Gay Bashing in Uganda a Government Distraction

In an op-ed at the International Herald Tribune, Dayo Olopade checks in on Uganda's proposed legislative ban on homosexuality, which calls for the death penalty in cases of "aggravated homosexuality." Locals describe the bill as a handy distraction from more troubling ethical lapses in the halls of power.

Protest in Uganda (Shaun Curry/Getty Images)

Uganda's proposed legislative ban on homosexuality is nothing more than a distraction from more troubling ethical lapses among government officials, Dayo Olopade writes in an op-ed at the International Herald Tribune.

KAMPALA, Uganda -- On Feb. 7, Uganda took again the same large step backward it had taken in 2009. The member of parliament David Bahati reintroduced his anti-homosexuality bill. The proposed legislation would impose a life sentence for any consensual same-sex act and the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes same-sex acts by a person with H.I.V. or with a minor. Gays in Uganda are seeking refuge in neighboring Kenya and farther abroad.

It isn’t easy being gay almost anywhere in Africa: homosexuality is criminalized in 37 countries on the continent. But even against that backdrop, Uganda has distinguished itself for its hostility to same-sex freedoms.

Last week, just on the tail of the reemergence of Bahati’s “Kill the Gays” bill -- and about a year after the gay-rights activist David Kato was murdered in Kampala -- Simon Lokodo, Uganda’s minister for ethics and integrity, physically broke up a conference of gay-rights activists. Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, appeared with police officers at a retreat for Freedom and Roam, evicting them from a hotel room in Entebbe.

To hear some Ugandans tell it, the resurrection of official gay-bashing is a handy distraction from more troubling ethical lapses in the halls of power. Official abuses of authority and neglect of development goals stretch from municipal councils to the presidency.

Last year, the government spent more than $500 million on new military planes while failing to build, staff or maintain maternity hospitals. This year, parliament approved payments of 103 million Ugandan shillings (about $45,000) per representative in order for each to buy a new car.

Read Dayo Olopade's entire op-ed at the International Herald Tribune.

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