Commonwealth meeting could promote homophobia

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

Members of Parliament in Uganda have urged the country’s government to speak out against gay rights at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) next month.

One MP, demanding a “clamp down” against lesbian and gay Ugandans, said that the international event, to be held in the capital later this month, would be a good opportunity to “send a clear message that gays are not welcome in Uganda.”

Her Majesty the Queen normally attends the summit, which this year takes place between 23rd and 25th November in Kampala.

Ishaa Otto, speaking at a press conference earlier this week, claimed that the gay community is growing:

“It’s unfortunate that the government is silent as if there is nothing happening. The society must rise up against homosexuality before it’s too late,” he said, according to the Daily Monitor.

“The government should urgently table a new bill that criminalises homosexuality with punitive amendments that guarantee arrests to prevent the spread of gay practices.”

Gay sex is punishable in Uganda by life imprisonment, under laws originally introduced by the British colonial administration in the nineteenth century.

CHOGMs are one of the most important events in the Commonwealth calendar and take place every two years in a different country.

Almost one third of the world’s leaders are in attendance, and they come together to adopt common positions through consensus.

Last month James Nsaba Buturo, Uganda’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity, told All Africa news agency that the government is committed to stopping LGBT people “trying to impose a strange, ungodly, unhealthy, unnatural, and immoral way of life on the rest of our society.”

This week he told the Daily Monitor:

“As soon as Parliament resumes, we shall table a tough law. The government is doing everything possible to stamp out homosexuality.”

2007 has seen the first gay rights press conference and the first anti-gay rally in Uganda.

In August gay rights activists in spoke out about the prejudice LGBT people face in the country.

30 people gave a press conference drawing attention to the state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia they face every day.

They called themselves the “homosexual children of God” and demanded that attacks on LGBT people stop.

Some of the activists wore masks for fear of being identified, while others shocked journalists by outlining the brutality they had faced at the hands of police.

Trans people are also targeted by police and regularly subject to abuse and harassment.

The following week churches in the country showed their disapproval with a demonstration organised by the Uganda Joint Christian Council.

There has been rising tension in the country over gay and lesbian rights.

Last year thirteen alleged lesbians were outed by the tabloid newspaper Red Pepper.

There have been a series of government-backed attacks on the Ugandan lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the last few years, including an illegal police raid on the home of Victor Juliet Mukasa, in July 2005.

In September Red Pepper ran another “expose” of prominent gay and lesbians, under the headline “HOMO TERROR! We Name and Shame Top Gays in the City.”

They claimed to have “full names, workplaces, cars they drive and even where they stay.”

As well as describing 40 men it claims are gay, Red Pepper’s “expose” explains “how to spot a gay man,” “terminologies used by gays” and “how the gay men shaft,” a lurid description of gay sex.

It claims that lubricants are “sent to the gays here from abroad.”