Monday, December 28, 2009

Speaker Ssekandi gets threats over gay Bill

But the Speaker called for calm, saying the matter was being handled judiciously. Mr Ssekandi’s remarks came shortly after the author of the gay Bill, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, reported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs that his life was in danger.
The Speaker of Parliament Edward Ssekandi has said he has recently been under intense pressure over the anti-homosexuality Bill that proposes severe punishments for same sex relationships.
While speaking to hundreds of Christians on Christmas Day at Lubaga Cathedral, where he represented the government, Mr Sekandi said: “I have received so many communications from abroad threatening and stressing that they shall not give us money if we support the anti-homosexuality Bill.”

But the Speaker called for calm, saying the matter was being handled judiciously. Mr Ssekandi’s remarks came shortly after the author of the gay Bill, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, reported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs that his life was in danger.
Mr Bahati says he now fears for his life following the disappearance of his cousin Emmanuel Mabonga. He said ever since he moved the Private Member’s Bill against homosexuality, he has been receiving death threats. It was not possible to verify his claims.
Mr Bahati’s law, tabled in Parliament on October 14, proposes death or life imprisonment for homosexuals, but it also proposes punishments for those who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities. The Bill is currently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, which is yet to start public hearings.
President Museveni was recently reported to have told US authorities that he would veto the Bill, although his precise stance on the proposed law remains unclear. Several countries like the US, Britain, Canada and international human-rights organisations have described the proposed law as discriminatory, some threatening to withhold development assistance to Uganda if the Bill is passed. President Obama, in a recent statement to a gay publication, said the Bill moves “against the tide of history”.
But Mr Ssekandi, in his Christmas Day speech, explained that MP Bahati’s proposed Bill was not out of order. “In Parliament, any member is free to move a Private Member’s Bill. Since Bahati’s Bill is before the Parliamentary committee, it is going to gather people’s views and report back to the House,” he said.
The Archbishop, Dr Cyprian Lwanga Kizito, had earlier said the Bill was not necessary since there are already other existing laws against homosexuality. But Mr Ssekandi insisted that the committee shall weigh the advantages and disadvantages of the Bill and advise Parliament.
Meanwhile, Archbishop Lwanga advised all Christians to come out and stand for elective positions. “Since next year is one full of campaigns, I call upon all the capable Christians to come out and stand in elective offices. It is your right,” he said as the congregation cheered him.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Bunyoro king supports Anti-gay bill

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill has received widespread condemnation across the world. The major bone of contention is that it prescribes the penalty of death for crimes described as ‘aggravated homosexuality’.
Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, has condemned homosexuality and declared support for the bill against the act.
The Omukama, who was today morning speaking to journalists in Hoima district, the seat of the kingdom, said that homosexuality is immoral and against African traditional norms and should not be allowed to take root in Uganda.
A known critic of colonialism and its influences in Uganda, the Omukama accused countries in the west for introducing homosexuality in Uganda. He said the negativity of colonialism was resurfacing due to the fact that many western countries are trying to impede the approval of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
The bill has received widespread condemnation across the world. The major bone of contention is that it prescribes the penalty of death for crimes described as ‘aggravated homosexuality’.
The Omukama also called on teachers in his kingdom to look out for children in their care by preventing homosexuality. He said that it was often at school that children were likely to learn and adapt homosexuality.
He called on Members of Parliament from his kingdom to fully back the Bill when it is presented to Parliament again.

Gay Bill OK but remove death penalty - clergy

The proposed law against homosexuality is long overdue, Christian leaders have said even as reports indicated that President Museveni was planning to suffocate it.

While delivering their Christmas message in Kampala yesterday, the heads of the Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches under their ecumenical body, Uganda Joint Christian Council, referring to the Bible, said homosexuality is sinful.

Media reports indicated yesterday that President Museveni had allegedly assured American authorities he would block the Anti-homosexuality Bill introduced by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati. The proposed legislation has drawn worldwide opposition.

Kampala Metropolitan Archbishop Jonah Lwanga said: “We support the need for a law that prohibits homosexual practices including same-sex marriage which, we are aware, is prohibited under our Constitution.”
Spare lives

However, the cleric was quick to add: “We do not, as a matter of principle, support the death penalty or other forms of extreme punishment such as life imprisonment as proposed by the Bill.”

Asked to comment on Mr Museveni’s alleged plan to block the law, Archbishop Lwanga said the President “might be having his own reasons”, but added that he still treated the media reports as rumours.

The President has in the past been quoted advising the youth to desist from such practices as homosexuality and yesterday’s reports would make him contradict himself.

“You should discourage your colleagues [involved in homosexuality] because God was not foolish to do the way he arranged...Mr and Mrs, but now you have to say Mr and Mr. What is that now?” the President advised earlier.
Archbishop Lwanga said even “those who find themselves trapped in questionable lifestyles such as gays and lesbians” can be helped through mentoring, counselling and rehabilitation.

Mr Bahati’s Bill proposes, among other punishments, a death sentence for those involved in “aggravated homosexuality” or imprisonment up to seven years.

Several countries including the US, Britain, Canada and several international organisations have expressed dissatisfaction over the Bill, while Sweden has threatened to withdraw aid. At the same conference, Ugandans were advised against leading reckless lives during the festive season.
Check recklessness
“Many people often indulge in reckless lifestyles including drunkenness, fornication and adultery in the name of celebrating Christmas and New Year’s Day! Such forms of celebration constitute a negation of what Christianity is about,” the cleric added.

And as many people continued travelling upcountry, the Archbishop warned: “We deplore the habit of speeding and overtaking vehicles in circumstances that are manifestly dangerous.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Museveni will block anti-gay Bill - report

Mr Museveni has not spoken out in support or against the proposed law, but has recently defended heterosexual relationships.
President Museveni has reportedly assured American authorities that he will veto Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s proposed anti-gay law, a position that breaks with his recent stance and the statements of officials in his government.
The online newspaper DC Agenda reported on December 19 that the Mr Museveni had assured the US State Department of his willingness to block the Bill, which has rattled foreign governments and rights activists.
“Jon Tollefson, a State Department spokesperson, told DC Agenda that Mr Museveni has pledged on several occasions to the top US diplomat engaged in Africa that he would stop progress on the anti-gay bill,” the newspaper reported.
“Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson received this assurance from Museveni on Oct. 24 during an in-person meeting with the president in Uganda and again during a phone conversation with Museveni on Dec. 4, Tollefson said.”

But Mr Museveni’s spokesman, Mr Tamale Mirundi, said yesterday he was not aware the President had spoken to Mr Carson. Without commenting on whether or not the President has changed his position on the matter, Mr Tamale said: “But if it was a discussion between two elders about a serious matter, then it should be kept private.”
Mr Museveni has not spoken out in support or against the proposed law, but has recently defended heterosexual relationships.

Mr Bahati’s Bill, which proposes death or life imprisonment for gay sex, was tabled in Parliament on October 14, but the furore over it became intense several weeks later.
Museveni contacted
According to DC Agenda, Mr Tollefson said when the Bill started gaining international attention, Mr Carson on Dec. 4 contacted Mr Museveni by phone “to reiterate US concerns, and the president again expressed his commitment to stop the Bill from becoming law”.

“So that being said, the assistant secretary is expecting the President to live up to that commitment and … he expects President Museveni to live up to his reputation as a leader in the HIV/AIDS struggle,” Mr Tollefson was quoted as saying.

Mr Bahati has claimed that the Bill is supported by the majority of Ugandans, while Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo yesterday named three civil society organisations allegedly promoting homosexuality activities in Uganda. He said Sexual Minorities Uganda, Integrity Uganda and Gay Uganda had been given $20m to promote the practice.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Parents want Anti-gay Bill enacted

The organisation is on a campaign to restore waning indigenous family values, the Executive Director, Mr Stephen Langa, said, stressing that Ugandans will not trade their integrity and promote “unnatural sex” for cash offers from Western governments.
At least 100 parents, branding themselves protectors of African traditional values, have came out to pressure the government to enact the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and ignore threats by donors to slash aid. “They (donors) can keep their money and we will still survive,” Ms Margaret Ssekidde, a concerned parent told journalists in Kampala at a news conference organised by the Family Life Network on Wednesday.
‘Not natural’
The organisation is on a campaign to restore waning indigenous family values, the Executive Director, Mr Stephen Langa, said, stressing that Ugandans will not trade their integrity and promote “unnatural sex” for cash offers from Western governments.
Separately, Archbishop Luke Orombi, a public critic of homosexuality, has said at that they are drafting specific contributions to the Bill now before Parliament. “I am surprised by the global reaction to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill because it is yet a proposal on table for Ugandans to look at,” the prelate said who was addressing a press conference at Namirembe.
US President Barack Obama said the proposed law, which prescribes death penalty for the most heinous gay-related offences, “goes against the tide of history”. Sweden has indicated that the Bill violates minority rights, adding that it will cut aid to Uganda if the Bill is passed into law.
The State Minister for International Affairs, Mr Oryem-Okello, in an interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday, described as “pre-mature and wrong” the chorus of international criticism based on a Private Member’s Bill.

Government’s anti-gay stand stays

In a statement issued yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said the government does not support the promotion of homosexuality “just like we cannot promote prostitution.”
The government’s position on homosexuality will not change despite growing international opposition to Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s anti-gay Bill, a minister has said. In a statement issued yesterday, Foreign Affairs Minister Sam Kutesa said the government does not support the promotion of homosexuality “just like we cannot promote prostitution.”
“It is a fact that if there are any homosexuals in Uganda, they are a minority. The majority of Africans and indeed Ugandans abhor this practice. It is therefore not correct to allow this minority to provoke the majority by promoting homosexuality,” said Mr Kutesa.
However, the official stance was that the government had not yet reached a position on Bahati’s Private Member’s Bill. Information minister and government spokesperson Kabakumba Masiko could not comment yesterday, saying she was in a meeting. Mr Kutesa’s remarks come hardly a week after US President Barack Obama issued a statement strongly opposing the Bill, that seeks to criminalise homosexuality and prescribes the death penalty in some cases.
Obama’s position
Mr Obama said the legislation “seeks to move against the tide of history”. The Canadian and British governments have also condemned the proposed law while Sweden has threatened to cut assistance. Other people to who have voiced their opposition include US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Anglican Church leader Rowan Williams.
Mr Bahati Bill, currently before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, is yet to start public hearings. The proposed law, if passed in its current shape, would punish those who fail to report homosexuals to the authorities.
Mr Bahati denies being in a hate campaign, saying his goal is “to protect the heterosexual family”. “It is under threat. Anybody who says it is minor underestimates the damage being done,” he said in a recent interview.
Mr Kutesa yesterday said: “I wish to point out that it is Mr Bahati’s democratic right to introduce a private member’s bill and to that extent government cannot be seen to interfere with his rights as an MP. It is inconsistent to promote gay rights and at the same time demand that the right of an MP to legislate be interfered with.” He added: “As to the contents of the Bill, the government is aware that the Uganda Penal Code already provides against homosexuality and it may, therefore, not be necessary to have another law to further criminalise it.” Forum for Democratic Change spokesman Wafula Oguttu described the Bill as a government strategy to bring down the opposition.
Opposition worried
Mr Oguttu said the Bill seeks to promote political interests of the ruling government and not to defend human rights.
Last week, Mr Bahati said he had received threats from anonymous gay sympathisers through calls from unknown people telling him to withdraw the Bill or face the consequences. Solomon Gafabusa Iguru, the Omukama of Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom, has publicly supported the Bill, arguing that the practice is immoral and against African traditional norms.The Omukama, who is a known critic of colonialism, accused the West for introducing homosexuality in Uganda.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Ugandan president committed to blocking anti-gay bill: officials

Posted on 19 December 2009 by Chris Johnson

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U.S. officials have received assurances from the Ugandan president that he would work to block a harshly anti-gay bill from becoming law in his country and would veto the legislation should it come to his desk, according to the State Department.

Jon Tollefson, a State Department spokesperson, told DC Agenda that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has pledged on several occasions to the top U.S. diplomat engaged in Africa that he would stop progress on the anti-gay bill.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson received this assurance from Museveni on Oct. 24 during an in-person meeting with the president in Uganda and again during a phone conversation with Museveni on Dec. 4, Tollefson said.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda, but the anti-gay legislation — a bill sponsored by a member of the president’s party — would, among other things, institute the death penalty for repeat offenders of the homosexual acts ban and those who have homosexual sex while HIV positive.

Additionally, the bill would criminalize the formation of LGBT organizations and the publication or broadcast of pro-gay materials in Uganda.

The legislation is moving forward in the Ugandan parliament, and this week lawmakers were slated to have a second reading of the bill, according to the Times of London. Mark Bromley, chair of the Council for Global Equality, said the bill is expected to come up again in January for a final reading.

Tollefson said during the Oct. 24 meeting that Carson met with Museveni and other high-ranking Ugandan officials to express concern about the legislation and conveyed that its passage would be “a big step backwards in human rights” that “could really have the potential to harm the reputation of Uganda.”

“And the president understood the concerns and said that he would do what he could to make sure the bill was not passed,” Tollefson said. “He would not sign the bill. … He made a commitment to the secretary that he would work to make sure it wasn’t signed into law.”

Tollefson said when the bill started moving forward and gaining international attention, Carson on Dec. 4 contacted Museveni by phone to reiterate U.S. concerns, and the president again expressed his commitment to stop the bill from becoming law.

“So that being said, the assistant secretary is expecting the president to live up to that commitment and … he expects President Museveni to live up to his reputation as a leader in the HIV/AIDS struggle in Africa,” Tollefson said. “It’s a significant human rights issue. I know it also gets in the way of treatment and prevention and education on the HIV/AIDS front.”

Asked whether it’s the understanding of U.S. officials that Museveni would veto the legislation should it come to his desk, Tollefson replied, “Right, that’s a commitment that he’s made. He made that personally to the assistant secretary on that first meeting that he had on Oct. 24 and again on a call on Dec. 4, and so we’re going to continue to expect that.”

Tollefson said the United States wants Museveni to go beyond his private commitment to blocking the bill from becoming law and to make a public statement against the legislation.

“He has not done that, and we’ve asked him to come out and say how — be a leader in this, just as he’s a leader in HIV/AIDS,” Tollefson said.

On Friday at the State Department, Carson briefed non-governmental organizations on the commitment Museveni made to the United States and explained the work U.S. officials have done to prevent the measure from becoming law.

Tollefson said about 20 NGOs were represented at the briefing, including groups focused on African development, LGBT issues and confronting the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Among the groups that were invited to the briefing, which was closed to the public, were the Human Rights Campaign, the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission, Human Rights First and Human Rights Watch.

Bromley was among those in attendance at the briefing. He confirmed for DC Agenda that he was told Carson had received assurances from the Ugandan president that he would work to stop the bill from becoming law.

But Bromley said he isn’t sure whether the president would terminate the bill by vetoing it or via some other method.

“I’m not incredibly sure that veto is the right word because I’m still trying to clarify whether the president actually has the authority to veto under the parliamentary system, but basically he assured Assistant Secretary Carson in October and then again in December that he would keep the bill from going forward,” Bromley said.

Noting that the bill came from a member of the president’s party and his party “dominates the politics” in Uganda, Bromley said pressure from the president would “certainly slow the bill.”

“But Secretary Carson made it clear that on two occasions, President Museveni has said he would stop the bill from going forward and he said that he’s continuing to write to him and sending messages that the U.S. expects him to honor his word,” Bromley said.

Tollefson also detailed work the State Department has done to help block the legislation from going forward and said Carson has made clear to Museveni that — in addition to rejecting the measure — the United States expects full decriminalization of homosexuality in Uganda.

“He made very clear that we will not accept simply the removal of the death penalty or some of the harsher aspects of the law,” Tollefson said. “We expect full decriminalization of sexual acts between adults. There’s no hedging on that.”

Noting that supporters of the legislation in Uganda have been saying religious leaders are in favor of the bill, Tollefson said the State Department has delivered to the country statements from U.S. religious leaders denouncing the legislation. A statement from Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in California, was among the statements from religious leaders sent to Uganda in opposition to the bill. Warren recently spoke out against the bill.

Tollefson said the State Department also believes the legislation could have a detrimental effect on the region around Uganda and noted that movement on anti-gay legislation in Uganda and other countries will be recorded in the State Department’s annual human rights report.

“It won’t just be focused on Uganda, we’re not going to make a lot of effort to remove this from Uganda while remaining silent on neighboring countries that have similar legislation even if they’re already on the books,” he said.

Asked whether restricting funds under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief could be a way to deter Uganda from passing the bill, Tollefson said that question came up during the Friday briefing, but U.S. officials are reluctant to pursue that option.

PEPFAR, a multi-billion dollar initiative started by President George W. Bush, provides treatment for those living with HIV/AIDS in developing countries.

“Public funds to start retroviral treatment is not a one-day commitment, it’s a lifetime commitment, and we haven’t had that discussion and we don’t want to have that discussion,” Tollefson said. “And, of course, no one would want to see that happen, so it’s not something that we want to consider.”

Bromley said he’s impressed with the State Department’s level of commitment to stopping the anti-gay legislation from being passed.

“I’m very pleased that the State Department has been so forceful and is now publicly challenging President Museveni to honor his word and commitment,” Bromley said. “I’m pleased that they are responding as assertively as they are and that they are now doing so in a public fashion.”

Friday, December 18, 2009

Parents want Anti-gay Bill enacted


At least 100 parents, branding themselves protectors of African traditional values, have came out to pressure the government to enact the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and ignore threats by donors to slash aid. “They (donors) can keep their money and we will still survive,” Ms Margaret Ssekidde, a concerned parent told journalists in Kampala at a news conference organised by the Family Life Network on Wednesday.

‘Not natural’
The organisation is on a campaign to restore waning indigenous family values, the Executive Director, Mr Stephen Langa, said, stressing that Ugandans will not trade their integrity and promote “unnatural sex” for cash offers from Western governments.

Separately, Archbishop Luke Orombi, a public critic of homosexuality, has said at that they are drafting specific contributions to the Bill now before Parliament. “I am surprised by the global reaction to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill because it is yet a proposal on table for Ugandans to look at,” the prelate said who was addressing a press conference at Namirembe.

US President Barack Obama said the proposed law, which prescribes death penalty for the most heinous gay-related offences, “goes against the tide of history”. Sweden has indicated that the Bill violates minority rights, adding that it will cut aid to Uganda if the Bill is passed into law.

The State Minister for International Affairs, Mr Oryem-Okello, in an interview with Daily Monitor on Tuesday, described as “pre-mature and wrong” the chorus of international criticism based on a Private Member’s Bill.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Obama, Clinton reject Uganda’s gay Bill



International opposition against Ndorwa West MP David Bahati’s proposed anti-gay law continued to grow steadily, drawing support from such unlikely quarters as the White House.

The growing list now includes US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Anglican leader Rowan Williams, some US senators, and several newspapers.

Buturo’s U-turn
The pressure from these and other sources was being felt in Kampala, with Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo now saying he would remain silent about the proposed law until it has been passed or defeated.

“Overall, the proposed legislation is of shocking severity and I can’t see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades,” Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of

Canterbury, was quoted as saying in a recent edition of the Daily Telegraph. “Apart from invoking the death penalty, it makes pastoral care impossible – it seeks to turn pastors into informers.”

In the US, senators Russ Feingold and John Kerry spoke out against the law, saying it had the potential to hurt Uganda-US relations, while Secretary of State Clinton said in a recent speech that she opposed it. “Law should not become an instrument of oppression,” the top US diplomat said in a speech at Georgetown University on Monday.

The White House had released a statement in which it was noted that Mr Obama “strongly opposes efforts, such as the draft law pending in Uganda, that would criminalise homosexuality and move against the tide of history”. The Canadian and British governments have also condemned the proposed law, while Sweden has threatened to cut assistance.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

How the Bahati Bill hurts Ugandan women

Nick Young

Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that gay sex is completely alien both to Ugandan culture and to the versions of Christianity that Ugandans espouse. Why bother, then, to legislate against it? Is it necessary to ban people, on pain of death, from doing what is culturally and religiously alien to them?

One good reason why Parliament should not spend time and public funds on this is that the brouhaha surrounding the Bahati Bill diverts attention from a real social malaise: the high prevalence of heterosexual violence against women and children.

Ugandan media often cite studies showing that 40 per cent of Ugandan women have experienced sexual violence and one in four report rape as their first sexual encounter. Last year, according to the African Network for Prevention and Protection against Child Abuse and Neglect, 4,124 cases of ‘defilement’ (rape of children) were taken to court in Uganda. It is likely that many more occurred but were not reported.

ANPPCAN does not disaggregate their data by gender. (They should.) It is a safe bet, though, that child rape is overwhelmingly perpetrated by heterosexual men against girl children.

Few Ugandans would defend this catalogue of violence on the grounds that it is culturally indigenous or religiously ordained. Indeed, Uganda’s Constitution provides for gender equality and the NRM government has been pro-active in measures to promote it. Laws banning domestic violence and Female Genital Mutilation have just been passed.

But putting laws in place is one thing, enforcing them another. ANPPCAN reports that the courts managed last year to convict a mere 3.8 per cent of child rape cases. Existing systems seem inadequate even to prevent that other scourge—ritual child sacrifice—on which Ugandan media frequently report. Does it make sense in this context to divert limited police and judicial resources to a witch hunt against gays despite all the evidence that it is not them, but hetero men, who bring so much suffering to Ugandan women and families?

It is worth noting that rapists do not generally wear condoms. Given Uganda’s high incidence of rape and strong taboos on homosexuality it can be inferred that heterosexual rapists have been much more important HIV vectors than gay men.

Anathematising homosexuality in fact tends to legitimate male heterosexual aggression. How so? Simply, because it creates strong narratives of heterosexual entitlement and virility: all those guys determined to show that they are ‘real’ men—and egged on by the likes of Red Pepper’s noxious ‘Hyena’ column which so freely celebrates predatory male heterosexuality.

Sexual violence apart, Ugandan women, especially in rural areas, suffer deplorable health services. The country’s maternal mortality rate, at 435 deaths per 100,000 births, is one of the highest in the world. This is an aggregate figure: it is even higher in the poorest rural areas, where most women give birth at home without qualified help.

According to aid agencies, 62 per cent of Uganda’s clinics lack basic medicines and 65 per cent of health worker posts remain unfilled. Women suffer most from these gross service gaps because it is they who assume the main responsibility for family care and they who are generally last in the queue for medical attention.

And what if international donors, who supply more than one third of Ugandan government revenues, cut aid in response to the outcry over the Bahati Bill from their own citizens?

It is understandable that Ugandans should see this as bullying, a new form of cultural imperialism; and it is fair to point out that the West’s human rights halo is not looking so shiny after Switzerland’s overwhelming vote to restrict the religious freedoms of their minority Islamic population.

But donor governments are under real pressure from their own citizens and may be forced to trim aid that, in many cases, is tied precisely to targets such as improving health services. Who would be the losers here? Overwhelmingly, Ugandan women.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Regarding homosexuals and lesbians

Friday, 11th December, 2009 E-mail article Print article

By John Nagenda

It is a truth universally acknowledged that this column cuts directly and to the point to issues concerned. But there are subjects which spring so deeply from within the human psyche that attempting to ride roughshod over them becomes dangerously counter productive.

The subject this week: Regarding Homosexuality and Lesbianism, comes high on the list, but that should never make it a no-go area for serious discussion. Or that if you take a pro-stance on same-sex love you should be banished from polite society. Equally, if you are personally dead against it, that in itself is not a hanging offence: you are after all only exercising your right to have an opinion in the vexed matter. So far, no sensible person can surely quarrel with the foregoing. But let the bar be raised and acrimony will break out like a rash!

Another thing: I really resent the word Gay being annexed and monopolised by homosexuals and lesbians. The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary (all 2515 large pages of it) says, of Gay: “Full of or disposed to joy and mirth; light-hearted, exuberantly cheerful, sportive, merry.” Oh, I want some of that! I bet many others, including those who annexed it - leaving the rest of us to be morose, grey, boring; in short not gay - merry with what they stole.

When I was much younger, we called male, same-sex lovers, Queers or, sneeringly, Faggots. The word for a woman of that ilk was Lesbo or, more aggressively, Dyke (there was an old Dutch story of a girl who heroically saved a town by putting her finger in a hole in the dyke to stop the water burying its citizens). Organise a competition to find a suitable alternative (mine is same-sex lovers, ssl) so that Gay returns to us all, Queer and otherwise.

Of course that will have no effect on the practice itself. And that is where same-sex lovers’ haters will do their nut! The recent month I was away a parliamentarian introduced a Bill of hugely draconian measure, including heavy penalties on those who wouldn’t report same-sex lovers they knew about! In the US there was a man whose name, McCarthy, is now a synonym (as mccarthyism) for cruel witch-hunting. For him Communism was the hot issue, although he would doubtless have looked at same-sex love as a product of that political system.

In the Inquisition period, evil prelates tortured people who deviated from current beliefs, including by saying the world was not flat but round! Now we all laugh about these odd characters. Lower down the scale, people were tortured for being left-handed (indeed called sinister for it) or being very short, or being blind: in short for not being normal. I believe, and I am raising the bar, that we must laugh at this MP and others like him: laugh and stay sane. What crime have same-sex lovers committed, per se, by being who they are? Would those who believe God made mankind exclude them, and on what grounds?

You may find it repugnant that men have sex with other men, and women with women. They, on the other hand, might find the “usual” way repugnant, because of their nature.


Probably same-sex lovers will call me traditionally naïve when I talk about the “usual” way, just short of the “normal” way (normal to whom?) but I find there is logic attached to words like usual, normal, average. And that logicality comes from what “goes on” in the society involved. And that society must get involved in change, with the changing times, to cater for its diverse citizenry. I would see no harm at all, no sense of any criminality, in adult, consenting, same-sex love relationships.

Of course, involving children, or under-age youths, is criminal and must be stamped on, but obviously this happens in heterosexual habits also. I have a deeper confession, still to do with the time and age in which we live. Because in most societies people are still transfixed, even horrified, by signs of same-sex love brazenly exhibited, I would urge decorousness. (In many situations this even goes for heterosexual lovers.)

The question to put to ourselves is: does in-your-face behaviour hasten or hinder the fateful day when lovers of all variations are accepted for what they are? To tell the truth, for the time being, I would go as far as refusing same-sex couples adopting young children; because the outcome would almost certainly be that those children would take after these parents. Also, I wouldn’t allow same-sex marketing to young children. But there again I am only considering “usual, normal, average”.

When times have changed, if they change enough, then these words will include a leavening of same-sex relationships. Gradualism is not a sin. But hunting down people for same-sex love, I believe to be a sin, against Love, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. (I say all this without being a homosexual.) Parliament should not pass this Bill.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jesus loved outcasts so lets embrace gays

Did not Jesus spend most of His time with outcasts, beckoning them into the church and offering love with spiritual support? Recently I met a senior Anglican UK priest, who was a guest preacher in Kampala, and his reaction to the proposed anti-gay Bill was most interesting. Not only did he quote numerous verses from the Bible but he put them into today’s context and reminded me that we should be all inclusive as a church and not discriminate. Love your neighbour springs to mind. Not so?
Roger de Budo Otim,

Monday, December 7, 2009

U.S church elects openly lesbian bishop



Los Angeles' Episcopal Diocese elected an openly lesbian priest as assistant bishop on Saturday, a move likely to stoke more tensions in the global Anglican community over the divisive issue of gay clergy.

The Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, 55, of Baltimore is the first openly gay priest chosen as an Episcopal bishop since Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, whose 2003 consecration deeply strained church unity. Her election must be approved by the national church.

The ordination of gay clergy and related issues have prompted some congregations to leave the Episcopal fold and form a rival North American church that claims 100,000 believers. Anglican churches in regions like Africa have broken ties with their more liberal American brethren.

In July, the 2 million-member Episcopal Church lifted a moratorium on the election of gay bishops, which had been seen in some quarters as a "ceasefire" between liberal and conservative factions in the Episcopal Church and the 80 million-member global Anglican Communion.

"I am very excited about the future of the whole Episcopal Church, and I see the Diocese of Los Angeles leading the way into that future," Glasspool was quoted as saying on the diocese's website.

Glasspool has been a priest for 27 years and her father was also an Episcopal priest. If her election is ratified, she would be ordained as a bishop next May to assist Bishop J. Jon Bruno in the 70,000-member diocese. Also elected assistant bishop was the Rev. Canon Diane Bruce.

Glasspool's election comes as the United States grapples with sexual orientation issues, such as gay marriage, child adoption by same-sex parents and the status of homosexuals in the military.

Polls consistently show gays and lesbians enjoying growing acceptance in American society. But fast-growing faiths in the United States, such as many evangelical Protestant churches and the Mormon church, regard homosexual relations as sinful and proscribed by scripture.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Other Sheep Uganda Press release condemning the anti-homosexuality bill in Uganda

Time and again, religion and the bible have been used to discriminate against and torture minorities in different societies over time. Cases in point are women in the church, blacks during the times of slavery, even colonization had a religious face, etc which activities have led to loss of livelihoods and even life for many innocent people.
The same can be said about the current anti-homosexuality bill 2009 which was tabled in the parliament of Uganda on October 14, 2009 by Hon. Bahati.
This bill derives its life from none other than the religious fundamentalists sponsored by their American partners and though the proponents of this bill claim that homosexuality is a western practice, events overtime have shown that it is actually homophobia and hate campaigns that are being adopted from the west.
This is an extension of the proxy wars by religious powers from the developed world who after their discriminatory massages have been shunned where they were founded, are now trying to get a new lease of life by exporting their hate doctrines to Africa. Sexual minorities in Africa have now become collateral damage in the cultural/religious wars of the developed world.
In March 2009, a three day anti-homosexuality seminar was carried out in Kampala to launch an anti-gay hate campaign whose purpose was to build up momentum for this bill. The seminar had three American evangelical speakers who preach the ex-gay massage.
From a religious point of view, let us look at how this bill contravenes the teachings of the bible;
 While its proponents claim to be fighting for the family, the bill breaks rather than build the family. It makes family members ‘spies’ of each other rather than “keepers” of one another. It turns parents into prosecutors of their children and siblings into accusers of one another. Something the bible does not instruct us to do.
 Showing brotherly affection is particularly made difficult by this bill just in case it is interpreted as intent to commit homosexuality.
 And while the Bible teaches compassion, understanding, and love within the Christian Faith, this bill calls for victimization, isolation and deaths to homosexuals.
 It totally undermines the pivotal role of grace in the Christian Faith. “While we were yet sinners Christ died for us…” The work of salvation was done for us before we were aware of it or even accepted it. God’s gift of love was not dependent on our identities or sexuality or even willingness to acknowledge the gift. It was just given. The Church has the duty to exemplify this understanding and demonstration of love.

Even if you think that homosexuality is a sin, the Bible has clear prescriptions for sinners and judgment is not for man but for God, we cannot let politicians legislate on each and every sin. we call upon you to oppose this bill.
And aside from the religious angle, let us consider the faith in which this bill was tabled by looking at what it calls for;
 Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment or in circumstances of “aggravated homosexuality” the death penalty;
 Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $ 2,650.00 or three years in prison;
 Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties;
 And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.
 Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, civil society leaders active in the fields of sexual and reproductive health, hence further undermining public health efforts to combat the spread of HIV.

Remembering the hard fought for freedoms that have enabled us today to freely practice our religious beliefs, this bill calls on the state of Uganda to renounce the most cherished international treaties hence leaving Ugandans with no defense as far as human rights are concerned, it calls for Uganda to withdraw from the following international declarations;
 The Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
 The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its protocols;
 The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights;
 The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
 The Convention on the Rights of the Child, and
 The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Other Sheep Uganda condemns this bill because it does not uphold religious principles, Human Rights and is presented in Bad Faith. This bill if passed will not only prove difficult to implement but will be a duplication of already existing discriminatory laws in the statute books of Uganda.

We call upon you to add your voice to the opposition of this bill.

Other Sheep- Multicultural Ministries with sexual Minorities is the only worldwide ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to empowering sexual minorities throughout the world with the Good news of God’s unconditional love for all and salvation through God’s Son, Jesus Christ

For more information contact
Wamala Dennis

We will not bend over for aid, Buturo tells donors



The government yesterday reiterated its opposition to homosexuality and said donors were free to withdraw their funding if they wish.

Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo was responding to a Daily Monitor story that Sweden had joined other countries that are pressuring the government to discard a proposed law that would severely punish homosexuality in the country.

“Homosexuality will not be promoted, encouraged or supported in Uganda,” Mr Buturo added.

Mr Buturo told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala that: “We should remind them (the donors) that there is integrity to be defended and threats are not the way to go. If one chooses to withdraw their aid, they are free because Ugandans do not want to engage in anal sex. We do not care.”

Life imprisonment
Life imprisonment is the minimum punishment for anyone convicted of having gay sex, under an anti-homosexuality Bill currently before Uganda’s parliament
He said Ugandans are sober people who consider homosesuality abnormal.

According to comments attributed to Ms Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden’s development assistance minister, the Swedish government says it would cut aid to Uganda over an anti-gay law they find “appalling”.

Mr Buturo said ever since the Bill was tabled in Parliament; various countries have been overreacting and castigating Uganda for having such a law debated by Parliament.

As Mr Buturo was castigating donors, the Uganda Human Rights Commission announced that it will scrutinise the Bill and make recommendations before it is debated. Commission Chairman, Mr Med Kaggwa, said the exercise will help establish whether the Bill, which has been criticised by some rights groups, violates human rights.

“What I can say is that we are human rights defenders and if they (gays) come and complain of discrimination we shall handle their cases,” he said without divulging details.

Mr Butoro warned donors against making statements in the press.
He urged them to channel official communication through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“The government welcomes views that well-wishers of Uganda make concerning her governance. It should be noted from the outset that when such views are from diplomats who are accredited to Uganda, the standard diplomatic practice world over is for such views to be communicated to government through well known diplomatic channels,” he said.

Not civilised
“It is never, ever, a standard practice in the civilised world for a diplomat to address the press of a country in which he or she is serving on how the host country is handling affairs of its land,” he added.

The European Union envoy to Uganda, Mr Vincent De Visscher, in an interview with Daily Monitor on Wednesday, demanded that the government stops offering lip-service in the fight against corruption.

But Mr Buturo said such a statement can only be made by a person who is “unaware of what is going on in the country.”
“It is clear to government and whoever cares to understand the complexities of corruption, that it will take more than the government alone to defeat the corrupt,” he said.
He said the corrupt usually enjoy the support of foreign companies. “The corrupt are found everywhere,” he said.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Museveni, Bahati, named in US ‘cult’

Group fights gays, promotes dictatorship.
‘Hitler, Stalin, Mao best understood Jesus’.
NEW YORK: President Museveni, Ethics Minister Nsaba Buturo and MP David Bahati have been linked to a shadowy religious fundamentalist group in the United States known as the ‘The Family’.

The group, comprising a number of influential congressmen, senators and other people in strategic positions, works secretively to promote its political, economic and religious ideas, some of them controversial, in the United States and across the world.

According to journalist, academic and author Jeff Sharlett, who has spent years researching on The Family, its core agenda includes fighting homosexuality and abortion, promoting free-market economics and dictatorship, an idea they once termed “totalitarianism for Christ”.

It recruits people in positions of power and influence to promote its agenda and, according to Sharlett, the group has had its sights on Uganda for over 20 years. He also says the group is behind the anti-gay legislation recently tabled in Parliament by Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati, which proposes the death penalty for men who have gay sex with disabled people, under-18s, or when the accused is HIV-positive.

In an extensive interview with National Public Radio (NPR), a privately and publicly funded non-profit radio network in the United States, Jeff Sharlett said that The Family identified President Museveni as their “key man in Africa” in 1986.

Individuals working for both the US government and The Family, he said, undertook trips to Uganda “to reach out to Museveni to make sure that he came into the American sphere of influence [and] that Uganda, in effect, becomes our proxy in the region”.

“They wanted to steer him away from neutrality or leftist sympathies and bring him into conservative American alliances, and they were able to do so. They’ve since promoted Uganda as this bright spot - as I say, as this bright spot for African democracy, despite the fact that under their tutelage, Museveni has slowly shifted away from any even veneer of democracy: imprisoning journalists, tampering with elections, supporting - strongly supporting this Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2009,” he said.

Describing Museveni as a “core” member of the group, Jeff Sharlett alleged that President Museveni visits, spends time and “sits down for counsel” with Doug Coe, the leader of The Family, at the group’s headquarters at a place called The Cedars in Arlington, Virginia.

This Doug Coe, with whom Uganda’s President reportedly consults, is the same man who believes that ruthless dictators such as Hitler, Stalin and Mao mirror Jesus’ central message on power. Sharlett says that Core members of The Family participate in deciding the group’s agenda, a privilege not enjoyed by other members of the group.

More power, less love

One of The Family’s central ideas, according to Jeff Sharlett, is that Jesus Christ’s message was not about love, mercy, justice or forgiveness. Rather, it was about power. The group says that Jesus didn’t come to take sides, he came to take over.

“Doug Coe, the leader of the group, tries to illustrate this, for instance, by saying, sort of posing a puzzle: name three men in the 20th Century who best understood that message of The New Testament. And most people are going to say someone like Martin Luther King, or Bonhoeffer; or maybe the more conservative, they can say, [evangelist] Billy Graham.

And Coe likes to give an answer - Hitler, Stalin and Mao, which just makes your jaw drop. And he will say - he’s quick to say these are evil men, but they understood power. And that message recurs again, and again, and again in The Family,” Sharlett said.

Sharlett, who spent time within The Family as an undercover researcher, given access to its leaders and archives, said that the group actively promotes dictators in pursuit of its economic and other interests. Because of its influence in Washington, the seat of the American government, foreign leaders find it in their interest to associate with the group.

Senator Tom Coburn, who also sits on the Senate Arms Forces Committee, is quoted to have said he has been on a mission to Uganda to “promote the political philosophy of Jesus as taught to him by Doug Coe.”

The group, Jeff Sharlett told NPR, creates “an invisible believing group of God-led politicians who get together and talk with one another about what God wants them to do in their leadership capacity. And that’s the nature of their relationship with Museveni.”

The Family, according to Sharlett, helped the Museveni family and other top politicians to start the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Uganda, to which it sends representatives, as a parallel to the United States National Prayer Breakfast the group has been running since 1935. This is the only group’s public event, which it uses to recruit new members.

The US National Prayer Breakfast has been attended by all American presidents since the 1950s.
Jeff Sharlett says he has established in recent investigations that the group has been channeling money to Uganda to promote its activities, including the anti-gay Bill.

Following paper trails, he discovered that the money was channeled through an “African leadership academy” called Cornerstone which runs a Youth Corps programme described as an “invisible family binding together world leaders” and an organisation called the “African Youth Leadership Forum” associated with MP David Bahati.

“The Family has poured millions of dollars working through a very convoluted chain of linkages passing the money over to Uganda,” he said. According to Jeff Sharlett, in Uganda, Museveni, Buturo and Bahati are not merely under the influence of The Family but they are, in effect, The Family.

The Observer tried to get MP Bahati to shed some light on these claims but he could not be reached on all known telephone numbers. Neither could we speak to Ethics and Integrity Minister, James Nsaba Buturo, as he did not answer his phone.

Presidential Press Secretary, Tamale Mirundi, said he was neither aware of an organisation called The Family nor of any relationship between it and President Museveni. But should such ties exist, Mirundi said, he would not be surprised.

“What would amaze me is if the President were associated with a group that is pro-homosexuality,” Mirundi told The Observer by phone. “But if the President is associated with a group opposed to homosexuality [I would not be amazed] because he has made his position on homosexuality very clear.”

Cash and sex

While The Family claims, on the surface at least, to promote family values, some of its more influential members have been ensnared by high-profile sexual scandals. In the latest scandal, Senator John Ensign of Nevada is alleged to have had an affair with the wife of a top aide, Doug Hampton and, on the advice of The Family, tried to buy Hampton off with $1.2 million.

The Family, also known as The Fellowship, was founded in the United States in 1935. According to its founder, Abraham Verene, God came to him one night in April, 1935, and told him that Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people, the poor and the suffering, “the down and out”.

He commanded him to be a missionary to and for the powerful, the “up and out”, who could then pass off the blessings to everybody else. The group does not maintain a website and prohibits its members from speaking about its activities.

Jeff Sharlett’s 2008 bestseller, The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, is the most comprehensive expose of the group yet.

Pastor Rick Warren Responds to Proposed Anti-Gay Ugandan Legislation


By Lisa Miller
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling book The Purpose Driven Life, drew fire last year when he was invited to give the invocation at President Barack Obama's inauguration. His support for Proposition 8 in California, which defined marriage as between a man and a woman only, and his anti-gay-marriage views concerned many in Obama's base.

Now Warren's on the defensive again, this time for his affiliation with Martin Ssempa, a Ugandan pastor who has endorsed proposed legislation in Uganda that makes certain homosexual acts punishable by life in prison or even in some cases death. Ssempa has made appearances at Saddleback and has been embraced warmly by Warren and his wife, Kay.

In October, Warren distanced himself from Ssempa and the Ugandan legislation, saying, "Martin Ssempa does not represent me, my wife Kay, Saddleback Church, nor the Global PEACE Plan strategy," a reference to Warren's work in the developing world and Africa in particular. "In 2007, we completely severed contact with Mr. Ssempa when we learned that his views and actions were in serious conflict with our own.

"Our role, and the role of the PEACE Plan, whether in Uganda or any other country, is always pastoral and never political. We vigorously oppose anything that hinders the goals of the PEACE Plan: Promoting reconciliation, Equipping ethical leaders, Assisting the poor, Caring for the sick, and Educating the next generation."

But Warren won't go so far as to condemn the legislation itself. A request for a broader reaction to the proposed Ugandan anti-homosexual laws generated this response: "The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator. However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations." On Meet the Press this morning, he reiterated this neutral stance in a different context: "As a pastor, my job is to encourage, to support. I never take sides." Warren did say he believed that abortion was "a holocaust." He knows as well as anyone that in a case of great wrong, taking sides is an important thing to do.

If Uganda Executes Gays, Will American Christians be Complicit?

By David Gibson, Posted Wednesday, December 2, 2009, Politics Daily

A bill currently before the Ugandan Parliament sounds like an absurdist scenario from some liberal nightmare about a theocratic state: Under the proposed law -- which appears to have strong public support -- criminal penalties on homosexual acts in the East African nation would be made much harsher, and include the death penalty.

Killing homosexuals for having sex? Just as shocking, however, are the links between the proposal and American Christians who have at times been rousing cheerleaders for Uganda's draconian statutes.

A key episode in the trail of evidence was an event in March 2009 in the capital, Kampala, that drew three well-known conservative Christian activists from the United States who are prominent in the so-called ex-gay movement that seeks to "convert" homosexuals to make them straight.

The three men, Scott Lively of Abiding Truth Ministries, Don Schmierer of Exodus International and the International Healing Foundation, and Lee Brundidge, who often works with a group called Extreme Prophetic, were invited to the conference of the Family Life Network of Uganda to help organize what Lively called "an effective social and political force" to combat "anti-family Western agitators." Those agitators, he said, are led by gay activists in Europe and the United States who "plan to spread sexual anarchy throughout the world under the guise of 'human rights' and 'family planning.' "

If that message sounds over-the-top to American ears, it plays well in places like Uganda, where grass-roots sentiment against gays and anti-gay (and anti-Western) rhetoric from hardline Muslims can set the tone of the discourse.

In their talks to the conference of parents, politicians and educators, the trio provided a host of other anti-gay talking points as well. They said homosexuals are "out to destroy the country," according to reports from the scene, and they said that legalizing homosexuality is akin to legalizing "the molestation of children or having sex with animals." Lively, who has gained notoriety for arguing that homosexuals were the real force behind the rise of Nazism, was also invited to address the Ugandan Parliament. By his own account, his hosts "were very pleased."

Soon after the conference, the Family Life Network and its political allies got to work and on Oct. 15 introduced the Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009, which aims to "protect the traditional family by prohibiting any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex."

Although some proponents argue that the proposed legislation is not that much worse than current laws in Uganda that criminalize gay sex, the current bill creates severe new penalties: For one thing, it would add a seven-year jail term for anyone who "attempts to commit the offense" of homosexuality or who "aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality." And anyone convicted of publishing information about homosexuality, or providing funds or premises for homosexual activity, would receive a seven-year jail sentence or a fine of $50,000. Authorities who fail to report homosexuals within 24 hours of discovering their behavior can be punished by up to three years in prison. Moreover, the bill defines homosexual sex (it's pretty explicit) as even attempting to touch another person of the same sex with the "intention" of having sex; this can even occur through clothing.

But it is the provision for capital punishment for "aggravated homosexuality" -- defined as having gay sex with disabled people or anyone under 18, or when the accused is HIV-positive -- that has raised alarms among human rights groups and some American Christians.

Ten days after the bill's introduction, Warren Throckmorton, a well-known evangelical speaker who is himself affiliated with gay-switching ministries, wrote an online column denouncing the actions of the Lively, Schmierer and Brundidge, and pointing the finger of responsibility at his fellow believers in America:

"Jailing or killing gays or those suspected of being gay cannot create a righteous people, and in fact may further a self-righteous people," Throckmorton wrote. "Christians in the U.S may have unwittingly contributed to the deteriorating state of freedom in Uganda. Now, we need to help right those wrongs by calling on our Ugandan brothers and sisters to back away from this bill."

American commenters on his piece ranged from those who applauded Throckmorton's courage to those who supported the criminalization of homosexuality.

Lively himself struck back in one of the comments: "I do not now and have never supported incarceration for homosexuals and was in Uganda to advocate for treatment of homosexuals as an alternative to incarceration, similar to what benefited me when arrested for drunk driving years ago in my pre-Christian days." He added that he does not support "the harsh law as currently proposed."

Lively's approach would maintain the criminalization of homosexuality, however. And writing in June about his Uganda trip, Lively boasted that he encouraged Ugandans to maintain a "sufficient legal deterrent to prevent the international 'gay' juggernaut from homosexualizing the society." In a Nov. 27 interview with LifeSiteNews, a conservative Catholic Web site, Lively again blamed gay men in the West for prompting the new law. He repeated that he thought the current bill too "harsh" but he defended the criminalization of homosexuality.

Yet much more is in play here than the actions and arguments of a handful of Christian activists from America.
Many leading U.S. Christians have longstanding ties to churches in Uganda, and may, some argue, have had a hand in promoting the policies that culminated in the new anti-homosexuality bill.

Many top U.S. politicians are also invested in Uganda. The Bush administration liked to present the country as a model of pro-abstinence, anti-condom AIDS prevention policies (a claim that some dispute), and author Jeff Sharlet recently revealed close ties between The Family -- the secretive network of conservative American Christians that includes leading Sens. James Inhofe, Sam Brownback, Tom Coburn and Mike Enzi -- and the Ugandan legislator, David Bahati, who introduced the tough new anti-gay bill.

These American and African Christians have many things in common, but a frequent tie is a shared dislike -- bordering on detestation -- of homosexuality and homosexuals. Ugandan Christianity, like the faith in much of Africa and the Southern Hemisphere, is booming and orthodox on matters of sex, and is seen by Americans evangelicals in particular as fertile territory for mission work. It is also seen as a bulwark against an even more traditionalist Islam, as well as a breeding ground for Christian allies in the culture wars being fought in the West.

Rick Warren, perhaps America's most prominent megachurch evangelical and author of the mega-selling "Purpose-Driven Life," has particularly strong ties to Uganda, which he has declared a "Purpose-Driven Nation." Warren's point man in Uganda was Martin Ssempa, a pastor who is a strong backer of the Anti-Homosexuality bill. Ssempa has appeared at Warren's Saddleback Church, although Warren distanced himself from Ssempa's views in October and said he had cut ties with him in 2007.

But in a statement to Newsweek on Sunday, Warren also declined to condemn the pending legislation that Ssempa and others back:

"The fundamental dignity of every person, our right to be free, and the freedom to make moral choices are gifts endowed by God, our creator," Warren said. "However, it is not my personal calling as a pastor in America to comment or interfere in the political process of other nations."

Yet as Throckmorton has said, American Christians who have been cultivating ties and sharing views with Ugandan Christians are past the point of taking such a hands-off approach. In March 2008, Warren told Ugandan media that he supported a boycott of the Lambeth Conference of the Anglican Communion by Uganda's bishops over the issue of homosexuality -- even though Warren is a Southern Baptist. Warren also said homosexuality is not a natural way of life and thus not a human right and added, "We shall not tolerate this aspect at all."

At the very least, such rhetoric is like throwing a lighted match into a tinderbox. Homosexuality is a taboo in many African societies to a far greater extent than it is in the United States, and in Uganda it can be a weapon against adversaries; politicians will, for example, leak the names of opponents they say are gay, and accommodating tabloids will print the names, which can end a career or result in jail time.

American Christians who help sow such sentiments may be held liable -- at least morally -- for the results. A Nov. 18 report, "Globalizing the Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia," from the liberal think tank Political Research Associates (PRA), documents how extensive -- and influential -- those contacts are.
"Just as the United States and other northern societies routinely dump our outlawed or expired chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, and cultural detritus on African and other Third World countries, we now export a political discourse and public policies our own society has discarded as outdated and dangerous," Tarso Luís Ramos, head of the PRA, says in the foreword to the report. "Africa's anti-gay campaigns are to a substantial degree made in the U.S.A."
Whether those campaigns will succeed is still an open question. Despite wide support for the bill in parliament, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni may seek to stall the legislation for fear of losing international support.

But many Ugandan church leaders have also signaled their support for the broader bill if the death-penalty provision is removed. "I think the death penalty is not acceptable," Anglican Bishop Stanley Ntagali of Masindi-Kitara diocese has said. "I think taking someone to jail for a period of time would be sufficient."

With an estimated 500,000 gays and lesbians among Uganda's 31 million residents, they better start building prisons fas

Sweden to cut aid over anti-gay law

Rodney Muhumuza

Sweden has joined the growing list of countries heaping pressure on Uganda to discard a proposed law that would severely punish homosexuality.

According to comments attributed to Gunilla Carlsson, Sweden’s development assistance minister, the Swedish government says it would cut aid to Uganda over an anti-gay law they find “appalling”.

“My number two at the ministry, who has direct contact with the Ugandan government, has brought it up,” Ms Carlsson recently told Swedish Radio News. “We’ve talked about it in Uganda, and I’ve also tried to speak to the kind of organisations in Uganda that are the target of the legislation.” Uganda receives about $50 million in development aid from Sweden annually.

Swedish Radio News reported online, in a November 30 article, that the Scandinavian country would consider discontinuing development aid to Uganda if the law was introduced.

“I’m doubly disappointed, partly because Uganda is a country with which we have had long-term relations and where I thought and hoped we had started to share common values and understanding,” the minister is quoted as saying.

“The law is wretched, but it’s also offensive to see how Ugandans choose to look at how we see things, and the kind of reception we get when we bring up these issues.”

Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, who brought the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (2009), has denied accusations that he is in a hate campaign, insisting he is defending the heterosexual family. Mr Bahati has the tacit support of President Museveni, who has made strong anti-gay statements in recent times. If passed in its current form, the law would create a felony called “aggravated homosexuality”.

Death penalty
Offenders would face death for having sex with a minor or a disabled person, or for infecting their partners with HIV. It would also punish attempted homosexuality as well as the failure of a third party to report homosexual relationships.

Critics of the proposed law say it is not needed, as the Penal Code Act already punishes homosexuality, and that it is based on unproven claims that European gays are clandestinely recruiting in Uganda.

In Canada, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s conservative government called the proposed law “vile and hateful”, while Britain’s Gordon Brown raised the issue with President Museveni during the recent Commonwealth summit in Trinidad and Tobago. Ms Carlsson said the law would make it “much more difficult” for Sweden to continue helping Uganda.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Remarks by Stephen Lewis, Co-Director of AIDS-Free World

Delivered at the Commonwealth People's Forum on the Eve of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM)

This is a moment of truth for the Commonwealth. The anti-homosexuality Private Member's Bill introduced into the parliament of Uganda, and now proceeding through the normal legislative process, puts the Commonwealth's legitimacy and integrity to the test.

In a fashion unmistakable in both clarity and intent, the putative legislation declares war on homosexuality. There are deeply offensive sodomy laws and homophobic statutes on the books of many other Commonwealth countries, particularly here in the Caribbean. But nothing is as stark, punitive and redolent of hate as the Bill in Uganda; nothing comes close to such an omnibus violation of the human rights of sexual minorities. For some time now, Uganda has had offensive anti-homosexual legislation on the books, but this variant, this inflammatory redesign makes of the law a veritable charter of malice.

What is truly staggering about all of this is that not a peep of skepticism or incredulity has come from President Museveni. And President Museveni is chairing the Commonwealth Heads of Government summit. In so doing, he makes a mockery of Commonwealth principles.

One must remember that the last meeting of CHOGM was held in Uganda in 2007, and issued what is called the "Munyonyo Statement of Respect and Understanding". It asserted that the Commonwealth "is a body well-placed to affirm the fundamental truth that diversity is one of humanity's greatest strengths". It went on to say that "accepting diversity, respecting the dignity of all human beings, and understanding the richness of our multiple identities have always been fundamental to the Commonwealth's principles and approach …". President Museveni signed the document. How in the world does he reconcile the affirmation then with the defamation now?

It is noteworthy that much of the strongest opposition to the Bill is coming from the courageous Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender activists on the ground. LGBT activism always commands admiration, but in this instance especially so, because their very lives hang in the balance.

The proposed legislation actually mandates the death penalty for any HIV positive gay man who has sex with another man or any HIV-positive lesbian who has sex with another woman. But because it's often hard to believe the sheer malignancy of language, let me quote directly from the Bill itself. Section 2 of the Bill is titled, "The offence of homosexuality". It reads as follows: Clause "(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if --- (a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption; (b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate the sexual organ of a person of the same sex; (c) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality."

Clause "(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life".

Where does the death penalty enter this twisted world of sexual paranoia? Let me quote the applicable section and sub-section. Section 3 of the Bill is titled, "Aggravated homosexuality". It reads in part: "A person commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality where the … offender is a person living with HIV". "A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death". And just in case there's any conjecture, we have this finale: "Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status".

From whence do such sentiments arise? What dark corner of the soul is at work? The entire bill confounds rationality.

In fact, the legislation has a powerfully Orwellian flavor. Section 14 has the title "Failure to disclose the offence". It requires everyone in the entire society to report on any evidence of homosexuality and to do so within twenty-four hours. If it weren't so extreme, so menacing, so lunatic, it would be the stuff of theatrical parody. Parents, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, preachers, landlords, community health workers, members of the media, civil society activists, anyone who can identify a homosexual, gay or lesbian, or has reason to believe that homosexuality is lurking, must report to the authorities or face a fine, or jail term of three to ten years, or both. Can you imagine a father or a mother turning in a son or daughter? Can you imagine a teacher ratting on a student? Can you imagine a physician who's taken a Hippocratic oath to tend to the sick betraying that trust because of a patient's sexual orientation? But that's exactly what this law requires.

I've truly never seen its like before. Please forgive the harsh language, but this intended anti-homosexual statute has the taste of fascism.

And yet, that's only the half of it. What is put at terrible risk here --- beyond the threat of the death penalty for HIV-positive homosexuals --- is the entire apparatus of AIDS treatment, prevention and care.

It's profoundly ironic that the country that's seen as emblematic of success in fighting the pandemic is now contemplating such a decisive step backwards. The effect of this legislation will inevitably be to demonize homosexuality even further, to intensify stigma, to drive gay men and women underground, to terrify them in their everyday lives, to diminish dramatically the prospect of counseling and testing to establish HIV status, to make it virtually impossible to reach homosexuals with the knowledge and education and condoms that prevent the spread of AIDS.

It's equally ironic that this retreat into the dark ages of the virus comes at precisely the moment when the world understands the overwhelming importance of dealing with high risk groups, be they sex workers, or injecting drug users or men who have sex with men. Indeed, in Uganda itself, as recently as last year, the Uganda AIDS Commission, in conjunction with UNAIDS, called for a review of legal obstacles to the inclusion of most-at-risk populations, including MSM, in the response to the pandemic. That review built logically on the introduction, by the Ministry of Health in 2008, of the "Most At Risk Populations' Initiative" (MARPI) formulated to target specific groups, including homosexuals.

The new legislation thus eviscerates existing public policy. Is no one in the political apparatus of Uganda alert to the destructiveness of it all? I am reminded of the remarkably sensible words of Michael Kirby, former justice of the High Court of Australia: "… the fact remains that the current approaches, particularly in Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, place an impediment in the way of tackling this major epidemic. Criminalize people and you cannot reach out to their minds and effectively influence their conduct … that message is now one of great importance for the Commonwealth of Nations where AIDS is definitely a priority issue."

Indeed, there's a very real crisis of conscience in the offing. Both the Presidential HIV/AIDS Initiative in the United States --- PEPFAR as it's known --- and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, have invested huge sums in Uganda to subdue the pandemic. Last year from PEPFAR alone, the amount was $283 million, and the Global Fund has a five-year commitment of another $250 million. But both those organizations premise their support in part on dealing with high-risk groups. What are they to do? This is no trifling matter. Members of Congress have already written to the Secretary of State raising the dilemma of having PEPFAR's work on the ground in Uganda so dramatically compromised. More, under the recent revisions to PEPFAR, the United States must now negotiate "Partnership Framework Agreements" with recipient countries, and part of the agreement hinges on addressing target groups, including men who have sex with men. How in the world is that to be negotiated in the face of the anti-homosexuality bill?

Moreover, under President Obama, American policy is clearly shifting. This is a very good thing. Under the previous administration, the United States, through PEPFAR, forced countries like Uganda into compliance with awful policies involving, for example, sex workers and abstinence…; the United States used money, and withheld money, to serve a right-wing agenda. In a sense, Obama is now involved in an act of redemption.

Just last March, the US administration declared its support for a UN declaration on sexual orientation and gender identity. The declaration is strong: it calls on all countries to decriminalize consensual homosexual conduct, and it condemns violence, discrimination, exclusion and stigmatization based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It also condemns killings and executions, arbitrary arrest and deprivation of economic, social and cultural rights on those same grounds. The declaration is seen as a great victory for LGBT human rights. It has the support of 67 member states. I note, with consternation, that Mauritius is the only African Commonwealth country to have signed, and I note, with profound dismay, that not a single Commonwealth country in the Caribbean has signaled support.

President Obama, on the other hand, is firmly on record for the protection of gay and lesbian rights, and Hilary Clinton has said "…human rights is and always will be one of the pillars of our foreign policy. In particular, persecution and discrimination against gays and lesbians is something we take very seriously". Dr. Eric Goosby, who heads PEPFAR, is even more firmly on the record: "I look forward to working with field and headquarters staff, Congress and others in the Administration to ensure that PEPFAR effectively targets the most-at-risk and vulnerable populations --- including LGBT populations --- with culturally appropriate prevention, care and treatment interventions".

The Government of Uganda and PEPFAR are on a collision course. President Museveni had best wake up and smell the dollars.

I would never wish to counsel financial penalties, but it's a real conundrum. Worse, the employees of the non-governmental community-based organizations that receive the money would be subject to risk of imprisonment if they continued to work with homosexuals. I was struck by a letter written to the American Ambassador in Uganda, from a group of Foundations that do HIV/AIDS programming in the country, asking him to "take appropriately stern action to oppose the bill …" They were agitated and vehement in their condemnation of the Bill, noting that it put their local and international employees and consultants at risk of criminal charges. They felt, in fact, that the Bill has already applied a chill to human rights and civil liberties in Uganda and is an unrelievedly nasty piece of work. They observed, somewhat sardonically, that the Ambassador has diplomatic immunity, but their collective staff in the projects they funded have no such protection.

And the complications abound.

The new Executive Director of UNAIDS (and ironically, a former UNICEF Representative in Uganda who knows Museveni well) has staked a good part of his growing reputation on deploring homophobic legislation, valiantly fighting for the human rights of the gay community and speaking unequivocally about his revulsion at punitive anti-homosexual behavior. As a matter of fact, Michel Sidibe is on record in a way that speaks directly to the import of the Ugandan Bill. He is reliably reported to have said (and it certainly rings true): "It pains me that 80 countries have laws which criminalize same-sex sex, and it outrages me that seven countries can invoke the death sentence for homosexual practice".

Well, now it verges on eight countries, and the death sentence is directly linked with HIV-positive gay men. So what, I ask, does Michel Sidibe do now? Does he communicate that outrage directly and publically to President Museveni? Does he enlist the intervention of the UN Secretary-General? Does he write to the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth and ask that Uganda be suspended in the event that the legislation passes in its present form? What counsel does he give to the Global Fund and PEPFAR? These are not idle questions: the Executive Director of UNAIDS is an influential figure who cannot allow his outrage to be but sound and fury ending in capitulation.

Furthermore, what's going on with the legislation is not simply confined to the egregious sections that I've quoted. There are several additional odious sections; the erosion of human rights has few limits. One other clause of the Bill purports to extend the arm of the state into the bedrooms of the world. Using what is called "extraterritoriality", the legislation decrees that any Ugandan engaging in homosexual acts outside of Uganda is equally culpable, and will be arrested and charged accordingly. Thus, homosexuality joins terrorism and treason in the pantheon of extraterritorial jurisdiction to be exercised by Uganda. How this would be enforced is not immediately apparent, and of course the clause is ridiculous, but the ridiculous has a habit of becoming national jurisprudence if it's driven by hatred.

The evidence of just how foolhardy and crazed the legislation is, lies in its most extreme feature: the Bill asserts that where any of its provisions is in conflict with any international human rights instrument that Uganda has ratified, the content of the Bill will prevail over international law. This is palpable nonsense, and simply not possible. But it is a fascinating glimpse into the twisted cerebral calculus that fashioned the legislation.

Naturally, the protagonists of the legislation are mounting arguments in its defense. The arguments are unsustainable.

We are reminded that this is a Private Member's Bill, and the Government is simply following legislative practice in allowing it to be debated. That's just a clever ruse. I sat in a Commonwealth parliament for more than fifteen years, and where a Private Member's Bill threatens to dominate public debate and the parliamentary session, the government always makes clear where it stands. In this instance, the defenders point out that President Museveni has not yet spoken. He has found time, since the Bill was tabled on October 14th last, to make some disparaging remarks about homosexuals at a recent youth event in Kampala, but it's true that he hasn't yet definitively pronounced on the Bill itself. But ominously, one of his senior cabinet ministers has: Mr. James Nsaba Buturo, Minister of Ethics and Integrity heralded the legislation with apparent enthusiasm. InterPress News quotes him as saying "It is with joy we see that everyone is interested in what Uganda is doing, and it is an opportunity for Uganda to provide leadership where it matters most. So we are here to see a piece of legislation that will not only define what the country stands for, but actually provide leadership around the world."

He could better be called the Minister of Fear and Loathing.

I know that the views I am expressing on behalf of the organization I represent, AIDS-Free World, will seem tough and harsh to some. But let me tell you what we feel.

We don't think that this piece of legislation deserves a careful parsing of its clauses, invoking all of the international human rights instruments that Uganda has endorsed, from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, attempting to show where the Bill is in conflict with human rights principles. That just gives far too much credibility to the proposed legislation. On its face, without more than a simple glance at the substance, the Bill is revealed as an unbridled attack on the human rights of sexual minorities. There is no overall clause worthy of retention. There are phrases here or there (like the prohibition of sex with a minor) that any sentient human being can agree with. But the Bill cannot possibly be salvaged. It must be expunged in total from the parliamentary record. And for those who believe in conspiracy theories, let me say that the fundamentalist hand of the religious right in the United States is not difficult to discern.

Nor do we think that we need treat this issue with respect. We don't believe that we have to 'respectfully submit' our arguments to anyone, or seek to 'respectfully influence' the powers-that-be. There are some moments in life where defining issues are indelibly joined. I remember sitting behind my then Canadian Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, at the Commonwealth meeting in Vancouver in 1987. The issue was apartheid. The contest was between Margaret Thatcher and Mulroney, and Mulroney let her have it. There was no respectful pretense. He didn't parse the pass laws, he didn't invoke the clauses of international covenants, he just lacerated Prime Minister Thatcher for defending apartheid, and he decried it for what it was: a totalitarian regime rooted in racism and the savage decimation of human rights. It's worth noting that he was joined by Sir Shridath Ramphal, then the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, who was slightly more restrained but unmistakable of tone and purpose. That was a time when the Commonwealth stood for something.

The analogy with apartheid is not a stretch. In 1998, the Constitutional Court of South Africa ruled on a case involving the National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality. The court held that "the constitutional protection of dignity requires us to acknowledge the value and worth of all individuals as members of our society." The court then concluded with the words, "Just as apartheid legislation rendered the lives of couples of different racial groups perpetually at risk, the sodomy offence builds insecurity and vulnerability into the daily lives of gay men. There can be no doubt that the existence of a law which punishes a form of sexual expression for gay men degrades and devalues gay men in our broader society. As such it is a palpable invasion of their dignity and a breach of the Constitution."

It's no accident that the recent judgment of the High Court of Delhi in India in July of this year similarly struck down a provision of the Indian Penal Code that criminalized consensual same sex conduct, finding that it was a violation of the right to live in privacy and dignity, which privacy and dignity were constitutionally protected.

In other words, on every conceivable front the anti-homosexuality legislation has not a statutory leg to stand on.

Yet President Museveni is permitting it to proceed. And at the meeting of Heads of the Commonwealth, he will, sadly enough, find a throaty gaggle of like-minded colleagues.

It would not surprise us if the Prime Minister of Jamaica were particularly thrilled. Jamaica is, as everyone knows, a hot-bed of homophobia, more pronounced than anywhere else in the Caribbean. And while Jamaica would never introduce a bill akin to that of Uganda, the political leadership in general, and the Prime Minister in particular are willing to sustain a rabidly hostile environment for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. I visited Jamaica not so long ago for the precise purpose of examining the relationship between the criminalization of homosexuality on the one hand and HIV/AIDS on the other. The connection is indisputable. I met with several of the sexual minority groups, and the stories of hatred and beatings and harassment and prejudice make the blood run cold.

And so the situation becomes a breeding ground for AIDS. Let it be understood: it's not homosexuality that spreads AIDS; it's the culture that brutalizes gay men and forces them underground that spreads AIDS. The prevalence rate in the general population of Jamaica is barely 1.5%. The prevalence rate amongst the community of MSM is over 31%. The HIV-positive gay men become what UNAIDS calls the classic bridging population … to show that they're 'real' men and protect themselves from the wrath of society, they marry or take women as lovers so that their acquired heterosexuality is firmly on display. And then the women get infected. The cloistered gay sexual behavior, driven by fear and the sodomy laws, keeps them away from testing and health care and education that would diminish HIV infection. It's a crazy equation. But the Prime Minister of Jamaica pays no heed. One can almost imagine President Museveni and Prime Minister Golding cozying up together around the Commonwealth table as they share dismissive laughter about the woes of the gay community, while simultaneously signing the latest Commonwealth declaration on universal human rights.

The trouble is: it's no laughing matter. Of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth, 40 have sodomy laws. A majority of states in the Commonwealth Caribbean have a sodomy law: it's a sure recipe for the gradual, ineluctable spread of the virus. In a recent report on AIDS, UNAIDS points out that whereas " … HIV prevalence is less than 1% among the general population of most countries in the region, it may be between 5 and 20 times higher among men who have sex with men." In its Epidemic Update for 2009, issued just today, UNAIDS re-emphasizes the alarming rates of transmission amongst the MSM populations in the Caribbean. By way of direct comparison with the Caribbean, every single country in Latin America has removed punitive legislation directed at homosexuals, making the prevention and treatment of AIDS vastly more accessible.

Africa is another throw-back. We've finally reached the point where the epidemiologists are chronicling the spread of AIDS within the homosexual population of the continent. Until now, the subject was taboo … the possibility of gayness was rejected out of hand. But UNAIDS provides this disturbing quote: "A recent literature review of HIV infection among men who have sex with men in Africa identified 19 surveys published through May 2009 from 13 countries, in addition to several unpublished works, highlighting the expansion of available data. For each country, the HIV prevalence among men who have sex with men was higher than among the adult male population." In today's newly-released Epidemic Update for 2009 to which I've referred, UNAIDS, for the first time ever, devotes a lengthy section to the increasing evidence of elevated transmission of the virus amongst the MSM population.

In this context, it's positively criminal to table a parliamentary bill like that of Uganda. It's one thing to talk about the promotion of the 'traditional family' as the author of the Bill does ad nauseam; it's quite another thing to incite the promotion of disease and murder. Gays and lesbians don't challenge traditional families; their private sexual practices don't invade the sanctity of family life. The accusation is a vile canard. People who plead the supremacy of family values over other human values have one of two motives: either they're biblical fundamentalists whose religiosity has gone haywire, or they're so steeped in irrational fear of different sexual orientation that human rights have no meaning.

Ultimately, the Commonwealth has a severe crisis on its hands. It may seem a fortuitous distraction to focus on the financial downturn and climate change. To be sure, they're both important. But roiling just beneath the surface of calm deliberation is this immense civil libertarian struggle. We know we'll win the struggle. It's just a matter of time. It always is. But in the process, intense pain will be felt, lives will be ruined, people will die. That's what is too much to bear. A terrible price is always paid on the incremental road to social justice … in this case, an entire community held to the ransom of predatory fear.

President Museveni is no fool. He'll figure a way out before fatal damage is done to his reputation. But if we want that to come sooner than later, the Commonwealth must put Uganda's anti-homosexuality law on its agenda. Someone has to raise it; perhaps Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It should be collectively agreed that if the law passes, Uganda will be suspended from the Commonwealth. The credibility of the Commonwealth is hanging by a spider's thread. The member states take it less and less seriously. Climate change will be resolved at Copenhagen next month or Bonn or Mexico City in 2010; nothing will be resolved here at Port of Spain. The financial crisis will be dealt with by the G8 and G20 in Canada in 2010; nothing will be resolved here at Port of Spain. If the once-upon-a-time civilized values of the post-colonial Commonwealth are to be restored, then the monstrous war on homosexuality is the place to start the restoration.

Uganda makes a perfect beginning.

Gays say draft [constitution] ignored them

By Emeka_Mayaka Gekara Posted Friday, Daily Nation, November 20, 2009 at 22:00

Not long after the uproar over the marriage of a Kenyan gay couple in London, the gay community in Kenya is coming out of the closet and agitating for rights they feel are ignored by the draft constitution.

Spokespersons for the secretive and tightly-knit community say the draft promoted discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Rev Michael Kimindu, who runs a church for gay people in Nairobi, accused the Committee of Experts of lacking "expertise in courage".

Shoot down draft

He says gay rights should have been included in the draft for discussion by Kenyans.

During the furore over the London wedding, one of the experts Otiende Amollo disclosed that the committee had rejected suggestions by British MPs to recognise and protect the rights of homosexuals in the draft.

"If we did so, a majority of Kenyans would reject the draft during the forthcoming referendum," he said.

But Rev Kimindu, a retired army major, reckons that Kenyans who are likely to shoot down the draft over the matter were relatives of the gays and lesbians. He describes the committee's decision as "homophobic".

According to Mr David Kuria, the coordinator of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, homosexuals should have been "expressly listed" among the minority and marginalised groups deserving of special protection.
He told the Saturday Nation on Friday that the experts should also have indicated that no Kenyan should be discriminated because of his or her sexual orientation.

The present constitution is silent on the issue, but the draft is clear that the right to marriage is only in respect of couples of opposite gender.
"We are not interested in same sex-marriages," Mr Kuria said. "We only want to be allowed to access medical care, education and jobs without discrimination."

Rev Kimindu, an ordained Anglican priest, is the head of the Other Sheep - East Africa, a worldwide Christian organisation dedicated to empowering gays and lesbians.
The gay population, according to Rev Kimindu, is the "other sheep" that Jesus, a shepherd, was searching for in the book of John (Chapter 10:16). Kimindu, 57, is also the head of the local branch of the Metropolitan Community Church which was founded by gay Christians.

Because of his links with the gay movement, his attachment at St Luke's Church Kenyatta, which is run by the All Saints Cathedral was "stopped" last year.

Mr Kimindu describes his church in Nairobi's Imara Daima estate as a sanctuary for lesbian and gay Kenyans.
Kimindu who retired from the military in 2007, boasts of 22-member flock. It is a unique fellowship of university students, middle-level professionals and clergy all aged between 23 and 40.

Though he works with the gay community, Mr Kimindu says he is heterosexual.

For Immediate Press Release

November 29, 2009

Sexual Minorities Uganda -SMUG, Demands more National Non-Discriminatory
HIV/AIDS Approaches for Lesbians , Gays , Bisexuals , Transgender - LGBT
people in Uganda.

World AIDS Day is observed on December 1 every year, dedicated to raising
awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by HIV infection.

Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), calls for greater response to combat
HIV/AIDS. And as part of the National AIDS Strategy urges for, a national
strategy on HIV/AIDS that drives a more coordinated, non-discriminatory and
effective response to the epidemic.

The theme for this year's celebrations is Universe Access and Human Rights
with a sub theme: Working together against HIV stigma and discrimination.
It is a cross cutting phenomenon all over the world that HIV related stigma
and discrimination is a problem that needs to be addressed in ensuring the
achievement of Universal Access by 2010, and extenuating the impact of AIDS
by 2015. LGBT people living with HIV/AIDS have been victims of human rights
violations based on their sexual orientation which is a battle yet to be
totally conquered by Civil Society Organizations.

A world survey of criminalization laws in 2009 found that 80 nations
(including 10 of the PEPFAR focus countries - US President's Emergency Plan
for AIDS Relief) have laws criminalizing same sex acts between consenting
adults. In countries like Uganda where homosexual relations are
criminalized, HIV-related prevention services, treatment and care are
difficult to provide because homosexuality is underground. Countries with
non-discriminatory laws for sexual orientation have shown to provide better
access to HIV treatment, care and services prevention .

Legislations like the Anti-Homosexuality bill 2009, currently before the
parliament of Uganda, targeting sexual minorities have been identified as
obstacles to effectively addressing HIV in Uganda. A 2009 joint report by
the Uganda AIDS Commission - UAC and UNAIDS specifically called for a review
of legal impediments to the inclusion of most-at-risk-populations -
including MSM - in the national AIDS response. But whereas UAC seems to be
moving towards this progress, discriminatory legislations may hinder this

If HIV prevalence and infection prevalence rates and mean age are higher
among women in Uganda, Women who have Sex with Women (WSW) must be part of
Uganda's HIV/AIDS interventions.

SMUG therefore urges government and HIV/AIDS service providers to:

. Include men who have sex with men - MSM and women who have sex with
women - WSW in the Uganda national AIDS strategic plans.
. Designate a human rights bureau position to monitor LGBT concerns
. Repeal/reform laws that criminalize homosexuality
. Improve human rights reporting on violence and discrimination
LGBT communities.

SMUG is a coalition of LGBT organizations that envisions a liberated LGBT
community free from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender
identity/ expression.