By Sharon Kelly
The bill’s chief’s chief sponsor claims it will “soon” pass:
The member of the Ugandan Parliament behind a controversial “anti-gay” bill that would call for stiff penalties against homosexuality – including life imprisonment and the death penalty – says that the bill will become law “soon.”
“We are very confident,” David 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.’
Bahati’s prediction might be bravado, but there’s certainly going to be another push to pass it. Many people don’t realize that homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda; the bill, which can be read here, would make the law against it much more severe. Meanwhile an Ugandan newspaper recently published the names, addresses, and photos of gays and lesbians, putting them in grave danger.
In light of the recent incident in New York and rash of suicides by bullied gay teens, it’s easy to forget that the United States is a relatively safe place for LGBTI. Homosexuality is punishable by death in eight countries and illegal in seventy others. And in many of these countries, there are cultural forces that, for LGBTI, are no less threatening and inhibiting than laws.
LGBTI living in these countries — or trying to escape from them — need help. We try to provide it.
We, in case you’re wondering, are Human Rights First. (I’m HRF’s communications director.) We work to protect the human rights of LGTBI in a few different ways:
We help GLBTI refugees fleeing persecution.
Our program providing pro-bono legal representation to refugees is the largest of its kind in the country. We’ve helped hundreds of persecuted LGBTI begin new lives in the U.S. But hurdles facing LGTBI refugees remain; our recent report documents them.
We combat hate crime.
We push for hate crimes legislation and for equitable enforcement of the law to protect vulnerable minorities in the U.S., Europe, and Russia.
We support activists risking their lives to fight for GLBTI rights.
One of the activists we work with is Julius Kaggwa, a leader opponent of the “Kill the Gays” bill. Which makes him a target of harassment. Kaggwa — who was born intersex and raised as a girl – says:
I may not be gay, but I understand very well what it means, the courage and the audacity it takes for you to say this is who I am in an environment that says you mustn’t be that.
At our yearly dinner we Kaggwa an award (which is a way of protecting him). In the video below, he makes the crucial point that the “Kill the Gays” bill isn’t a “gay” issue; it’s human rights issue.
Last year, an array of journalists and bloggers worked to expose the American proponents of the bill, like Scott Lively. The coverage added to an international outcry that forced the bill’s sponsors to shelve it.
But now the odious bill is coming back.
We need to speak out again, and to urge political leaders to do the same.
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Sharon Kelly is the Communications Director at Human Rights First.
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