APRIL 13, 2010: 100 British MPs Sign Motion Against Anti-Gay Bill

 100 British MPs Sign Motion Against Anti-Gay Bill
SOURCE: Independant

By Norman Miwambo

Kampala — Opposition against Uganda's anti-gay Bill is gaining further ground abroad. A total of 118 British Members of Parliament have signed an Early Day Motion (EDM 575) condemning Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The Anti-gay Bill sponsored by Ndorwa West MP David Bahati, took an interesting twist when an EDM gained 118 signatures in the UK Parliament, urging the Uganda government to completely scrap it.

The EDM, drafted by East London Labour MP Harry Cohen and Human Rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, urges the Ugandan government to "uphold international humanitarian law by abandoning the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, decriminalising same-sex acts between consenting adults in private, and outlawing discrimination against gay people." According to the EDM, it pushes for the total scrap of the Bill that decriminalise the same-sex relationship. The campaigner also contend the bill is a government's ploy and well crafted plans to divert the public's attention from tackling of important issues such poverty and ill-health.

The Anti-gay Bill which is pending presentation to the Ugandan Parliament was sponsored by Bahati from the National Resistance Movement (NRM), the country's ruling party. The bill not only possesses clauses that call for a death penalty for anybody guilty of homosexual acts, but also clutches the fancy of worldwide condemnation. In February this year, the US President Barack Obama criticised the Anti-gay Bill and described it as an 'odious'.

The British Minister of State for Africa, Baroness Kinnock expressed concern about the bill and revealed that she had previously made it clear to the Uganda government in numerous representations.

In a January communiqué to this reporter, Kinnock said: "We have also lobbied through the EU, Sweden, who held the EU Presidency in Uganda and led EU demarche to Ugandan Foreign Ministry in December. The European Parliament has also called on the Ugandan authorities not to approve the bill in resolution passed on 17 December."

Kinnock also expressed fears about the Bill saying it's detrimental to those who offer services for the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda. "Our concerns include the negative impact the bill would have on the rights of homosexual and heterosexual Ugandans through the criminalisation of any action that could be construed as support for homosexuality,

British MPs are especially appalled that the Bill proposes the death penalty for "serial offenders" (people who commit repeat homosexual acts) and life imprisonment for merely touching or kissing another person of the same-sex with homosexual intent.

"We hope this motion will send a signal from the British parliament to the Ugandan government that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill constitutes an outrageous attack on the human rights of Uganda's lesbian, gay and bisexual citizens," said Peter Tatchell of the London-based gay human rights group OutRage!

OutRage is helping coordinate the UK campaign against the Bill, with the support of Ugandans living in Britain.

"Even if the death penalty is dropped, the Bill will remain unacceptable. It will still violate the equality guarantees of international human rights agreements such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," added Tatchell.

"We support the many Ugandan people who oppose this homophobic witch-hunt. Not all Ugandans are homophobic. Many have spoken out against this legislation. We salute their compassion and courage.

"The scape-goating of gay Ugandans is reminiscent of the way Adolf Hitler scape-goated Jewish people in Germany in the 1930s.

"Demonising lesbians and gay men is a diversion from the real issues that blight the lives of most Ugandans: poverty, unemployment, low wages, disease, poor sanitation, dirty drinking water and inadequate health and education services.

"Uganda's anti-gay laws were not devised by Ugandans. They were devised in London in the nineteenth century and imposed on the people of Uganda by the British colonisers and their army of occupation. Before the British came and conquered Uganda, there were no laws against homosexuality. These laws are a foreign imposition. They are not African laws."

The campaigners maintain that the Bahati's Anti-gay Bill violates Article 21 of the constitution of Uganda, which guarantees equality and non-discrimination. The article talks of equality and freedom from discrimination; Clause (1) states: "All persons are equal before and under the law in all spheres of political, economic, social and cultural life and in every other respect and shall enjoy equal protection of the law."

"It also breaches the equality and anti-discrimination clauses 2, 3, and 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, which Uganda has signed and pledged to uphold," added Mr Tatchell.