LGBT campaign groups, HIV charities, trade unions, Ugandan exiles and refugees protested outside the Ugandan High Commission in London today (10 December) against the ‘Kill The Gays’ bill.
The bill, which could be passed by Christmas, will broaden the criminalization of same-sex relations in Uganda. People could be convicted simply for touching another person of the same gender in a sexualized way. And those guilty of ‘aggravated homosexuality’, including repeat offenders, could be executed.
Protester and human rights activist Bob Churchill, 30, said: ‘The bill is a disgrace. David Bahiti [Ugandan politician and MP] keeps saying they’ve taken out the death penalty but this is not necessarily the case, and even if it is, it’s beyond the point’
He said the three biggest problems in the bill are: ‘It increases sentences, it further criminalizes aggravated homosexuality and finally it criminalizes everybody. If it passes everybody in the country will be forced to report known homosexuals, failure to do so will result in a fine and up to three years in prison.
‘It’s a recipe for a witch-hunt’
Felicity Daly, 44, from Hackney said: ‘I can’t believe that in a country where HIV rates are constantly rising, any legislative attention is on what people do in the privacy of their own homes!
‘I think we need to see an international movement on a higher scale with greater visibility, I’m here because I was made aware that the bill had not been changed; lesbians, bisexuals, gays and transgendered people will still face death. This situation feels as though signing a petition is just not enough, people’s lives are in jeopardy.’
Support worker and Ugandan John Bosco, now living in Southampton, southern England, spoke of the effect the anti-gay witch-hunt in Uganda has had on him already: ‘I’ve lost my family, my job, my house and my car. I don’t have anything, I sit in my house surrounded by walls, a person that used to have family now has nothing and why, because of who I love.
‘What I want to see is the people of Uganda understanding that gay people exist, we’re not going anywhere. I want the government to protect their people without discrimination.’
Bosco hopes the Ugandan government will ‘educate the country about gay people, instead of passing the bill’.
He said: ‘Being gay is not a white persons disease as the government of Uganda say.’
‘It is probably the world’s most harsh and comprehensively homophobic law – even more severe than the extreme anti-gay laws of countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran,’ said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
‘This bill is once aspect of a much wider attack on civil society by the Museveni regime. It is symptomatic of Uganda’s drift to authoritarianism,’ he added.
Lance Price, director of the Kaleidoscope Trust, added: ‘If this bill became law it would be catastrophic for all lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda and a huge blow for human rights the world over.
‘We are calling on President Museveni to recognize the profound injustice of this bill and the untold damage it will do both to the individuals it targets so wickedly but also to all the people of Uganda.’
While Ben Simms, Director of UK Consortium on AIDS and International Development highlighted the health dangers: ‘The persecution of the LGBT community in Uganda is an assault on the human rights of all Ugandans and is having a catastrophic impact on that nation’s health.
‘The gains made in the response to HIV and AIDS for example, are now being reversed, with a rise in HIV incidence reported in 2011.’