DA MP Santosh Vinita Kalyan

A motion to celebrate Uganda’s 50th year of independence in the Pan African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa, has led to an horrific attack on LGBT rights in Africa.

According to Africa Review, Tuesday’s motion by Mali initially led MPS to praise the Ugandan government’s progress in democratisation, healthcare and the empowerment of women.

South African opposition MP Santosh Vinita Kalyan from the DA, however, put a spanner in the works when she at first supported the motion but then questioned Uganda’s policies towards gays and lesbians.

“Uganda has a blot in terms of its stand and attitude towards homosexuals. Regrettably, they want to criminalise homosexuality,” Kalyan said.

The issue, she added, was not about “whether one supports homosexuality or not” but about human rights, praising the South African Constitution’s support of sexual orientation equality.

Her comments were not well received by the parliament. Ugandan MP Cecilia-Atim Ogwal said that she was proud that her country was at the forefront of rejecting “the promotion” of homosexuality.

“We want to tell Africa that Uganda has decided to uphold our value and culture and we are not stepping on anybody’s values. We cannot be allowed to practice polygamy in foreign countries and yet they come here and try to make us accept what is not natural,” she said.

Ogwal also urged MPs in the African Parliament to pass a resolution “to uphold the value of God and values of Africa”.

The parliament reportedly responded to her homophobic comments with a disturbing round of “thunderous applause”.

Botswana MP Walter Masisi backed Ogwal’s stance, stating that while demands for the recognition of homosexuality was not yet a significant issue in his country “we know it is coming”.

He stated: “We shall refuse it and punch them [advocates] hard. We believe in our own values and we want to start denouncing it in parliament, in meetings and in other forums even in the countdown to our elections.”

Homosexuality is illegal in around 38 African countries, with it being punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan, Somaliland and northern Nigeria. In Uganda, it can incur a life sentence with some legislators working to pass new laws to also punish homosexual acts with the death penalty.

The Pan-African Parliament, also known as the African Parliament, is the legislative body of the African Union. While it exercises oversight, and has advisory and consultative powers, it does not have the power to create laws.

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