Ugandan lesbian Val Kalende is internationally known for her courage in agreeing to the publication of her photograph, with an interview, in the Ugandan press.
KPFA Radio News, 94.1FM-Berkeley, Transcript:
THE RETURN OF UGANDA'S "HANG-THE-GAYS" BILL
KPFA Weekend News Host Glenn Reeder:
Uganda's proposed Anti-Homosexuality Act is otherwise known as the Hang-the-Gays Bill because it would add the death penalty to prison sentences of 14 years to life that already exist in Ugandan law criminalizing homosexual acts. The bill engaged more Western press than any news story from Africa in 2009 and 2010, despite Obama's visit to Ghana, civil war in Somalia, a coup d'état in Niger, the UN report on genocide in Congo, and, intensifying competition between China and the West, led by the U.S., for Africa's oil and other natural resources.
The bill finally seemed to have been defeated without a vote, by international outcry, but now it's back in play. KPFA's Ann Garrison has the story.
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton both spoke out against the bill, the U.S. Congress passed a resolution condemning it, and Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said he'd never gotten so many calls about anything, from leaders around the world. The bill finally seemed to have been set aside, but now it's author, Ugandan MP David Bahati, who has close ties to the elite, theocratic U.S. Christian Right group known as "The Family," says that Uganda's Parliament will reconsider it, and that he's confident it will pass.
Milton Allimadi, Ugandan-American editor and publisher of the New York City-based Black Star News, says that the bill's resurgence serves to distract from Uganda's real political crisis as much as to persecute its LGBT community:
I think there are a number of reasons why we're seeing the resurgence of the bill. Number One, I don't think it's a coincidence that it comes a few weeks after the UN so-called Mapping Report, which clearly documented Uganda's role, the army of Yoweri Museveni's role, in the genocide against Hutus, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Number One.
Number Two, Uganda faces a presidential election in February next year. It's clearly meant to divert the issues, divert the topics, and at some point, Yoweri Museveni will step in, once again, and come out as the saviour at the end of the day. It's very cynical; it's the kind of policy he's done in the past; and he's doing it again.
Val Kalende is a Ugandan lesbian internationally known for her courage in agreeing to the publication of her photograph with an interview in the Ugandan press. She is also a Christian Pentecostal, now pursuing a doctorate in theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts, but hoping to return to Uganda. Like Allimadi, she says that the bill is a distraction and urges Uganda's LGBT community to address the bigger picture and the liberation of all Ugandans:
It is important for the LGBT rights activists to focus on the bigger picture. People who have read this bill now understand that the bill goes beyond just criminalizing homosexuality. So as a movement, I think this is time to start thinking of the real implications of this, in regard to the rights of children, the rights of women, and the rights of all oppressed groups in Uganda. All forms of repression are linked to each other, and, as a movement, we cannot continue to act like it's just about our issues.
Kalende, who has said that she hopes to shake the hand of San Francisco's LGBT rights pioneer and martyr Harvey Milk in the hereafter, has contacted Rafael Mandelman, former President of San Francisco's Harvey Milk Democratic Club, regarding a new international response. Mandelman, who invokes Milk's commitment to a broadbased justice coalition, agrees that the LGBT community should speak not only for LGBT rights but for the whole range of human rights, here and in Uganda.
For Pacifica, KPFA Radio, I'm Ann Garrison.