The latest from Uganda

Four new items from Uganda:

Uganda bans female genital mutilation

The Ugandan parliament unanimously passed a bill banning female genital mutilation, a traditional rite that has sparked an international outcry and is practiced in some African and Asian communities.

The practice, which involves cutting off a girl’s clitoris, is also called female circumcision. In some communities in eastern Uganda, it is practiced in girls up to age 15.

Donors lodge formal protest against anti-gay bill

The diplomatic protest technically known as a “demarche” was issued in the last few weeks and follows on the heels of a worldwide campaign by gay rights campaigners and human rights groups.

“We can confirm that we have received a demarche from the Delegation of the European Union which has also been signed by the Norwegian and American Embassies,” said Mr Henry Okello Oryem yesterday morning.

If the Bill, which has local popular support, is to pass, it will put the government and donors in a difficult position. Recently, a top Swedish official said Sweden is likely to cut aid to Uganda. The issue has turned into a public relations nightmare for the government.

By the weekend major global news networks including CNN, BBC and TIME were carrying stories condemning the Bill, crowding out most stories about Uganda including the passing of a “progressive” law banning female genital mutilation.

A column by a man billed as a senior advisor to Uganda’s president that ends:

When times have changed, if they change enough, then these words will include a leavening of same-sex relationships. Gradualism is not a sin. But hunting down people for same-sex love, I believe to be a sin, against Love, one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. (I say all this without being a homosexual.) Parliament should not pass this Bill.

The story of a young gay Uganda couple:

In October 2009, around the time Mr Bahati was preparing his anti-homosexuality law, Ms Kalende’s partner, a 25-year-old woman she did not wish to name, left for the United States, where she is now a student and the regular sender of hopeful messages to a partner living thousands of miles away.

The couple met in November 2008, one openly gay and the other closeted, but soon found the connection that inspired them to exchange rings in a recent private ceremony. They enjoyed each other’s company, even going for an HIV test together.

Ms Kalende, smiling wryly, recalled being asked by a counsellor if her partner had been using a condom.

“In my mind, I was like, ‘Dude?’ I felt useless. He was giving me the wrong kind of counselling. I wanted to tell him: ‘The lady you see there is my girlfriend,'” she said.

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