|Ugandan MP David Bahati|
By Paul Canning
An Associated Press story on developments in the Ugandan Parliament on the so-called 'kill the gays' bill is being widely misread as a 'victory' because its main proponent has supposedly 'conceded' the removal of the death penalty.
However the report - headline: 'No death penalty provision in Uganda anti-gay bill' - is inaccurate, because as Box Turtle Bulletin notes:
"The penalty has not been officially dropped. This is merely a statement of concession that [proponent, Ugandan MP David] Bahati is reiterating, one that he has made many times before. The bill itself remains unchanged."(Bahati told US Network News host Rachel Maddow in December that he was willing to drop the death penalty.)
The bill would still contain a penalty of lifetime imprisonment for homosexuality. Anyone who doesn't report a homosexual within 24 hours faces three years imprisonment. And the clauses which cover supposed 'advocacy of homosexuality' could conceivably lead to both lawyers defending gay people or parliamentarians proposing changes to the law facing charges. Any landlord renting to gay people could be accused of running a brothel.
After the government made their clearest indication yet that they wanted the bill killed, Bahati's supporters, such as the infamous Pastor Martin Ssempa, have been running a well-funded national campaign in support of the bill which has included the presentation to parliament of a two-million strong petition. They have paid enormous sums of money by Ugandan standards to gay people to hurl false accusations and pose as “ex-gays.”
Ssempa has also blamed the failure to pass the bill on international pressure on Uganda. This has included a ratcheting up of threats to Uganda's aid.
Despite previously acknowledging his connections with powerful US evangelicals, including politicians, Bahati, in recent conversations with Melanie Nathan of American lesbian website LezGetReal, is now reacting strongly against clear evidence of US evangelical inspiration for his bill, describing it as "a conspiracy theory". He told LezgetReal that this would give "pro-Gay Americans license to believe that now Americans have the right to interfere in Uganda’s sovereign laws on the subject of criminalizing homosexuality."
"He says that the belief that the Bill stemmed from the American Evangelicals gives pro gay lobby the grounds they need to attack the [Anti-Homosexuality Bill - AHB] and interfere in Uganda’s sovereignty," LezgetReal wrote. "He says that these people are lying and that it has nothing to do with the American Evangelicals."
"This is perhaps the “red herring” now offered by Bahati, as he is gearing us towards the failure of AHB and stepping up the ante for his internal fight within his own Party, in a voracious attempt to save the AHB and the specifics it adds to the criminalization of homosexuality in Uganda."It remains unclear whether the Parliament will actually vote on the bill before it closes May 12. The chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee has made a number of opaque statements - however Uganda observer Warren Throckmorton noted that the quotes from him in the AP story does suggest that he intends to get the bill a vote.
"Given the information, I have been getting from close to the Cabinet, this will not be viewed favorably by the ruling party," Throckmorton wrote. "An alternative view is that a focus on homosexuality might take the minds of the people off of the recent riots and arrests of opposition party leaders."In response to the pressure for the bill, governmental sources have said that some provisions could be shifted to other bills - a Penal Code Act and a Sex Offenses Bill - where, says Box Turtle Bulletin, "they stand a better chance of passing with little notice."
Certainly little notice from the mainstream media (MSM), if past experience is anything to go by.