The board chair of the Centre for Inquiry (CFI) says the Ugandan “Kill the Gays” bill is a modern form of genocide.
Kevin Smith organized a protest outside the Ugandan High Commission in Ottawa on Monday, Dec 3, the day Uganda’s parliament is expected to pass the bill. He says the bill’s passage is like “Nazi Germany in 2012."
"Some have called it the homosexual holocaust,” he says.
Although some media report the bill no longer contains capital punishment, Smith says his contacts at SMUG Uganda, a sexual minority advocacy group, inform him that is not the case.
Smith says he witnessed officials fleeing the high commission before the protest started and took notice when he saw one Ugandan official with a car seat in his vehicle.
"I thought to myself, what if that baby grows up to be gay or lesbian?” he says. “Would you kill your kid?"
CFI’s national director, Michael Payton, says the bill is largely inspired by rightwing American evangelicals who have travelled to Africa to influence emerging nations’ policies.
"Many pastors in that part of the country, and likely those who helped draft the bill, were trained in the United States by Pentecostal and Baptist ministries,” Payton says. “Unfortunately, it’s an American phenomenon where collection plates come in to fund bills like these and influence other parts of the world."
Barbara Freeman, a member of the First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa and Capital Rainbow Refuge, an organization that helps queer refugees escape persecution and come to Canada, calls the bill “heartbreaking."
"I’m disappointed that there are not more faith groups here [at the protest] from the conservative religious traditions,” Freeman says. “Surely they don’t believe it’s okay to kill gay people. Jesus, in their eyes, preached love, foregiveness and understanding, universal love for all. He also said thou shalt not kill, so I don’t understand why the Ugandan government thinks this is okay."
Freeman says she doesn’t like to reference the Holocaust but likens the bill to a form of ethnic cleansing.
Through her work with Capital Rainbow Refuge, she has found that many queer Ugandan refugees flee to neighbouring Nairobi, where they face waits of up to four years before their claims are processed.
"Although in this country we think the gay rights or LGBTQ struggle is over, it’s not in other countries,” she says.
Freeman, Smith and Payton urge Canadians to contact Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird’s office in addition to their MP and let them know Canadians would like to see aid to Uganda blocked if the bill is passed. Baird’s office did not respond to CFI’s request for a dialogue on this issue, Smith says.
Payton says the situation in Uganda may be too far advanced to rectify from overseas.
"Imagine an atmosphere where this type of bill can even get grounding and be passed,” Payton says. “There has to be a deeply homophobic culture in order for that to thrive. That’s not something that can be changed with a protest or contacting an MP. That’s decades of work.”
Ugandan parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga said she would pass the bill as a “Christmas present” to the population.
The Centre for Inquiry is an educational charity that promotes reason, science, secularism and freedom of inquiry.
CFI board chair Kevin Smith (left) and CFI national director Michael Payton outside the Ugandan High Commission, Dec 3.
Ania Boula flies her flag of freedom.