UGANDA’s proposed “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” will expose lesbian and gay Ugandans to draconian legislation and more intense vilification, the Revd Colin Coward, director of Changing Attitude, says. He has criticised Anglicans for their “devastating silence”.
The Bill has been denounced by Amnesty International and other human-rights organisations as “illegal, immoral, ominous, and unnecessary”. Someone convicted of “the offence of homosexuality” would be liable to life imprisonment; the death penalty would apply to “aggravated homosexuality” against a minor; and related offences include “aiding and abetting” and “promoting” homosexuality, all of which carry sentences of up to seven years. Parents could be imprisoned for not denouncing their children.
Changing Attitude and Inclusive Church wrote last week to the Archbishops of Canterbury, York, and Uganda, and to the Bishops of Uganda’s companion dioceses of Bristol, Sodor & Man, and Winchester, asking them to oppose the proposed legislation.
They urged the Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Revd Henry Orombi, to respond faithfully to the commitments made by the Lambeth Conference and the condemnation of homophobia contained in the Lambeth Resolution 1.10 on human sexuality.
“Gay Ugandans are already highly vulnerable, living in Ugandan society, and this Bill is simply going to make life worse for them,” Mr Coward said on Tuesday. “It will encourage people in their prejudices, and it will give people more permission and encouragement to attack anyone they perceive to be homosexual.”
The Church of the Province of Uganda has been firm in its stand against homosexuality, which it described in a paper published in 2005: “Homosexuality, bestiality, incest, paedophilia, fornication, adultery, polygamy/polygyny and polyandry are all manifestations of a perverted sexual desire.” It has also made it clear that gay and lesbian people had “no place in God’s design of creation . . . or His plan of redemption”.
Uganda’s Ethics and Integrity Minister, Nsaba Buturo, is reported to be a member of the Church of the Province of Uganda. He is quoted at a press conference to introduce the Bill as saying the legislation would make Uganda a leader in countering gay culture in Africa. “On the issue of homosexuality, let them forget about [human rights]. The government has started biting,” he said.
The Revd Dr Andrew Goddard, an Evangelical theologian, has criticised the Bill in a briefing paper for Fulcrum, a broad Evangelical network. “The proposed legislation cannot simply be ignored, given its apparent support from a leading government minister, its incompatibility with Anglican teaching, its undermining of Anglican ministry and mission, and the danger it represents to many Anglicans and others in Uganda who are likely to face prosecution should it become law,” he said.
Many think the Bill is unlikely to go through in the face of global criticism and in the light of Uganda’s dependence on US aid. The Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law has pointed out that the Bill’s call for Uganda to nullify any international protocols contradictory to the Bill would mean the country’s withdrawal from international covenants, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The Ugandan Church will be wary of being told what to think by its former colonial masters, experts on the African Church suggest. Archbishop Orombi joined fellow Primates at Dromantine in 2005 to condemn homophobia as “anathema”, although he would not respond to a direct question at the press conference about the situation in his own country.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has spoken out where an archbishop or bishop has allied himself publicly with legislation of this nature. In September 2007, he described as “unacceptable and profoundly shocking on the lips of any Christians” remarks made by the Bishop of Uyo, Nigeria, the Rt Revd Isaac Orama, that homosexuality and lesbianism were “inhuman” and those who practised them “insane, satanic and not fit to live” (News, 14 September 2007).