Uganda’s homosexual community say that their situation is worsening. Today marks one year since the introduction of an Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda’s parliament that seeks to impose the death penalty on “repeat offenders” and HIV-positive gay men convicted of “aggravated homosexuality”. The bill also proposes jailing anyone who knows a gay man but refuses to report them to the authorities for three years, whilst anyone who is caught defending gay rights in public would be sentenced to seven years in prison.
According to the programme director of sex minorities Uganda (SMUG), Julian Onziema, harassment of homosexuals was accelerated after the introduction, on October 14th 2009, of a draft anti-Anti Homosexuality Bill with harsh penalities to Parliament of Uganda by David Bahati, a member of Parliament.
But despite the suspension of the bill, following protests by gay fraternity, human rights organizations and some countries, Julian Onziema argues that “it has promoted hate- speech in churches, schools and the media. It has led to defamation, blackmail, evictions, intimidation, arbitrary arrests and unlawful detention, physical assault, emotional and mental assault of LGBTI activists, our families and allies.”
Giving an example of two newspapers; “The Red Pepper tabloid” and “Rolling Stone newspaper,” the gay activist related that “The bill has further led to increased violence incited by local media, which write negatively about us.” The two papers, according to her, recently ran stories with the names of some alleged gays and their home addresses.
“That led to some people attacking them and harassing them. Some sustained injuries and have since fled their homes” reveals Julian who has called for total withdraw of the bill.
Relating his story, Stosh, the group’s programme director said: “When my neighbors saw my picture in the paper, they were furious. They threw stones at me while I was in my house. I was so terrified somehow I managed to flee my home to safety.”
Although “the bill constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of privacy, association, assembly and security of the person as enshrined in Constitution of Uganda’s and International Human Rights Law”, Gerald, a member of SMUG says that “the sad truth is that most evil in Uganda is done by people who end up never being held accountable for their deeds.”
“The Rolling Stone publication has incited violence against a group
of minorities making them seem like less of human beings” Gerald continued.
But in a country where most people look at homosexuality as a taboo, gays remain quiet over their sexuality for fear of attracting the ire of their communities.
“The Bil”l, says the group, “is an expression of prejudice, intolerance, discrimination and violence. The bill abuses the dignity, privacy and equality of people with a different sexual orientation and identity other
than heterosexual. If passed into law, it will further legitimize public and private violence, harassment and torture.”