On September 7th, 2011, Uganda’s Parliament in Kampala will once again consider enacting Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality bill – aka the “Kill the Gays” legislation – a draconian bill that further criminalizes homosexuality by imposing the death penalty on anyone previously convicted of homosexuality, is HIV-positive or engages in sexual acts with people of the same sex.
The bill was first introduced on October 2009 when Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill was shelved in 2010 after global condemnation — particularly Western countries — forced President Yoweri Museveni to form a commission to investigate the implications of its passage.
The bill was authored by Ugandan politician and MP in the Ugandan parliament, David Bahati. Bahati’s connection to The Family, a highly secretive fellowship of influential Christian politicians, is well documented, and their influence on the rabidly antigay sentiment in Uganda is difficult to ignore. The bill was introduced following a two-day conference in which American Christians warned that homosexuality posed a “direct threat” to African families.
Last night I was among a group of activists who met informally with Ugandan Anglican Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, his wife Mary and Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, President of St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, to strategize on increasing awareness of Uganda’s rejection of human rights and the extent to which it threatens her democracy.
Bishop Senyonjo, an outspoken critic of Uganda’s antigay record and continued human rights violations is on a worldwide campaign urging European governments and other leaders to take concrete steps to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide. His education and HIV prevention programs targeted toward GLBT citizens in Uganda are illegal. The 78-year old Bishop’s compassion resulted in him being expelled from the Church of Uganda.
Assistant Secretary of the US Department of State, Johnnie Carson, was Ambassador to Uganda from 1991 to 1994. We need Secretary Carson – before September 7th, 2011 — to speak out loudly and publicly to Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, head of state and head of the Ugandan government, to strongly encourage him to permanently shelve the “Kill the Gays” legislation. The United States will not support draconian legislation, which was withdrawn in the wake of global condemnation, which threatens Ugandan democracy and curtails the most basic civil liberties of not only GLBT Ugandan citizens, but anyone who knows or associates with them too.
In a social media age, where you receive an invitation to participate in something or other every two minutes, if there’s one thing you do this Labor Day weekend and the days following, make it be a letter, fax, phone call or email to Secretary Carson. A sample letter, along with his contact information follows. Please copy/paste it and send it off. There is something you can do about this, and for many Ugandans, this is a matter of life or death.
Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson
BUREAU OF AFRICAN AFFAIRS
United States Department of State
RE: Draconian bill threatens Ugandan democracy
Dear Secretary Carson,
I am writing with urgency to ask you to forcefully and unequivocally speak out against the draconian bill expected to be considered by Ugandan Parliament on September 7, 2011.
The bill — frequently referred to and condemned globally as the “Kill the Gays” bill — would allow the death penalty for anyone who has any previous conviction of homosexuality, is HIV-positive or engages in sexual acts with people of the same sex.
This horrific legislation threatens the most basic civil liberties of not only GLBT Ugandan citizens, but anyone who knows or associates with them too.
As Ambassador to Uganda from 1991 -1994, you must have met many Ugandans, and have more of a vested interest in their well-being than most. This bill threatens the very tenets of democracy and will set a devastating example in surrounding regions.
The Centers for Disease Control presented you with its highest award, “Champion of Prevention Award,” for your leadership in directing the U.S. Government’s HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in Kenya. I urge you take that mantel one step further and raise your voice loudly enough and urgently enough to make a difference.
The very lives of many Ugandans who want only to live their lives free from harassment, violence and death, hangs in the balance.
Clinton Fein is an internationally acclaimed author, artist, and First Amendment activist, best-known for his 1997 First Amendment Supreme Court victory against United States Attorney General Janet Reno. Fein has also gained international recognition for his Annoy.com site, and for his work as a political artist. Fein is on the Board of Directors of the First Amendment Project, “a nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and promoting freedom of information, expression, and petition.” Fein’s political and privacy activism have been widely covered around the world. His work also led him to be nominated for a 2001 PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award.
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