On the same day that a court in California struck down an anti same-sex marriage ban, thousands of miles away, the ruling government of Uganda will consider a bill under which homosexuals will be sentenced to life in prison for committing gay acts.
Ugandan MP David Bahati, who formally re-introduced the bill in the Kampala parliament, has dropped a clause that would impose the death penalty on homosexuality.
The bill also would punish anyone who failed to notify the authorities of someone they knew is homosexual.
Bahati, who has long claimed that homosexuality is alien to African culture and was “imported” from the West, was denied his initial chance to pass the anti-gay law in 2009 following a huge international outcry, particularly from the United States and Great Britain. U.S. President Barack Obama described the bill as “odious” and threatened to withdraw financial aid to Uganda should it pass.
However, Bahati’s bill may simply be a form of grandstanding since homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, as it is in most African nations.
Bahati is an increasingly powerful lawmaker in Uganda. He is also reportedly a member of “The Family,” a secretive U.S.-based Christian evangelical group.
During an interview with liberal (and lesbian) American TV presenter Rachel Maddow, Bahati claimed that certain unnamed foreign organizations had spent up to $15-million in order to “recruit:” Ugandan children into being gay.
“They go to a school, teach them, entice them with money, to lure them into this practice,” he said. “We have a huge problem in our country. People who are coming from abroad, investing in Uganda to recruit children into a behavior that we believe is a learned behavior and can be unlearned. We believe that our children should not be recruited in something they don't believe in.”
He also defended his anti-gay legislation by declaring: “I am not in a hate campaign, I do not hate gays, I love them, but at the same time I must protect our children who are being recruited into this practice.”
In recent years, a number of gay organizations have popped up in Uganda, partially in reaction to open and explicit anti-gay hate by newspapers, politicians and ordinary citizens.
Newspapers in Uganda have been known to publish the names and photos of suspected homosexuals, and encouraged their readers to harass, even kill, them.
Last year, a prominent gay activist named David Kato was murdered in an incident the police described as a robbery gone awry, while others believe was a hate crime.