December 16, 2009
In Uganda, a bill designed to eradicate homosexuality has strong support in the government and among evangelical Christians. Proponents of the bill link homosexuality to the West. And under the bill, Uganda would withdraw from any international treaties or protocols that recognize the human rights of gay people.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton calls Uganda's anti-homosexuality bill a "very serious potential violation of human rights." But few in Uganda are willing to speak against it because those who do are labeled gay.
In the lobby of Uganda's parliament building is an installation showing the potentially disastrous effects of climate change. The sign says: "The Choices, Actions and Agreements Made Now Will Determine Which Future Becomes Reality." Whoever wrote that might well have been describing the country's political climate.
Ugandans may soon have a choice to make. Homosexuality has been illegal there for more than 100 years, but now lawmakers are considering legislation that would go further. The Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009 would jail consenting adults who engage in gay sex. It would give life sent
ences to people in same-sex marriages. It would extradite gay Ugandans living abroad and prosecute them.
David Bahati, a first-term lawmaker, wrote the bill.
"This is a defining bill for our country, for our generation. You are either anti-homosexual or you're for homosexuals, because there's no middle point. Anybody who does not believe that homosexuality is a crime is a sympathizer," Bahati says.
It is the first bill Bahati has ever written, and he calls it a "very wonderful piece of legislation." He says he can't imagine a Uganda in which gay people live freely, because the possibility is too horrible to consider. And he says if Western aid to Uganda hinges on gay rights, then the West can keep its money. His bill would impose the death penalty on adults who have gay sex with minors, or who spread HIV through gay sex. And it would jail anyone who fails to report gay activity to police within 24 hours.
And what if his brother were engaging in homosexual activity?