Bishop Christopher Senyonjo

Retired Anglican bishop Christopher Senyonjo has called for the global decriminalisation of homosexuality, defying most of his colleagues in Uganda.

Senyonjo made the call while speaking at a United Nations discussion in New York last Friday, saying that allowing gay people to live openly would help combat the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The gathering saw NGOs, religious groups and government leaders and orther individuals debating issues that will be dealt with by the UN General Assembly’s High-Level Meeting on AIDS, set to take place in June.

“It is wrong to deny funding and education and health to groups of people we may not like or whose lifestyle we do not understand,” said Senyonjo in his opening remarks.

“We need governments to encourage collaboration at all levels. This means everyone needs to be at the table; men, women, sex workers, lesbian, gay and transgendered people, IV drug users… all of the people that many people of faith find hard to talk about, but we need to admit our strategies and laws and religious attitudes do not yet support these people to come to the table. If we exclude them, as we now do, the virus will win.”

Senyonjo went on to add: “We need to decriminalise homosexuality globally. Exterior punishment by the state and policing public morality has failed as our principal global strategies to stop the spread of AIDS. How can gay people or sex workers take responsibility for their health when we criminalise them and do not allow them to have the same education and health services that the majority population takes for granted?

“It is only through creating a “gay/straight alliance” that we can win the battle against this prejudice. We have to defeat the prejudice before we can defeat the virus,” he said.

Bishop Senyonjo will embark on a speaking tour of the US and Ireland in May and June for six weeks calling for an end to homophobia. The tour is sponsored by Integrity USA, a non-profit organisation advocating for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the Episcopal Church and equal access to its rites.

Senyonjo served as a bishop in the Anglican Church of Uganda from 1974 to 1998 and is often referred to as ‘the Desmond Tutu of Uganda’ because of his outspoken support of human rights.

In contrast to most other Anglican leaders in Uganda, Senyonjo has condemned the notorious Anti-Homosexuality Bill that may yet be considered by the country’s parliament.

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