Comment: Uganda’s anti-gay law proves it is not a good destination for tourists

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Writing for PinkNews, Ugandan LGBT activist Tony Kitara responds to the assertion by Yoweri Museveni that the country is “a better destination” than Spain for tourists, saying its upcoming anti-gay bill proves otherwise.

Ever imagined being branded a criminal for being gay in your own motherland? Well, if you think this sounds like a joke, then think no further. Let us face the fact, homophobia in a wide range of countries is not only palpable but also getting extreme by day.

As a person who grew up in Uganda, being gay was far from idyllic. I couldn’t help but was rather blinded by the preposterous ignorance deeply embedded within the country’s multicultural Society. In such a society, you have to be extremely careful where you go; you have to be careful who you walk with. You have to be careful what you do, or what you say, because the slightest of things can easily be interpreted wrongly. In other wards there is no outward sign of life for gay people-men and women- even in the vibrant and noisy city of Kampala. Now that I live in the United Kingdom, It’s two separate lives. I am Gay, I am out, and I am not hiding any more. I have come to realise that my motherland, Uganda still has a long road to walk. I now have somewhat a much better and clearer understanding of what it means being gay in a country, Uganda that clings tightly on deep rooted tradition.

We all know that the month of December means so much to us as we get to catch up with our dear ones; friends and families. We all look forward to sharing that festive season with our families but unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case amongst the Ugandan LGBTI community.

Passing a harsh anti-gay law as a gift in the name of celebrating Christmas is not what you would call an ideal Christmas gift. Well, Uganda’s parliamentary set committee is on its toes ready to pass a new, even more harsh and draconian anti-gay law in time as a Christmas Gift to all Ugandans.

Of course there was some sort of relief amongst Uganda’s LGBTI community when the country’s constitutional court overturned the earlier Anti-Homosexuality law in August on the grounds that the Parliament had passed it without the required quorum. Unfortunately that relief has short lived, in fact as soon as the law was annulled, influential evangelicals strongly rallied behind Ugandan legislators and consistently urged them to reintroduce the law. Just like most Sub-Saharan Africa, Uganda is a fundamentally religious and conservative society and therefore, such religious leaders are squarely as influential as the Members of Parliament. They regularly protest against gay rights, claiming that homosexuality is an affront to God and to Ugandan values.

Abdul Latif Ssebagala a member of a parliamentary committee formed to effect the new legislation, said a new version of the bill was ready to present to parliament for debate. He further stressed that the new bill has been strengthened especially in areas of “inducing” and “promoting” homosexuality and added that the committee wanted it passed within weeks so that Ugandans, “can celebrate it as a Christmas gift”. Really, Uganda that’s in the grip of such searing homophobic fervour that gay people and gay rights activists like Kelly Mukwano are getting attacked is not what you would call an ideal destination place.

When Gay DJ Scott Mills travelled to Uganda a few years ago, he spoke with people on the streets of Kampala-the capital city, asking their opinion on homosexuals, and some of the responses were, “I hate them”; “they should be killed”, and “it’s disgusting”.

Prevention is better than cure, it is true gay Ugandans –men and women- live in limbo every day and we must do something to stop this new proposed bill. As an LGBTI rights campaigner, together with members of the African LGBTI- Out & Proud Diamond Group, we request you all to stand in #SolidaritywithUgandaLGBTI and sign a petition urging the Parliament and the President of Uganda not to introduce a new bill.

Tony Kitara is a member of African LGBTI- Out & Proud Diamond Group residing in the United Kingdom.