Pope fails to address LGBT rights as he visits Ugandan shrine

Some activists were hoping he would use the visit to tackle the country’s strict laws.

Pope Francis has disappointed thousands of LGBT activists across Uganda by failing to address the strict anti-gay laws that exist in the country.

His silence on the issue was highlighted this weekend as he visited a shrine in the country – where a new law aimed at weakening those who promote LGBT rights was only recently passed.

Uganda’s parliament last week passed the controversial Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) bill, in a late-night sitting.

The new bill vastly expands the powers of the government over charities and NGOs working in the country – giving officials the ability to approve, inspect, and dissolve all community groups and NGOs based on a number of criteria – as well as to impose harsh fines.

One clause would require charities to “not engage in any activity which is … contrary to the dignity of the people of Uganda”, which proponents fear could be used to clamp down on groups working to help LGBT people in Uganda.

It would also allow groups to be disbanded “where it is in the public interest to refuse to register the organisation, or … for any other reason that the Board may deem relevant”.

LGBT people in Kenya and Uganda were hoping that the Pope would raise the issue of LGBT equality during his first visit to Africa.

Unsurprisingly, religious leaders and politicians were hoping for the opposite. Simon Lokodo, Ugandan ethics minister, told the Associated press “I am praying that he doesn’t talk about this. Because it will open a Pandora’s box,

“…let him focus on acceptance but not tolerance. We have always condemned this style of life, especially in the line of exhibitionism.

“It is bad enough that homosexuals are there, but let them not go ahead and expose themselves.”

However, they need not worry. After failing to tackle the issue during his time in Kenya, it seems he is no rush to speak out whilst in Uganda either.

The Pope has been hailed by many for being more progressive on LGBT issues than his predecessor, having previously told reporters “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

Despite this, Pope Francis has also been reluctant to address the issue of homosexuality as anything other than a sin.