BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — Uganda's parliamentary speaker, who has promised passage of anti-gay legislation that reportedly still includes the death penalty, has received a blessing from Pope Benedict XVI during a mass celebrated at the Vatican.
Rebecca Kadaga, who is in Rome to attend the World Parliamentary Conference on Human Rights and another conference of parliamentarians, says her meeting with the pontiff is something she'll remember all her life. "It’s a very great moment and I thank God for this opportunity,” Uganda daily New Vision quotes Kadaga as saying.
Gay Star News is reporting, however, that Kadaga's promise to pass MP David Bahati's measure as a Christmas present to the Ugandan population is unlikely to be fulfilled before parliament breaks until the new year. According to the report, the bill "now languishes in seventh place on the list of topics to be discussed once the main work of the day has been completed – meaning there is little or no realistic chance of a debate taking place."
Yet even as Kadaga has been at the forefront of renewed efforts to push the bill through after a recent verbal clash with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in Quebec City, Uganda's prime minister, Amama Mbabazi, has expressed his own reservations about the content of the so-called Kill the Gays bill in a statement on WBSTV Uganda.
Mbabazi says homosexuality is already unlawful in the country. "So to the extent that it is unlawful, and the attempt in this bill to repeat what is already unlawful, is not something we’ll support, supporting what is already in the bill. Why? Why would we support it? Because it’s already covered."
Still, he says, there are aspects that are "new," like "promotion of homosexuality," that need to be debated.
"In Uganda we have had homosexuality for generations, everybody knows it," he adds, noting that "in our various local languages, we have a name for homosexuals, don't we? That means it has been there."
Nobel Prize laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu has repeatedly spoken out against the internationally decried bill, saying again recently that it is an instrument of oppression in a piece he wrote in the Mail and Guardian.
'Should the Anti-Homosexuality Bill be voted into law, it will criminalise acts of love between certain categories of people, just as the apartheid government made intimate relations between black and white South Africans a punishable offence," Tutu writes. "Members of the apartheid police force charged with the upkeep of 'morality' would rush into the bedrooms of suspected offenders to gather evidence, such as warm bed sheets. Those found guilty were arrested, put on trial and punished. What awaits the people of Uganda?" Tutu asks.
"The depiction of members of the LGBTI community as crazed and depraved monsters threatening the welfare of children and families is simply untrue, and is reminiscent of what we experienced under apartheid and what the Jews experienced at the hands of the Nazis," he continues. "To those who claim that homosexuality is not part of our African culture, you are conveniently ignoring the fact that LGBTI Africans have lived peacefully and productively beside us throughout history."
"I urge the people of Uganda to reject hatred and prejudice," Tutu says in his conclusion.
In his own message for World Day of Peace, set for Jan 1 and entitled "Blessed are the Peacemakers," Pope Benedict
says attempts to grant gay unions the same status as marriage between
men and women "actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring
its specific nature and its indispensable role in society."
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