Sunday July 11 2010

US hosts top Ugandan gay activist

By Tabu Butagira

The US government is hosting self-confessed lesbian, Ms Valentine alias Val Kalende, as “Uganda’s most prominent human rights activist” to enable her gain more lobbying skills to promote the agenda of sexual minorities.

Ms Kalende is in the US on the International Visitor’s Leadership Programme (IVLP) and began her tour in Salt Lake City, Utah on Wednesday and is to proceed to Louisville, Kentucky state before concluding in Washington, D.C. next Thursday, the Department of State announced on Friday.

“This exchange experience is designed to provide her with an in-depth understanding of US government systems and political organisation at all levels; civil rights protections and equal opportunity laws in the United States; advocacy strategies adopted by organisations to influence policy and effect positive change,” the press statement reads in part.
This year’s IVLP, unlike the previous professional exchanges, will focus on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) advocacy.

Annually, the American government, through local embassies, selects some 4,500 people the world over to participate in the exchange programmes “to meet and confer with their professional counterparts and to gain a firsthand understanding of US society and culture.”
Friday’s press release available on Department of States website says Ms Kalende, a vocal opponent of the proposed anti-gay bill in Uganda, is there to learn cross-sector organisational skills and “building a movement to peaceful protests; challenges and work of the American LGBT movement, faith communities and LGBT issues, media coverage of human rights issues and use of media to advance organisation’s message.”

In Kampala, Information Minister Kabakumba Masiko said whatever Ms Kalende and the Americans are doing “is theirs”. “When she comes back to Uganda, the law is: marriage is a union between man and woman and anything else is unlawful,” Ms Kabakumba said.
“The laws of the US do not bind Uganda. The US would do the world better by telling gays they have a biological and psychological problem instead of hoodwinking them that [their sexual orientation] is natural.”

In a Private Member’s Bill before Parliament, Ndorwa West MP David Bahati proposes death sentence for same-sex relations where one partner, knowing he or she is HIV-positive, deliberately infects another or is a serial offender.

The Bill obliges the public or anybody in authority to report any homosexual activity to police within hours or risk up to three years in jail. Ms Kalende will have discussions with members of government agencies, nongovernmental organisations, faith groups, and the media, as well as with local and federal government officials.