In the African country of Uganda, the fight for human rights continues. The “kill the gays” bill that received media attention last year is still on the table. Ugandan member of Parliament (MP) David Bahati told CNN recently that the African nation’s controversial anti-gay bill will become law “soon.” The bill was introduced to the Ugandan Parliament over a year ago by Bahati, who also happens to be its sponsor. Once it becomes law it will punish homosexuality with life imprisonment or execution.
“We are very confident,” Bahati told CNN, “because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children.” These statements follow the recent controversy after a Ugandan tabloid listed Uganda’s “top 100 homosexuals” that included pictures and addresses of Ugandans perceived to be gay. The Ugandan newspaper, Rolling Stone, published the list in early October.
Since then, at least four Ugandans have been attacked, according to gay rights groups in the country. The Ugandan “Rolling Stone” is not related to the U.S. magazine with the same name. In fact in the most recent issue of the American magazine, the editors denounced the Ugandan publication’s article calling it “one of the most vile and hateful anti-gay screeds we have ever read.” They also have demanded that the Ugandan paper stop using their name. In Uganda and many countries in Africa, homosexuality is already criminalized. Thirty-eight of fifty-three African nations criminalize homosexuality in some way. In Uganda, the current sentence for homosexual behavior is prison time up to 14 years. If this bill passes, it would allow “repeat” offenders to be executed.
In March of 2009, a workshop took place in Kampala, Uganda, that featured three American evangelical Christians: Scott Lively, an author who has written several books opposing homosexuality; Caleb Lee Brundidge, a self-professed former gay man who conducts sessions to heal homosexuality; and Don Schmierer, a board member of Exodus International, an organization devoted to promoting "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ". The theme of the conference was an anti-gay agenda. Topics included, “how to make gay men straight,” “how gay men often sodomize teenage boys” and other equally ridiculous subjects. Unfortunately, it had some powerful influence in Uganda.
The very next month, the “kill the gays” bill began its journey, garnering support from even the President of Uganda. Like most discrimination, the “kill the gays” bill began with misinformation. Stephen Langa, the March 2009 workshop organizer, specifically cited an unlicensed conversion therapist named Richard A. Cohen. Cohen’s book, which was given to Langa and other prominent Ugandans, spouts all sorts of incorrect “facts” about homosexuality. Some of the more outlandish statements from his book: Homosexuals are at least 12 times more likely to molest children than heterosexuals; homosexual teachers are at least 7 times more likely to molest a pupil; homosexual teachers are estimated to have committed at least 25 percent of pupil molestation; 40 percent of molestation assaults were made by those who engage in homosexuality.
After Cohen was called out on these incorrect facts, he reported they were in the book by accident and would be removed for future editions. The statistics derive from faulty studies performed by Paul Cameron, who has been expelled from the American Psychological Association, the Canadian Psychological Association, and the American Sociological Association.
Many countries have threatened to sever financial aid to Uganda if the bill passes. According to an interview in The Guardian, Bahati initially stated that Uganda’s government was determined to pass the bill "even if meant withdrawing from international treaties and conventions such as the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and foregoing donor funding". Since then, however, The Guardian has stated that Bahati has denied these reports.
After languishing for a year, it appears that the Ugandan government may be ready to push ahead with the bill. Although it is a far cry from not allowing gay men and women to serve openly in the military, the sentiments are the same. Before we preach to other countries about human rights, the United States should look long and hard at our own record. And certainly continue to condemn Uganda and other African nations for their institutionalized discrimination.