Senate Foreign Relations Chair Denounces Uganda Genocide

Last month, some members of Sen. John Kerry’s staff held office hours in Northampton, and I spoke with staffer Cheri Rolfes about the anti-gay genocidal legislation pending in Uganda. Today she forwarded me this press release:

United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

December 14, 2009
Contact: Frederick Jones, Communications Director

Chairman Kerry Statement On The Draft Anti-Homosexuality Bill In The Ugandan Parliament

WASHINGTON, D.C.–Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) released the following statement today on the draft anti-homosexuality legislation in the Ugandan Parliament:

“I join many voices in the United States, Uganda and around the world in condemning Uganda’s draft legislation imposing new and harsher penalties against homosexuality. Discrimination in any form is wrong, and the United States must say so unequivocally. Many Ugandans are voicing concern that such a law will create witch-hunts against homosexuals, and hinder the fight against HIV/AIDS. Over the years the United States government, including the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has worked closely with Ugandans to combat HIV/AIDS and other public health issues; we value our relationship with Uganda’s people. Given the pressing HIV/AIDS crisis Uganda is facing, this bill is extremely counterproductive.”

Please take a moment to thank Sen. Kerry and urge him to
keep up the pressure on the Ugandan government. If you’re not from Massachusetts, contact your members of Congress and ask them what they’re doing to stop this assault on human rights.

In related news, Uganda’s Daily Monitor newspaper Dec. 12 published a rare interview with a lesbian rights activist who is alarmed by the rising intolerance in her country:

…On the afternoon I met Ms Kalende, 27, she had just returned from attending service. The television in her living room was tuned to a station named Top, a Christian broadcaster, and a pastor was wedding heterosexual couples as elated witnesses chanted loudly in the background.

As she readied herself for a new conversation, Ms Kalende grabbed the remote control to reduce the volume, creating artificial silence that would be broken by the occasional sound of cutlery dropped in a kitchen sink.

A teenage girl, a relative of Ms Kalende, was doing the dishes as some children lazed around the house. Then Ms Kalende headed for the door, leading the way to her veranda, away from the children she considered too young to know she was gay, for the sake of children she wanted to protect.

In a narration of the kinds of people she was not too comfortable around, Ms Kalende’s account would include inquisitive children, illiterate motorcyclists, gossipy parishioners, bigoted employers and, most recently, a lawmaker named David Bahati. “My first reaction was, ‘Who is Bahati?’ He is the last person I knew,” Ms Kalende said, launching into a decidedly personal explanation for why, “for the first time, I am very scared”.

In October, Ndorwa West MP Bahati brought an anti-gay law to the House, proposing in his document a new felony called “aggravated homosexuality”, committed when the offender has sex with a person who is disabled or underage, or when there is HIV transmission. The crime should attract the death penalty, he proposed, while consenting homosexuals should be imprisoned for life.

The proposed law, which has the tacit approval of President Museveni, would also penalise a third party for failing to report homosexual activity, as well as criminalise the actions of a reporter who, for example, interviews a gay couple.

Although Mr Bahati said he was not in a hate campaign, he could not explain the lack of facts to back his case — the proposed law seeks to improve on the penalties prescribed in the Penal Code, which already criminalises homosexuality — or provide evidence to back claims that European gays were recruiting in Uganda.

In a country where homosexuality is still taboo, the bill had excited the homophobic sentiments of many Ugandans, and it also looked set to shrug off human rights concerns. As the Canadian government called the law “vile and hateful”, and as the Swedish government threatened to cut aid over a law a minister described as “appalling”, the authorities in Kampala were saying they would push for the introduction of legislation that would make Uganda one of the most dangerous places for gay people.

Ms Kalende has been openly gay since 2002, several years before she became a rights activist with the group Freedom and Roam-Uganda, six years before she met the woman she calls the love of her life….

Read the whole article here.

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