. For target practice? They are free to assemble preferably in front of thick brick walls that will stop the bullets of the firing squads. Why do I get the impression that the Ugandan Ethics Minister is less than sincere?

Kasia Y.
Kasia Y.5 years ago

There should be international trade sanctions against Uganda until the current government can be liquidated and replaced with a progressive democracy. This sort of conservative agenda must not be tolerated.

Jen Matheson
Past Member 5 years ago

Sounds like they're just claiming LGBT people have rights in african and yet nothing much has changed.

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

The Christian Right has influenced a newspaper in Uganda to show PHOTOS of men it says are Evil and Gay and must be destroyed -- no great surprise when these men are found later murdered! And, the Christians are using this same so-successful technique now in other countries in Africa, such as Kenya. There are always crazy murderers around to be set off by such hate propaganda!

The Christian Right has its OWN version of History, as well as its OWN version of Biology -- BOTH with NO credibility in Fact or in Science. But BECAUSE it comes from "trusted" "religious" sources -- people BELIEVE it. Then they CLOSE THEIR MINDS TO FURTHER INFORMATION.
Moral: "Trusted" religious sources are BALONEY. Look outside religious persuasions for the FACTS.

It is not a valid point of discussion, to say "that is not important". The Ugandan parliament, as well as American Christian Evangelical groups, spending so MUCH time on this, makes it important to THEM. I wish the Christian Evangelical groups spent the time, instead, on feeding starving children! But, if they'd rather spend their time making the lives of Gay people everywhere a living Hell, I, and others, are going to spend OUR time, EXPOSING THEM for the EVIL Corrupt Hypocrites that they really are!

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

The map of Africa was of course drawn by the Colonial conquerors and slave-traders. Ignoring most traditional boundaries. Many parts of Africa were KINGDOMS, ruled by Kings {and occasionally by Queens}. They weren't necessarily as "primitive" as we have been led to think. {Unfortunately, many of these African Kings made wars and sold their war prisoners to slave traders.... it wasn't a wonderful enlightened paradise before the Europeans came, by any means!}
The present Ugandan government makes the absurd claim that homosexuality is a European import, to be gotten rid of in the name of "nationalism"! The present government does NOT go back to "traditions of hating gays", if such was indeed the case; because the present Ugandan govt says that Gay people are brainwashed by European culture, they never existed before! In other words, it is a "lifestyle" and a "choice"; and a decadent one!
It is IRONIC in the extreme, that GAY HATRED is the European import here!
I would believe the UGANDAN GAY ACTIVISTS that document this from their own country's historical records!
And I would believe a Gay man from America who went to Uganda and found that obviously "Gay" and "effeminate" men {in cities} went about with generally less notice there than they do here! Extreme Homophobia is NOT a part of ordinary street culture there!
The Christian Right has influenced a newspaper in Uganda to show PHOTOS of men it says are

BMutiny TCorporationsAreE

My information on Gay people in Uganda, comes from articles {several} in Seattle Gay News.

The information on Ugandans generally being unconcerned about Gay people, unless whipped up by hysteria imported from outside by Christians, comes from an article by a Gay man who was actually in Uganda, and went to bars there that were frequented by Gay people. He stated, in fact, that Ugandan people scarcely noted the difference! or words to that effect.
The article on the historicity of colonialists introducing the first laws against Gay people, comes from an article published recently in a Ugandan newspaper. I would cite that article, but, damn, I have misplaced it! I will just go get another newspaper {Seattle Gay News} if I can. The article mentioned that parts of Uganda were ruled by kings, who had harems of men as well as women. Also mentioned Dahomey, and other African kingdoms.
I am not claiming that ALL the backwards things about Uganda, came from the Colonialists!
Africa is a CONTINENT, and I am sure different tribes -- and Kingdoms -- had different customs. In MOST of the world, LGBT people had a place, often an honored one, in Society. That is not to say they were all the same.
Gay Activists in Uganda, seem to think it is possible to reverse the trend started by the American Evangelical Christians in their country! I certainly wish them success!