Activists in Pretoria call on the Ugandan government to respect the rights of LGBT people. (Photo: CAL)
South African activists protested outside the Ugandan High Commission in Pretoria on Monday as part of the Global Day of Action against Uganda’s pending Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
Around a hundred members of groups including FEW, Gala and the One in Nine Campaign took part in the demonstration, which was organised by the Coalition of Africa Lesbians (CAL), to demand that Uganda uphold basic human rights.
The protesters held up rainbow flags and banners and wore t-shirts calling for an end to anti-gay laws in Uganda and Nigeria; with statements such as “recognise my humanity” and “homophobia is un-African.”
The activists also highlighted concerns with Uganda’s recently passed Anti-Pornography Bill which imposes a dress code for women under the pretext of shielding morality.
They hoped to hand over a statement, which was read out to the crowd, to staff at the High Commission but, according to CAL’s Eunice Kasolo Namugwe, “they didn’t come out to accept it.”
Monday’s international protests were initiated by a civil society coalition in Uganda to bolster global condemnation of the Ugandan bill. The oppressive legislation was approved by parliament in December but is awaiting President Museveni’s signature.
Namugwe said that she believes “that these kinds of protests can hopefully have an impact in the long run.” She explained that international pressure could help convince the Ugandan president to not sign the bill.
Namugwe commented that Museveni’s recent request for a team or scientists to produce a report to prove to him that homosexuality was not unnatural was a positive step. On Monday, Museveni appeared to respond to the international protest action.
He wrote on Twitter: “To all those who sent me messages about the Bill on homosexuality, I want to assure you that it will be fully debated and democratically resolved.”
Should it become law, Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill will punish “aggravated homosexuality” with life imprisonment. In addition, anyone who “aids, abets [or] counsels” any gay person and anyone who rents a home or room to a gay person would also be sentenced to seven years in jail.
The bill further includes criminal penalties of three to seven years in prison for anyone who fails to turn over gay people to the police or anyone who “promotes” homosexuality.
Museveni has until later this month to ether sign the bill or send it back to parliament for revisions. If he refuses to sign the bill after it’s been sent to him twice by parliament, MPs theoretically have the power to force it into law without his approval with a two-thirds majority vote.