KAMPALA, Uganda — Bishop Christopher Senyonjo spent most of today at a hearing by the Ugandan Legal Parliamentary Committee, which is charged with compiling a report for Parliament on the future of the “Kill the Gays” bill proposed by the rabidly anti-gay lawmaker David Bahati.
“The Parliament wraps up its work this week and a newly elected parliament will convene soon after. The seven-member committee will make recommendations following several days of public response to the Bahati bill,” said Bishop Christopher, one of Uganda’s leading voices fighting homophobia in Africa in an effort to advance human rights.
“Supporters of the bill included pastor Martin Ssempa and others who continue to claim homosexuality is imported from the West, is a threat to Ugandan children and needs to be legally stopped,” he said.
Today’s hearing marked the final testimony, and a committee report is expected immediately. Some veteran observers of Ugandan politics predict that the bill could come up for a vote as soon as Wednesday.
Bishop Christopher said he is convinced that the bill will move forward to Parliament and if passed, it will be up to the president to veto it. International pressure from the U.S., the United Kingdom, the European Union and human rights organizations is intense, but Ugandans are being greatly influenced by anti-gay American missionaries from the Religious Right and from the extremely conservative Anglican Church in Africa.
When the bishop spoke at the hearing, one of the parliamentarians thought that he was going to support the bill and was surprised to hear him opposing it.
“I am not advocating for the LGBT community,” Bishop Christopher told the astonished member. “I am just dealing with reality.”
The bishop spoke specifically to the effect that criminalization of homosexuality has on access to information about HIV and AIDS, prevention and care.
“If we criminalize the LGBT community further, it will drive Ugandans further underground and compromise the relationship of medical, counselors and clergy that is sacrosanct and needs to remain confidential,” the bishop said. “How can we expect doctors to treat everyone when this bill will require them to report on their patients who are LGBT?”
Three other reports were given by members of the Civil Society Coalition dealing with the legal and medical issues that would be created by the passage of the controversial bill. Two attorneys and a local physician, Dr. Sagmugoma, addressed the issues of discrimination and the major violation of human rights that would transpire if the bill was passed.
Further testimony was given by the Ugandan Human Rights Commission on the bill’s violation of international law, particularly requiring any Ugandan living abroad to be extradited back to Uganda to face prison for being gay.
“Punishing someone for being who they are violated human rights,” the bishop said.
How to help
Support for the bishop’s work can be given through the San Diego-based St. Paul’s Foundation HERE. The Rev. Canon Ogle is president of the foundation.
To sign All Out’s petition, “Ugandan President Museveni must vow to veto the ‘Kill the Gays’ bill,” click HERE.