The campaign against Uganda’s death penalty bill for homosexuality has received the backing of leading figures both inside and outside Africa.
Early this month, US President Barack Obama criticised the bill at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
“We may disagree about gay marriage, but surely we can agree that it’s unconscionable to target gays and lesbians for who they are, whether it’s here in the United States or … more extreme and odious laws that are being proposed, most recently in Uganda,” Obama said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton added that she had recently called Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and expressed “the strongest concerns” about the law.
A week later bishops of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa called on Christians to stand against the Ugandan bill and similar laws elsewhere in the world.
In a statement released by the bishops, who were meeting in Swaziland, they said the bill violated holy writ.
“It even proposes imposing the death penalty, which we regard as a breach of God’s commandment, ‘You shall not murder,’ given in Exodus 20:13.
“We see this Bill as a gross violation of human rights and we therefore strongly condemn such attitudes and behaviour towards other human beings.
“We are … also deeply concerned about the violent language used against the gay community across sub-Saharan Africa.”
The bishops represent Anglicans in Angola, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, and the islands of St Helena and Tristan Da Cunha.
The Ugandan Anglican Church was instrumental in pushing for more draconian anti-gay laws but has since moderated its support in the face of international criticism.
The campaign supporting the law has since been taken up by Evangelical Christians headed by Baptist minister Martin Ssempa.
Ssempa called for a “million man march” against homosexuality through the capital, Kampala, this month but police ordered him not to proceed. Instead he and a few thousand supporters rallied in Jinja, Uganda’s second-largest city.
On returning to Kampala, Ssempa presented a slideshow of gay pornography to 300 people for the stated purpose of demonstrating why homosexuality was wrong.
Under the bill, exhibiting the same material for the purpose of “promoting homosexuality” would attract a jail sentence of a minimum of five years.
In other news, an online petition campaign against the bill by the Avaaz group has gathered over 400,000 signatures. The petition can be found at www.avaaz.org/en/uganda_rights/?vl