Ugandan Cabinet Won't Bring the Kill-the-Gays Bill to a Vote

By Bruce Knotts

The UUA learned on August 23rd, that the Ugandan Cabinet has decided not to allow the infamous anti-homosexuality bill to be voted on by Parliament. David Bahati, the parliament member who authored the legislation, vowed to bring the bill back in November, according to media reports. Originally introduced in 2009 by several members of parliament and a group of bishops, the bill sought to further criminalize homosexuality where individuals could be jailed on suspicion without bail or trial for up to six months or punished by death throughout Uganda. Jail sentences were also listed for anyone who rents, ministers to, provides health care to, or assists anyone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. The bill sparked international outrage and subsequently parliament didn't vote on it since 2009. International pressure has kept his very draconian bill from being voted on. All experts agree, that if the bill came to a vote, it would pass. Reports that Bahati urged the bill to be pushed off until November circulated, but in actuality the bill was quietly on the move to be voted on within the next two weeks, according to international and Ugandan activists. Ugandan political analysts disagreed, suggesting that the cabinet's decision to "come out publicly against" the bill indicates that it cannot be passed "in the near future," reported Reuters Africa. Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, who has strong ties to the U.S., spoke out against the bill, telling ministers that the "bill was unnecessary since government has a number of laws in place criminalizing homosexual activities" and encouraged members to research and enforce laws already in place, reported the Daily Monitor. Bahati, who sponsored the legislation during its revival with the backing of a small group of legislators, stood his ground that the "country should have stronger laws against homosexuality in order to protect the moral fabric that hold society intact," reported the newspaper. UUA United Nations Office Director, Bruce Knotts, spoke with Unitarian Universalist minister, Rev. Mark Kiyimba about this development. Both agreed that the cabinet decision was good news. However, as noted by President Museveni, Uganda already has very strong laws which criminalize sexual orientation and gender identity. The fact that the Ugandan president is calling for stricter enforcement of laws already on the books, means that the lives of sexual minorities in Uganda may find their human rights abused to an even greater degree than is currently the case. One possible avenue for hope is the Ugandan court system, which has, in the past, given some slight support to the rights of sexual minorities in Uganda. Some legal experts have argued that Uganda's currently laws against homosexuality violate basic tenants of the Ugandan constitution. It should be noted that most of the anti-homosexuality laws on the books in Uganda and other former British colonies come from British colonial administrators who feared the sexual power of "the darker races." As such, these laws are not only homophobic, they are racist. We will continue to have our work cut out for us to combat both racism and homophobia.

About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...


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