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Uganda gives hope to LGBT people, resists outside pressure

Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the parliament in Uganda
Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the parliament in Uganda

Uganda is taking tentative steps toward improving the lot of its LGBT citizens, even as local politicians protest against foreigners urging them to do exactly that.

Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the Ugandan parliament, said this week that she has resisted pressures from abroad and from the ruling National Resistance Movement party to block the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, widely known as the “Kill the Gays” bill.

During the recent Inter-Parliamentary Union summit in Uganda, delegates from the European Union and elsewhere demanded that the country drop the bill, Kadaga said, according to an account in the Daily Monitor.

“But I assured them that we are debating laws for the people of Uganda, not them, so I told them to stop their arrogance,” she said.

Among the delegates lobbying against the bill were two lesbian members of the New Zealand parliament.

Meanwhile, the annual report of the Uganda Human Rights Commission pushed for health services to be provided for all Uganda citizens without discrimination. Many LGBT people in Uganda say they are denied HIV/AIDS services because Ugandan law categorizes them as criminals.

In last year’s report, the commission had said it was “gravely concerned that homosexual behaviour was criminalized in Uganda,” the news website Behind the Mask reported.  The website added that “the Commission’s consistent highlighting of the violent hate crimes meted out to Ugandans for their real or alleged sexual orientation hopes to bring about a change of heart in state policy-making circles.”

The East African Legislative Assembly is also working to improve access to HIV/AIDS services for LGBT people.

That body, which serves the five member states of the East African Community (Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi), recently approved an initiative calling for improved health services for “vulverable groups,” Behind the Mask reported.

The initiative, called the East African Community HIV and Aids Prevention and Management Bill, won praise from AIDS activists because it did not contain references to homosexuals as criminals, unlike a similar Ugandan HIV/Aids Control Bill currently under consideration in the Ugandan Parliament.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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