Uganda’s David Bahati rebuffs Kennedy human rights team

[Correction: The first version of this article stated that Ugandan legislator David Bahati refused to meet with visitors from the R.F. Kennedy Center. Apparently he did meet with them, but rejected their message that his Anti-Homosexuality Bill would violate human rights.]

David Bahati (Photo courtesy of NTV)
Ugandan member of parliament David Bahati (Photo courtesy of NTV)

Ugandan legislator David Bahati wants to throw homosexuals in jail or kill them, as shown by his continued advocacy of his Anti-Homosexuality Bill, better known as the “Kill the Gays” bill.

He’s not so keen on discussing human rights, as the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, currently in Uganda, reports:

“As we go to press [for Ogle’s weekly column] David Bahati refused to meet with the daughter of Robert Kennedy and the delegation that had been received by president Museveni earlier this week in Uganda – civil rights is obviously not something he wants to talk about!”

Eventually, at least, Bahati did meet with the delegation behind closed doors.

Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C., and niece of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy, is leading the team of visitors to Uganda who are seeking an end to human rights violations there.

Human rights advocates meet in Uganda. From left, Wade McMullen, staff attorney at the Robert Kennedy Center; Robert Mbega, director of the HIV Program at the St Paul's Centre in Kampala; Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights; and the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of the St. Paul's Foundation for International Reconciliation. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)
Human rights advocates meet in Uganda. From left, Wade McMullen, staff attorney at the Robert Kennedy Center; Robert Mbega, director of the HIV Program at the St Paul’s Centre in Kampala; Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights; and the Rev. Canon Albert Ogle, president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation. (Photo courtesy of Albert Ogle)

They met on March 18 with Uganda President Yoweri Museveni. (See the article .”)

After their closed-door meeting with Bahati on March 20, Bahati spoke to the press about his continuing support for his Anti-Homosexuality Bill. After the meeting, Kennedy told journalists that her group would make a statement or hold a press conference before leaving Uganda, but would not take questions that day.

During the meeting with Museveni, Kennedy told the president that Bahati’s pending bill would violate human rights treaties that Uganda has signed.

The bill, which Bahati first proposed in 2009, has not yet been considered by the full Ugandan parliament. In the first version of the bill, which reportedly remains unchanged despite supporters’ statements to the contrary, people who repeatedly engage in homosexual behavior would be executed.

Ugandan law already provides for sentences of up to life imprisonment for homosexual activity.

The Bahati bill would require people to report suspected homosexuals to police. Parents would be required to report potentially gay children to police; doctors would be required to report potentially gay patients; priests would be required to report potentially gay parishioners.

Organizations serving LGBT people, including health services fighting AIDS, would be outlawed.

Sign for St. Paul's Center in Uganda
Sign for St. Paul’s Centre in Uganda

Ogle, who is president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, is in Uganda to work for improved health care for LGBT people and to consult with leaders of the foundation’s affiliated St. Paul’s Reconciliation and Equality Centre in Kampala.

In his weekly RGOD2 column, Ogle noted, “It has been two years since I was in Uganda, and the confidence and organization of the LGBT community is an inspiration. They have created one of the most powerful social movements in a very short time with the attention of the world upon Uganda’s every move.”

For more about his visit and his reflections on how Ugandan LGBT people’s experiences are similar to those of Jesus during Easter week, read Ogle’s column “Holy Week with Uganda’s LGBT community” in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian News.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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