The member of the Ugandan Parliament behind a controversial "anti-gay" bill that would call for stiff penalties against homosexuality -- including life imprisonment and the death penalty -- says that the bill will become law "soon."
"We are very confident," David Bahati told CNN, "because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children."
Governments that have donated aid to Uganda and human rights groups applied massive pressure since the bill was proposed a year ago, and most believed that the bill had been since shelved.
Not so, says Bahati, adding, "Every single day of my life now I am still pushing that it passes."
His statements come in the wake of a global outcry over a tabloid publication of Uganda's "top 100 homosexuals" that included pictures and addresses of Ugandans perceived to be gay.
The Ugandan newspaper Rolling Stone -- no relation to the U.S. magazine -- published the list in early October. Since then, at least four Ugandans have been attacked, according to gay rights groups in the country.
Stosh Mugisha was one of them. On the day that the tabloid was published, people started pointing at her and commenting, she says. Later that night, a crowd gathered outside her house.
"People were throwing stones through gate," says Mugisha, "they were shouting, 'Homosexual homosexual!' I started getting scared."
Mugisha and her partner of one year had to flee their house the next morning, narrowly escaping stoning. Now they are in hiding.
"They start bringing in these issues like, 'How can you be born gay? How can you be born lesbian?' They really don't know that we have battled to stand and be who we are," Mugisha says.
Giles Muhame, the youthful editor of Rolling Stone, is unrepentant. He says homosexuality a virus spreading through the world and believes they have done a public good.
He says the aim was to target Ugandan homosexuals who were recruiting "converts in schools."
"We thought, by publishing that story, the police would investigate them, prosecute them, and hang them," says Muhame.
While extreme views to many, in Uganda even this sentiment holds some weight. This is a mostly Christian country where local and international, particularly American, evangelicals hold great sway. Together with Ugandan politicians and preachers, they have lobbied for greater punishments for gays.
Mugisha says she used to be a Christian, but the constant harassment she receives for wearing pants, rather than a dress or skirt, or for wearing a baseball cap and being "boyish" as she calls it, means she has lost her faith.
She says Uganda is no place for gays and lesbians.
And member of Parliament Bahati agrees, "God has given us different freedoms, our democracy is giving us different freedoms, but I don't think anyone has the freedom to commit a crime and homosexuality in our country is a crime, it's criminal."
Thursday, 28 October 2010