Walkout by Female MPs Delays Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Until Friday

LGBTQ advocates in Uganda say that hate crimes and violence against their community have increased following the bill's introduction in 2009.

By Channing Kennedy May 11, 2011

Uganda’s much-decried "kill the gays" bill, which would legislate the death penalty or life sentences for gay, lesbian, and trans people living in the country, was scheduled for a second round of parliamentary debate today; the AP is reporting that the today’s debate was aborted, following a walkout by female legislators. Instead, the bill will be debated in an special session on Friday of this week. From the AP:

[Bill author David] Bahati’s original bill would mandate a death sentence for active homosexuals living with HIV or in cases of same-sex rape. "Serial offenders" also would face capital punishment. Anyone convicted of a homosexual act would face life imprisonment.

Anyone who "aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage of acts of homosexuality" would face seven years in prison. Landlords who rent rooms or homes to homosexuals also could get seven years.

If the bill is picked up by the next session, some, all or none of those provision could change during parliament negotiations.

Homosexuality is highly unpopular in Uganda, and pastors in this Christian country speak out loudly against it. Bahati has said he thinks the bill would become law if voted on.

LGBTQ advocates in Uganda say that hate crimes and violence against their community have increased following the bill’s introduction in 2009; in January of this year, gay human rights activist David Kato was beaten to death, though police deny that a hate crime took place. And in fall of 2010, a newspaper published a list of ‘suspected’ gays and lesbians, with the headline "Hang Them."

The Associated Press’ update leaves out the established link between anti-gay legislation in Uganda and the efforts of American evangelicals; our editor Kai Wright discussed the link, and the lack of accountability, at length here in January. And our Global Justice columnist outlines the irony in the ability of these American evangelicals, like Obama inauguration pastor Rick Warren, to hide behind anti-Western sentiment:

In the wake of the condemnation of human rights groups, the bill’s proponents continue pushing their initiative as a gesture of revolt against the dictates of Western countries. Homosexuality is reportedly widely vilified as an evil Western export. Yet the rhetoric behind the bill is the byproduct of an American movement that treats the Global South as a petri dish for warped utopian visions, which perhaps wouldn’t fly in the "developed" world so rife with political correctness.

AllOut.org is hosting a petition to urge President Musevini to veto the bill if it passes. It should also be recognized that the success of this bill is a symptom of a larger culture of corruption and systemic instability, of which Musevini himself is part.