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Religious Tolerance logo

Proposed genocidal law targeting GLB persons in Uganda

2011-NOV to 2013-DEC.
Parliament passes anti-gay law, illegally.

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"GLB" is an acronym referring to gays, lesbians, and bisexuals. More commonly, the letter "T" is added to
refer to transgender persons and transsexuals. Sometimes "I" is added to refer to intersexual persons.

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This topic is a continuation from the previous essay.

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2011-NOV-28: Legislators reconsidering anti-gay law; other news:

Christopher Ssenyonjo, is a former Anglican bishop of West Buganda diocese. His consecration as bishop was cancelled by the Ugandan church during 2002 because of his support for LGBTs. He said during an interview with ENInews that fear among LGBTs in Uganda is increasing daily. Many are changing their residences to seek safety. He said:

"People have to be more tolerant. We have to make them understand that homosexuals are not different from them as human beings. [LGBT] people are suffering and we believe the problem is in failing to understand them. ... People are instigating to have the bill debated. This is creating much anxiety among gays and lesbians who keep guessing what will happen next."

A man has been convicted of the beating to death of David Kato during 2011-JAN. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Frank Mugisha, 29, a leader of Sexual Minorities Uganda, was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award. He said that the award gave him more courage in his work. His group works underground; its members shift location frequently to avoid attacks. 1

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2012-MAR-22: Liberty Counsel announces it will defend pastor Scott Lively in Ugandan case:

Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG) launched a lawsuit in a Massachusetts court, claiming that evangelical pastor Rev. Scott Lively started preaching in Ugandan churches during 2002 against lesbians, gays and pornography. LIberty Counsel has agreed to defend Lively. The lawsuit further claims that as a result of LIvely's efforts, the LGBT community in Uganda have faced heavy discrimination.

According to a press release of Liberty Counsel:

"Mathew Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel, commented: 'This lawsuit against Rev. Scott Lively is a gross attempt to use a vague international law to silence, and eventually criminalize, speech by U.S. citizens on homosexuality and moral issues. This suit should cause everyone to be concerned, because it a direct threat against freedom of speech'." 2

The lawsuit is based on the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) which covers violations of international laws that are "specific, universal, and obligatory." According to Liberty Counsel:

"Courts have found torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity; summary execution, prolonged arbitrary detention, and forced disappearance to be actionable under the ATS." 2

Extending the range of this statute to include religious speech, no matter how hateful, seems to be a major stretch.

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2012-JUN: "Kill the gays bill" reintroduced to Parliament, strongly supported by Christian ecumenical council:

The original Anti-Homosexuality Bill was reintroduced in February by its sponsor, Member of Parliament David Bahati. Although some news reports said that the death penalty had been removed from the bill, it has remained in place.

The Uganda Joint Christian Council (UJCC) is an ecumenical group that includes Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox churches in the country. According to their website, their mandate is:

"... to build a society that harmoniously co-exists and promotes, protects, respects and upholds human dignity."

However, their mandate apparently does not extend to sexual minorities.

At their annual meeting they:

  • Asked that the Parliamentary Committee on Gender to speed up passage of the bill which is currently at the committee level.

  • Asked the Education Committee to add a discussion of human sexuality to all school curricula.

  • Appealed to all churches "... to remain steadfast in opposing the phenomena of homosexuality, lesbianism and same-sex union."

This decision by the UJCC may signal a reversal in position by the local Catholic bishops. Roman Catholic Bishop of Uganda Cyprian Lwanga previously attacked the bill’s death penalty and imprisonment clauses as contrary to "... a Christian caring approach to this issue." However, he also said: "We, the Catholic Bishops of Uganda, appreciate and applaud the Government’s effort to protect the traditional family and its values."

According to, the bill:

"... is backed by First Lady Janet Museveni and legislators with close ties to the American religious right. The bill, which emerged after a 2009 conference in which American evangelicals railed against the threats posed by homosexuality, included draconian penalties, including death and life imprisonment, and has generated intense scrutiny. International pressure, including opposition from the U.S. State Department, has helped prevent the legislation from actually being voted on in Parliament. 3,4

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2012-JUL to 2013-DEC: No major developments on the "kill the gays" bill:

During this 19 month interval, there were no important developments in the bill. Many rumours circulated about the bill being scheduled for debate in Parliament, but otherwise the bill remained inactive. Heavy opposition from the U.S. government and other the governments of other countries apparently kept the bill's sponsor, Member of Parliament David Bahati, from starting debate.

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2013-DEC-20: Ugandan Parliament illegally passes anti-gay bill:

The Members of the Ugandan Parliament unanimously passed a slightly watered-down anti-gay bill. Their action was not legal because Parliament lacked a quorum of members at the time. However, the bill is progressing even though its passage was not legal.

The sponsor of the bill, David Bajati, said:

"Because we are a God-fearing nation, we value life in a holistic way. It is because of those values that members of parliament passed this bill regardless of what the outside world thinks."

It appears that Ugandans generally believe that a homosexual orientation is a choice, and that by banning the practice of same-gender sexual behavior, the LGBT community will eventually fade away . A number of evangelical Christians from the U.S. have been touring Uganda preaching this message. They have been heavily supported by Christian faith groups within the country.

Catherine Byaruhanga, writing for BBC News in Uganda said:

"The introduction of this bill led Uganda to be called the worst place to be gay.

As parliament debated it, gay activists met in a suburb of the capital Kampala to work out their own plan. They say their lives are often in threat here because of intolerance.

First tabled in parliament back in 2009, the proposed law caused such an international backlash that it had languished in parliamentary bureaucracy up until now. It originally proposed a death sentence for certain homosexual acts but this was scrapped and punishment limited to life imprisonment.

Speaker Rebecca Kadaga has been instrumental in giving the bill a new lease of life. Last year she promised it as a 'Christmas gift to the country.'

The challenge is enforcement. Authorities need to be able to gather evidence that shows someone has engaged in homosexuality. This is hard to prove and one of the reasons Uganda's current anti-gay legislation has been rarely enforced.

But once enacted the bill might give law enforcers extra motivation to tackle "homosexual crimes". This could lead to more arrests and intrusive medical exams." 5

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This topic continues in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Fredrick Nzwili, "As Uganda re-considers anti-gay law, former bishop calls for tolerance," Ecumenical News International, 2011-NOV-28, at:
  2. "Suit Based on International Law Filed Against Christian Pastor for Speech on LGBT," Liberty Counsel press release, 2012-MAR-22, at:
  3. Joohn Tugume, "Bishops want shelved anti-gay bill dusted," Daily Monitor (Uganda), 2012-JUN-10, at:
  4. Peter Montgomery, "Ugandan bishops push notorious anti-gay bill," Religion Dispatches, 2012-JUN-12, at:
  5. "Ugandan MPs pass life in jail anti-homosexual law," BBC News Africa, 2013-DEC-20, at:

Copyright © 2011 to 2014 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2011-MAY-10
Latest update: 2014-JUN-29
Compiler: B.A. Robinson

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