Homophobia in Uganda: A briefing paper

By David Mills and Richard Vokes

Introduction

In 2009, emboldened by a populist media anti-gay ‘backlash’ and by a highly moralistic Ugandan public culture, a group of young Ugandan MPs tabled a private members’ bill that sought to make some homosexual acts punishable by death.1 Led by David Bahati, MP for Ndorwa West, this reactionary political gesture challenged the public views of their party’s leader, President Museveni, and the Government’s avowed commitment to social equity. The bill was immediately disowned by several senior Ministers, fearing the withdrawal of international donor support. Bahati and his conspirators used skilful PR and a sympathetic media to build popular support for the draft legislation. Their rabble-rousing may also have been tolerated because it served to distract public attention from
growing social and political unrest. Late in 2009, the President finally squashed the proposal by issuing an executive order, citing the fact that it had become a ‘foreign policy issue’ (given the widespread condemnation that it was by then receiving from donors, and from the international human rights community). He also appointing a special parliamentary committee that found ’99 per cent’ of the draft legislation to be either ‘unconstitutional’ or ‘redundant’.

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