Archbishop Tutu leads coalition to oppose Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

This statement was just released. It represents an affirmation of rights and opposition to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill by a diverse group of civil and religious leaders.

Press Release:March 31, 2009

Leading African clergy, jurists and civil society groups call on Uganda to stop the Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Leading African clergy and prominent individuals, as well as more than 60 civil society and human rights groups from 10 sub-Saharan African countries have endorsed a statement calling on the President, Government and Parliament of Uganda to reject the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in its entirety.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill provides for severe punishment, inclusive imprisonment, for those engaging in same sex relations, as well as for members of the public who fail to report such activities to the authorities.  The original draft also provides for the death penalty and life imprisonment.  The Bill has already gone through the first reading in Parliament and is now before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. “We are very concerned that it could become law within a few weeks or months”, said Adrian Jjuuko, Coordinator of Uganda’s Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights and Constitutional Law. 

The statement has been endorsed by leading African clergy such as Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, the current Archbishop of Cape Town, the Most Reverend Dr. Thabo Cecil Makgoba and Canon Gideon Byamugisha of Uganda. Others endorsing the statement include Pius Langa, the former Chief Justice of South Africa, and other jurists, academics, truth commissioners and human rights activists.  

In the declaration, the endorsing individuals and organizations reaffirm their commitment to the universality of the human rights of all persons.  They note that “all forms of discrimination, in particular against vulnerable groups, undermine the human dignity of all in Africa”.  The statement declares that the Bill “promotes prejudice and hate and encourages harmful and violent action against marginalized groups in Africa”.

“Civil society organisations throughout Africa are mobilizing to persuade Ugandan Parliamentarians to block this pernicious Bill”, said Phumi Mtetwa, executive director of the Lesbian and Gay Equality Project in South Africa. Godwin Buwa, a lawyer with the Refugee Law Project in Kampala said that “if the Bill is passed, even in diluted form, it would constitute a massive setback for human rights in Africa”.

The statement calls on African governments and the African Union to call on the President and Government of Uganda to withdraw the Bill and to respect the human rights of all in Uganda, without exception. 

The list of individuals and organizations continues to grow and will be updated regularly.  The full list can be viewed at and



We, the individuals and organisations from African countries listed hereunder, recognise the universality of the human rights of all persons.

We affirm that the right of men and women to have same sex relationships is a fundamental human right.

We are further guided in the knowledge that all forms of discrimination, in particular against vulnerable groups, undermine the human dignity of all in Africa.

We are therefore profoundly disturbed by the nature, content and potential impact of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (“the Bill”) that was recently tabled in and is currently being considered by the Parliament of Uganda.

We believe that the Bill, if enacted, will cut deeply into the fabric of Ugandan society by–

·        Violating the rights of an already vulnerable and severely stigmatised group of persons by attacking their dignity, privacy and other constitutionally protected rights;

·        Disrupting family and community life by compelling everyone, by the threat of criminal sanction, to report those suspected of engaging in same-sex sexual activity; 

·        Seeking to withdraw Uganda from the family of nations by reneging on the country’s international law obligations;

·        Undermining public health interventions such as HIV prevention, treatment, care and support;

·        Promoting prejudice and hate and encouraging harmful and violent action to be taken against those engaging in same sex relations.

We respectfully call on the Parliament of Uganda to reject the Bill in its entirety. 

We also call on African governments and the African Union to call on the President and Government of Uganda to withdraw the Bill and to respect the human rights of all in Uganda, without exception. 

Statement endorsed by:-

African personalities include:[1]

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu (former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, Former Chairperson of the South African Truth & Reconciliation Commission, former General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches, Recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize)  Continue reading “Archbishop Tutu leads coalition to oppose Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill”

Linda Harvey supports Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

Add another enabler and supporter of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexual Bill. Mrs. Mission America, Linda Harvey, says she has been involved in Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, and that it has been mis-portrayed. In an interview after a recent speech in Gross Pointe Michigan, she was asked about Scott Lively’s involvement in the issue. The interviewer used the description, “kill gays bill” when Harvey stopped him, said she too has had involvement and claimed,

This has been mis-portrayed– and please clear this up. Uganda is criminalizing rape of children, and I think that a lot of people would say, hmmm, maybe death penalty for rape of children — heterosexually or homosexually….

Of course this is inaccurate and is itself a misleading assessment of the bill. She notes that her sources in Uganda tell her that the death penalty will be removed from the bill. Then she continues to say why she supports the bill.

The fact they are re-criminalizing homosexuality is (a) their business, (b) it is patronizing for white Westerners to be telling these folks — they are seeing George Soros funded gay groups going into Uganda. They are all through the schools, lots of promotion to kids. Poor kids, poor kids are being offered money and favors and gifts to have sex. That’s exploitation. That’s sex trafficking. And it’s being done mostly homosexually. By Western homosexuals coming in and trying to get involved in Uganda.

In addition to playing the race card, she says other interesting things in this interview. To wit, she thinks gay people fund Fred Phelps and she favors re-criminalization of homosexual behavior in the US, although she doesn’t know what the penalty should be.

Back to Uganda, while it is tiresome, I must again repost the actual language of the bill. The AHB would duplicate existing law regarding child abuse (defilement) but add specific language to outlaw homosexual behavior in Uganda with death for HIV positive people who engage in same-sex intimacy (touching, as defined in the law) and people who commit more than one offense. Life in prison is the penalty for all other intimacy involving same-sex partners. Don’t believe me, go read it here. Here are some relevant portions:

The object of this Bill is to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any non governmental organization inside or outside the country.

And, in the definitions section:

“touching” includes touching—

(a) with any part of the body;

(b) with anything else;

(c) through anything; and in particular includes touching amounting to penetration of any sexual organ. anus or mouth.

And section 2:

2. The offence of homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offence of homosexuality if-

(a) he penetrates the anus or mouth of another person of the same sex with his penis or any other sexual contraption;

(b) he or she uses any object or sexual contraption to penetrate or stimulate sexual organ of a person of the same sex;

(e) he or she touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.

(2) A person who commits an offence under this section shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for life.

Note, no mention of children in section 2. Now the death penalty section:

3. Aggravated homosexuality.

(1) A person commits the offense of aggravated homosexuality where the

(a) person against whom the offence is committed is below the age of 18 years;

(b) offender is a person living with HIV;

(c) offender is a parent or guardian of the person against whom the offence is committed;

(d) offender is a person in authority over the person against whom the offence is committed;

(e) victim of the offence is a person with disability;

(f) offender is a serial offender, or

(g) offender applies, administers or causes to be used by any man or woman any drug, matter or thing with intent to stupefy overpower him or her so as to there by enable any person to have unlawful carnal connection with any person of the same sex,

(2) A person who commits the offence of aggravated homosexuality shall be liable on conviction to suffer death.

(3) Where a person is charged with the offence under this section, that person shall undergo a medical examination to ascertain his or her HIV status.

Section 3, line b and f is where the private consensual behavior could result in death. Arguably, line d could be construed as forbidding consensual relationships between a boss and a co-worker. I suspect the author intended some kind of sexual harassment but the way the bill is written, this is not clear. There are also sections criminalizing the intent to commit homosexuality and failure to report known homosexual acts with jail or fines as the penalties.

Now, let me issue a challenge to those who believe Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill is a good thing and is being mis-portrayed:

Put the bill on your website.

Link to it. Download this pdf of the Uganda Gazette publication. Here is a searchable pdf. Upload a copy to your website. To my knowledge, no supporter of the bill has done this. Isn’t that odd? If you support something, you should be glad for people to see it. Ssempa said he would over two weeks ago and has not done it. The Parliament has not done it. Bahati has not done it. Cliff Kincaid, Peter LaBarbera, Scott Lively, Linda Harvey; no one has posted the full text of the bill. Why not?

h/t- TWO

Martin Ssempa on Line of Fire: An analysis

On March 11, Martin Ssempa was a guest on Michael Brown’s radio show, Line of Fire. I was invited to join in but I was teaching at the time the show aired. The program is online here. Brown said several times that he invited critics of the bill to come on the show or call in. No one else who has criticized the bill could or would go on so the entire program consisted of Ssempa telling his side of the issue.

Ssempa began by saying that homosexuality violated nature, Uganda’s cultural norms, the religions in Uganda, and the laws in Uganda. He said homosexuality violated the laws and customs of the Buganda kingdom and other tribal kingdoms going back hundreds of years. But then apparently without sensing the contradiction, he said that the Ugandans revere Catholic martyrs who were killed because they rejected the homosexual advances of Mwanga, a Bugandan king in 1886.  The martyrs were Mwanga’s pages who had converted to Christianity due to the work of European missionaries. King Mwanga was enraged that Christianity forbid the pages from honoring his decrees and had many of them killed. Thus, at that time, homosexual relations, at least with the king, were not forbidden, nor brought in by outsiders. Due to the efforts of the mission work, Uganda eventually embraced Christianity. For this reason, now homosexuality does violate the dominate religion (as well as the minority religion, Islam) and was encoded into law due to the role of the British colonizers.

When Brown asked Ssempa why the law was needed since homosexuality is currently a criminal offense in Uganda, Ssempa mentioned four issues he wanted to see the law address. First, he believes the UN resolution on decriminalization of homosexuality is a threat and so Ugandan law needs to forbid the government from ratifying any such resolution. Second, currently promotion of homosexuality is not criminalized and he believes it should be. Third, lesbianism is not covered in current statute and fourth, boys need to be protected from defilement in the same way girls are. On the last point, he acknowledged for the first time I am aware of that current Ugandan law already covers defilement of boys (see this post).

However, Ssempa’s discussion of the 2007 law which included boys in the defilement section of the penal code was confusing. He said to me in November, 2009 on British radio that Ugandan law did not cover boys, when in fact it did at the time he made that statement. On Brown’s show, he did not apologize for misleading people for months, but rather made it seem as though the law was just recently altered to cover boys.

He added that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill may need to be changed to make it clear that it only intends to punish rape and child abuse. However, then he said critics had misrepresented the bill. Just when I thought he was acknowledging that the bill was written in such a way that anyone reading it would see the harshness of it, he then said the bill was being misrepresented.

Regarding Ssempa’s reasons for the bill, I must say that the bill does more than prevent ratification of resolutions, and curtail free speech. Ssempa denied during the show that he wanted the law to bother consenting adults, however, consenting behavior is also criminalized by this bill. Ssempa denied wanting to fuel flames of a witch hunt against gays. However, he has collaborated with Islamic clerics who offered to form squads to round up homosexuals. No words of discouragement to this activity from Ssempa are recorded anywhere.

Michael Brown asked Ssempa why he did not post the bill on his website. Ssempa’s answers made no sense to me. First, he said the Parliament posted a copy of the bill on their website. Not so. Here is the Parliament’s website: ( There is a link to a search page of bills  before Parliament. When one enters in any or all of the relevant descriptors of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the search engine, no bill is returned. When I did a Google search of the entire site, no copy of the bill is returned. When I asked Parliamentary Researcher, Charles Tuhaise if the bill was on the Parliament website, he said it was not. However, I do know that when I first contacted Ssempa for a comment about the bill back in late October, 2009, he sent a copy of the bill to me via email. Then, he did not refer me to the Parliament’s website. At the time, I confirmed with researcher Tuhaise that the copy of the bill was accurate.

During the show, just after Ssempa said the bill was on the Parliament’s website, he added that the Parliament did not want the bill “to be taken out because it gets re-edited.” Then Dr. Brown pressed him and asked him why he did not post the bill on his own websites, to which Ssempa replied, “Unfortunately, we’ve not had Internet access until about two weeks ago…” He then goes on to plug his blog which he says has just come online.

I heard this notion that the Parliament does not the bill “taken out” first from Fred Hartley, President of the College of Prayer. Hartley told me that David Bahati told him back in October, 2009 that the bill could not be sent via email because the Parliament did not want the bill edited. However, by that time, Martin Ssempa had already sent a copy of the bill to me via the Internet. Also, by that time, the bill had been publicly printed in the Uganda Gazette which is the official publication for bills.

Regarding Internet access, I am aware that it can be spotty in Uganda. However, Ssempa has had access, as have others in Uganda with whom I am in regular contact, continuously throughout the last year. Ssempa had sufficient contact to post his statement to Rick Warren on his main website, and his video response to him on YouTube. He was able to remove all references to abstinence group, Wait Training, within two days of the request being made. His blog has been online since 2007.

About the bill, Ssempa promised, “I will be happy to draw it from the Parliament website and link it to my blog.” That was March 10 and he has not done so as of today. However, you don’t need to wait, you can read the Uganda Gazette copy here, and a pdf version here.

Near the end of the broadcast, Brown asked Ssempa if he showed gay porn in church. Ssempa did not directly answer but instead said that the show was given to a workshop where members of Parliament were in attendance. He said it was an adults-only meeting to provide information about what is done in private. He also dodged a question from Brown about why he did not show heterosexuals engaged in shocking acts. Regarding the location and the audience of the porn show, note this still picture drawn from the ABC Nightline broadcast of one of the shows (click to watch video). This show was done in his a church meeting and there was at least one very young child in the room as indicated by the second still. (Note: The ABC News broadcast said the presentation was provided to his “followers” and the venue might have been the one identified here.) If pressed, perhaps Ssempa would have added that detail, however, he did not really address these questions from Brown completely.

Judge for yourself if you believe Ssempa was answering candidly. His answer regarding why he did not show/shock his audiences with heterosexual S&M was irrelevant. To my knowledge, no law has been proposed there which would outlaw the acts depicted if done by an opposite sex couple.

Dr. Brown seemed to think that there were some important clarifications in the broadcast. Color me unimpressed. I did hear Ssempa admit that the “boy child” is currently covered in Ugandan law, but then he said the law was written for that purpose. I heard him say he does not think the bill should not cover HIV people for simply having sex, nor should it start a witch hunt. He thinks the penalties should be reduced. However, even these admissions were somewhat vague and rendered confusing by his other statements about the need for Parliament to see gay porn to know what goes on in private. If this behavior is not to be targeted then why is he showing it?

He failed to express any regret for misleading people for months. He misled listeners by saying the Parliament has a copy of the bill on the website. He said he would post the bill. He said the bill might need some changes but blames critics of the bill for misleading people. In light of these issues, I was not persuaded by his appearance and continue to advise opposition to the bill.

International Federation of Social Workers denounce Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

In reaction to the statement put out last week from the National Association of Social Workers – Uganda, the International Federation of Social Worker has issued a response. The IFSW is the parent group of the Ugandan branch. Here is there response:

The proposals before the Ugandan Parliament concerning homosexuality and gay rights are a violation of international human rights conventions and should be withdrawn’, said Dr David N Jones, President of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), as he prepared for the annual United Nations Social Work Day in New York. He was supporting statements already made by UN global leaders and eminent human rights spokespeople.

IFSW has followed with concern the debate arising from the bill before the Ugandan Parliament concerning homosexuality. IFSW has consulted the Chairperson of the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda and social work leaders in Africa. IFSW has also followed debates between social workers and social work educators in Africa. We recognise that there are different views.

‘IFSW respects the territorial integrity of national governments and member organisations and does not usually seek to engage in debates about policies or legislation within individual countries, David Jones continued. ‘However the regional and global risks to human rights arising from this legislation are such that a comment is required in this case.’

IFSW respects and upholds the international conventions and treaties which explicitly recognise the right of all individuals to give expression to their sexual orientation, among many other basic rights. These global conventions and policies have been developed by common agreement and in the light of experience and research and are reflected in the global ethical principles of social work, endorsed by IFSW and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). No further justification of the right to freedom of sexual orientation is needed or appropriate. We note that the United Nations Secretary General, the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Bishop Desmond Tutu and other world leaders have all criticised and advised against the legislation on these grounds. The world body of social workers endorses those statements.

We note the concern in Uganda to respond to sexual abuse of children and young people and of vulnerable adults. IFSW entirely endorses this objective and would be pleased to work with the Ugandan government and other parties, including the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda, to draft and implement legislation to enforce the highest standards of child protection. We note that children can be at risk of sexual abuse for many reasons and from many quarters. We note that the abuse of girls and young women by older men has been the subject of heated debate in many African countries, as well as the abuse of boys and young men. Both evils must be confronted.

Effective child protection legislation should deal firmly and unequivocally with all forms of ill-treatment of children and young people, without fear or favour and regardless of the status of the men and women involved. Social workers are often the lead professionals when such action is taken and fully understand the legislation and intervention required.

However all international policy and academic research make clear that the expression of sexual orientation is a human right. It is misguided and an abuse of human rights to imply that the expression of sexual orientation and ill-treatment of children are the same or related. They are not.

‘IFSW calls on the Ugandan Parliament to reject this legislation’, concluded David Jones, ‘including its cruel and severe penalties, including the death penalty, targeted at friends and family members of gay people as well as gay people themselves. We offer our global experience to assist the Ugandan people to strengthen their child protection legislation, if they consider this appropriate.’

This is a measured statement and one which does not deal point by point with the NASWU position. I suspect other negative statements will come soon. I am aware that the United States NASW is working on a statement.

Exodus International rejects statement from Uganda’s social workers

This just out in a press release from Exodus:

Exodus International Responds to Ugandan Social Worker Association’s Endorsement of Country’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill

ORLANDO, FL – Last week, the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda (NASWU) issued an endorsement of the African nation’s controversial anti-homosexuality bill, arguing “there is justification for Uganda to put in place appropriate legislation to comprehensively prohibit homosexuality.” The organization did recommend changes to the legislation, such as an exemption for counselors helping those struggling with same-sex attraction to report “homosexual offenses” to the government. However, overall, the NASWU recommended the bill continue through the legislative process so that “an appropriate law will emerge from this process that even other countries will want to emulate.”


In response, Exodus International President Alan Chambers said, “Although the NASWU seems genuinely concerned in helping those struggling with same-sex attraction, the organization fails to see that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill of 2009–as any legislation that criminalizes homosexuality–does more to hurt than help homosexuals. Exodus continues to urge Uganda’s Parliament to reject this hurtful legislation; we also ask the country’s evangelical churches to take the lead in offering hope and healing to all people, regardless of their particular struggles.”


Exodus recently released a letter from its Board fully outlining the organization’s position on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill. To view the letter, click here