Ugandans bill may be keeping death-sentence for gays

I mentioned in passing here that the bill for the Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act had been edited to remove provisions that could have sentenced sexually active gays with death. (Even if that is true, the Act will still inflict all this shit.) Unfortunately, he bill’s author is insinuating that this is not the case: 

“Learned behaviour can be unlearned,” said David Bahati. “You can’t tell me that people are born gays. It is foreign influence that is at work.”

Bahati has just presented his anti-homosexuality bill 2009 to Uganda’s parliament. The bill, which will be debated within a fortnight and is expected to become law by February, will allow homosexuality to be punishable by death.

“Most people have misunderstood the bill,” Bahati told the Observer. “The section of the death penalty relates to defilement by an adult who is homosexual and this is consistent with the law on defilement which was passed in 2007. The whole intention is to prevent the recruitment of under-age children, which is going on in single-sex schools. We must stop the recruitment and secure the future of our children.”

There is wide support for Bahati’s law which, while being an extreme piece of anti-gay legislation, is not unique. As far as gay rights are concerned, it would appear that much of Africa is going backwards. Nigeria has a similar bill waiting to reach its statute books and already allows the death penalty for homosexuality in northern states, as does Sudan. Burundi criminalised homosexuality in April this year, joining 37 other African nations where gay sex is already illegal. Egypt and Mali are creeping towards criminalisation, using morality laws against same-sex couples. The Ugandan bill extends existing laws to make it illegal to promote homosexuality by talking or writing about it, and forcing people to tell the authorities about anyone they know who is gay. The bill, said Bahati, 35, an MP from the ruling party, aims to “protect the cherished culture of the people of Uganda against the attempts of sexual rights activists seeking to impose their values of sex promiscuity on the people of Uganda”.

He denied reports that international pressure might result in parts of the bill being toned down. “We are not going to yield to any international pressure – we cannot allow people to play with the future of our children and put aid into the game. We are not in the trade of values. We need mutual respect.”

The man who is petitioning the execution of his fellow citizens for their expressions of love behind closed doors is calling for “mutal respect.”  Respect doesn’t come with a machete in its hand.

But many suspect that it was outsiders who inspired this bill in the first place. In March, Bahati met several prominent anti-gay US Christian activists who attended a conference in Uganda where they pledged to “wipe out” homosexuality. The conference featured Scott Lively, president of California’s anti-gay Abiding Truth Ministries and co-author of The Pink Swastika, a book claiming that leading Nazis were gay. Also there was Don Schmierer, on the board of Exodus International, which promotes the “ex-gay” movement, believing people can change their sexuality and be redeemed. The third extremist evangelical to attend was Caleb Lee Brundidge, who is linked to Richard Cohen who believes that psychotherapy can “cure” homosexuality.

For those who claim that because Warren does not directly participate in Ugandan politics that he exerts no influence on the climate in that country, I offer Bahati’s own words:

This weekend, Rick Warren, the most powerful evangelical in America, released a video statement. “As an American pastor, it is not my role to interfere with the politics of other nations, but it is my role to speak out on moral issues,” he said, adding that the bill was “unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals”.

Bahati said yesterday that he regretted Warren’s retreat. “It’s unfortunate that a man of God who has inspired many people across the world can give in to pressure and disappoint them.”

One hopes the incident will illustrate to orthodox opponents of gay rights in the West that “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” rhetoric doesn’t work. The human mind doesn’t usually compartmentalize like. And anyway, most utterances encouraging sinner-loving-cum-sin-hating ring hollow with clichés, shibboleths of vacuousness.

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