The Rev. Canon Gideon Byamugisha said gay people were being used as “scapegoats” for Uganda’s social problems, such as the breakdown of the family unit and rising HIV infection rates, and politicians were using the bill to tap into the prevailing anti-gay mood in the country in the run up to the 2011 elections. He says that, if enacted, the law would be “genocide.”
Byamugisha holds a traditional view of human sexuality and holds that homosexual behavior is sinful, but, as the Guardian reports, believes “that this bill [if passed into law] will be state-legislated genocide against a specific community of Ugandans, however few they may be.”
In other news, it appears that the law is set to pass despite the outcry from other nations, organizations and churches from around the globe, with maybe a few small, functionally inconsequential changes.
“They [politicians] are exploiting the traditional and cultural abhorrence to same-sex relationships to their advantage. They know that if they criminalise homosexuals, homosexual tendencies and homosexual acts, they stand a better chance of winning votes from the majority of religious followers and leaders, because most of us may not be able to distinguish what may be considered ‘unacceptable’, from the point of view of religious and cultural belief and opinion, from what is ‘criminal’, from the point of state law that is meant to keep peace, order and justice,” he said.
“What makes this proposed law truly distasteful is the amount and level of violence that is being proposed against suspected, rumoured and known individuals who are gay, and their families and community leaders in their places of worship, residence, education, work, business and entertainment.”
He added: “When you say that parents of homosexual children, and that pastors and counsellors who extend spiritual guidance and psycho-social support to homosexuals, will be regarded as ‘accomplices’ in promoting and abetting homosexuality if they don’t report them to police, then you take the law a bit too far.”
Reuters reports that Uganda is likely to pass a bill criminalizing homosexuality in the east African nation and deal a blow to rights activists, but the act will have some changes to appease donors who fund about a third of the nations budget.
But donor influence may be waning as the country moves to become an oil producer, and Western nations — which have largely criticised the anti-gay bill — may be unwilling to fight the act ahead of a 2011 poll.
“Many donors think with oil coming, the window of opportunity to support change is being closed very quickly,” said Daniel Kalinaki, managing editor of the independent Daily Monitor newspaper. The government yesterday reiterated its opposition to homosexuality and said donors were free to withdraw their funding if they wish.
Ethics and Integrity Minister James Nsaba Buturo was responding to a Daily Monitor story that Sweden had joined other countries that are pressuring the government to discard a proposed law that would severely punish homosexuality in the country.
“Homosexuality will not be promoted, encouraged or supported in Uganda,” Mr Buturo added.
If there are changes to the bill they to be in modifying the penalty from death to life imprisonment, altering clauses nullifying international treaties, conventions and protocols that contradict the act, and, finally, removing a section about extradition.
Canon Byamugisha is taking a stand that is against the prevailing opinion in the Ugandan Christian Churches, which is not new for him. In 1990, after the death of his first wife, he discovered he was HIV-positive. In 1992, he became the first African priest to publicly declare his HIV status.
Since revealing his status, Byamugisha, who is a Christian Aid goodwill ambassador on HIV/Aids, has campaigned for the rights of people living with the disease. In 2003 he established the Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation to end the stigma of diagnosis, encourage safe sexual practices, improve access to treatment and support orphans or vulnerable children who have lost parents. This year he was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize for his work.