Uganda Shelves Kill the Gays Bill—For Now

Uganda’s “Kill the Gays” bill is dead—at least for now. The BBC reports that the Ugandan Parliament adjourned Friday without considering the bill.

But David Bahati, the MP who introduced the private member’s bill, said he would try to re-introduce it when the next parliament convened after February’s elections, and said it had achieved his goal of sparking debate.

“We have made important steps in raising the issue and that will continue,” he was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.

In “raising the issue,” Bahati and his supporters—some members of the US evangelical community—have accomplished little more than ramping up the harassment and threats against LGBT people in Uganda, as the AP reminds us:

Last year a tabloid newspaper in Uganda [Rolling Stone] published the names and photos of men it alleged were gay. One cover included the words “Hang Them.” Shortly afterward, a prominent gay rights activist whose picture was published was bludgeoned to death, though authorities contend David Kato’s sexual orientation had nothing to do with the killing.

Life has never been easy for LGBT people in Uganda but “raising the issue” to a higher profile with this bill has proven deadly for the community. One Internet activist group, Avaaz, called the shelving of the bill for this parliamentary session a “victory for all Ugandans,” but it will be a short one. Even though a law sanctioning the death penalty for LGBT people, and jail time for anyone who assists or advocates for them, hasn’t managed to pass, it doesn’t mean it won’t eventually—and in the meantime, the conversation around the bill has made a death penalty at the hands of neighbors and strangers more likely.

Julius Kaggwa, a Ugandan and a leader in the Kampala-based Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law, told RD about the situation LGBT people faced in Uganda back in February: “Homophobia has been here for ages, but it was not to the extent it has become. People just had their own opinions. They frowned upon homosexuality but we never had this kind of violence, and blatant hate speech in the media like with Rolling Stone—to kill people,” Kaggwa said.

The adjournment of the parliament leaves both the bill, and the LGBT community, in limbo. Warren Throckmorton reports that “Bahati will have to ask Parliament permission to move AHB-II as a private member’s bill. If they give him that permission then he can introduce the same bill or a modified one and the process will begin again.”

Meanwhile, more than 2 million people have signed a petition urging Ugandan lawmakers to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and the US State Department condemned the bill on Thursday, according to CNN:

“No amendments, no changes, would justify the passage of this odious bill,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told reporters. “Both (President Barack Obama) and (Secretary of State Hillary Clinton) publicly said it is inconsistent with universal human rights standards and obligations.”

The good news is, of course, that failure to pass the bill in this parliamentary session gives activists, both religious and secular, and international players more time to pressure the Ugandan government to drop the bill all together—and perhaps, enough time to begin to educate Ugandans that LGBT people are not evil abominations worthy of death, but real, living, human beings, made and blessed by their Creator.