Uganda and the Anti-Homosexuality Bill have become synonymous on the international stage. On either end of the debate at home are its author, MP David Bahati, and one of its most vocal opponents, gay rights activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera. Sunday Monitor’s Philippa Croome caught up with both of them to talk about where the Bill stands now. An abridged version of the interviews:
There has been considerable international attention on this Bill, which have led some to believe the Bill is dead. Where does the bill stand now?
(laughs) Let everybody know that it’s gone so I don’t have so much headache. I am a Member of Parliament up to 2016 and you know I am not in this cause alone. There are so many MPs who support this Bill.
But we have achieved a lot in terms of making this a national issue – people are now aware of the dangers and we have set a very firm foundation in the fight against homosexuality which I think in the 9th Parliament we shall build on. The close of this (8th) Parliament is just pressing on the pause button-in a few weeks when Parliament resumes we will begin the process of legislating against homosexuality. I am committed to the fight against behaviour that will destroy the future of our children.
In the 8thParliament, the Bill was debated by the Committee of Parliamentary and Legal Affairs. What kind of amendments have been made to the draft Bill, and will these be carried over?
Certainly the punishment of death penalty is something we have moved away from- attempt to commit homosexuality is something we have also moved away from.
There are a number of amendments we have made, and those are going to be brought forward. Since we have moved it, we have listened to a number of views from a number of stakeholders, and all those views have been incorporated in the amendments, which will come when we happen to bring it.
But the focus is on inducement, stopping the inducement of our children to this behaviour, and promotion- those two things are the ones that we will be focusing on.
If protecting children is the focus of the Bill, why does it require an entirely separate bill from current child protection laws?
We are not really singling out anybody. In 2007, we had an Act which stops defilement, the defilement Act, it is already there. We have the Penal Code which criminalises homosexuality in some form, but it is not specific, it’s not effective, it needs strengthening.
The Bill comes in to include other issues that have emerged over time-issues of promotion, it has never happened, it is happening now, issues of inducing children- it was never there, it was happening now.
Why do you think there has been such an international backlash against this Bill?
I think this is just double standards and a contradiction of democracy. Homosexuality is criminal here in our country, it is not regarded as a human right here in our country, in other countries it is. In other countries you see adultery is criminal- it is unbelievable in America, but here it’s tolerated.
Everyone of us comes from different backgrounds, different cultures and should be respected for what they are.
Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera
Where does the fight against this Bill stand now?
He (Bahati) is going to reintroduce it. He thinks he is right – but he is using his power to abuse a minority group. We are going to keep lobbying the way we have been doing, not only internationally but even locally.
Nothing is going to change. We are going to go back the same way we did in the 8th Parliament… If he goes ahead, gets support. If the Parliament votes for it, we shall go ahead and challenge it in the Constitutional Court.
How important has the international community’s voice been to keeping the bill at bay?
Why didn’t they pass it in this Parliament? They had all the time - why didn’t they if they knew it was really a national issue? They are not stupid, because they knew they could not be a pariah state. We are part of a global village - they are not only condemning anti-homosexuality, but they are condemning all human rights violations. Every human rights violation that happens in Uganda, we need Ugandans to stand up and say enough is enough – and our allies in the international community to also stand up. At the end of the day, Uganda is not alone, we operate in a global village.
Mr Bahati has made some serious allegations to the “pro-gay movement” in regards to financing the “inducement of children” into homosexuality. How do you respond?
If I found someone trying to recruit children into homosexuality, I would even hand them in myself – he is trying to pretend that he’s protecting children of Uganda, but he’s not doing that.
Today, he thinks he is condemning Kasha, but he could be condemning his own children in future. There are very many children who are growing up and he is pretending to be protecting them, but they could turn out to be like some of us.
The issue here is not even recruitment or promotion. For two years, Bahati has been asked by everyone to produce the evidence and he has not produced it. He is just using that to get sympathy from the masses of people in Uganda who are parents – that’s the only reason he has insisted we are recruiting children. He does not have any other argument.
Bahati says homosexuality is not considered a human right here in Uganda. Then, they (government) should not have signed all the international treaties because international treaties say do not discriminate against anyone. Homosexuals are human beings, so Uganda is a party to all those human rights treaties that say do not discriminate on any grounds.