- East Africa
- United States
- Sexuality - Governance
Uganda: Obama ridicules anti-gay bill
U.S. President, Mr. Barrack Obama has condemned the sponsor of Uganda gay bill, and questioned Uganda’s conscientiousness, in a breakfast meeting he held with religious leaders in Washington. Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has distanced himself from the bill, saying it does not represent the views of his government.
"We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it is here in the United States or... more extremely, in odious laws that are being proposed more recently in Uganda,” Mr. Obama was quoted as saying.
Homosexual acts are illegal in Uganda and punishable by up to 14 years in prison. But the bill would raise that penalty to life in prison or death penalty in some cases of homosexual intercourse.
“It is unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are," Mr. Obama said, while addressing politicians and religious leaders at the prayer breakfast. Mr. Obama has joined European nations in criticizing the proposed Bill.
Conversely, the Uganda cabinet has set up a committee to look at David Bahati’s proposal which also proffers seven years in prison for helping, counseling, or encouraging a person to engage in a homosexual act.
President Museveni who was initially silent on the Bill when it was proposed in October made the Bill a foreign affairs issue after international pressure from Sweden, the UK, and Canada.
"The prime minister of Canada came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays, [UK] Prime Minister Gordon Brown came to see me and what was he talking about? Gays. Mrs Clinton [the US secretary of state] rang me. What was she talking about? Gays," Museveni was quoted as saying.
He told reporters that the cabinet would be talking to David Bahati about his bill and would define the government’s position on it. Mr. Bahati has also said he is willing to amend some clauses.
Discrimination against homosexuals in Uganda has its root in the doctrines of the St. James Church after it seceded from the Episcopal Church of the United States, claiming resentment over the idea of gay bishops. St. James church subsequently sought—and found—protection among the conservative Anglican bishops of the Anglican Church in Uganda.
According to reports, the archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, took St. James church under his wing and has since campaigned relentlessly against homosexuality. However, the spiritual head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has condemned the anti-homosexuality bill that is before the Ugandan Parliament.