For my individual research project I will be studying how Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill has been portrayed in both Ugandan and American media. For the IDS portion of the Kenya Semester Program I was working for a small NGO called Slum Aid Project in Kampala, Uganda. During this time I got involved in research one of my co-workers and some university professors in Kampala were working on to try and persuade parliament and the Ugandan public not to allow Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill to be passed by Christmas as Rebecca Kadaga, the Ugandan Speaker of Parliament, had promised it would be.
Kadaga and MP David Bahati, who originally proposed the bill unsuccessfully in 2009, demanded the bill be passed for a few major reasons. First being that homosexuals pose a serious threat to Ugandan children and that homosexuality is a Western invention created to lure children into gay lifestyles with the promises of riches and a better life. And second that passing this bill would show the world that Uganda is a God-fearing nation.
This bill which originally included the death sentence for certain homosexual acts, makes aggravated homosexually punishable by life imprisonment. Aggravated homosexuality consists of homosexual acts by anyone who is HIV-positive, a parent, authority figure, and anyone who has homosexual relations with a minor, person with a disability or is a “repeated offender”. The bill also would make it illegal to show any sort of public support for LGBT people and would make it so that anyone who does not report a person that they know is gay to the police could be thrown in prison for up to three years (Elliott, 2012).
As a pretty liberal 20-year-old American female the fact that this bill was even being considered was mind boggling to me and inspired me to research it further. What I found was a great deal of international attention objecting the bill, as well as, many international forces (i.e. American pastors) that had helped instill feelings of homophobia in the Ugandan public. Just months prior to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill first being introduced in October of 2009, three American evangelical Christians, Scott Lively, Caleb Brundidge and Don Schmierer, arrived in Kampala to preach about the sin of homosexuality and how it could be cured. The series of talks went on for three days and “thousands of Ugandans, including police officers, teachers and national politicians, listened raptly to the Americans, who were presented as experts on homosexuality” (Gettleman, 2010). The Preachers “taught” the crowd how to make gay men straight, about how gay men habitually sodomize teenage boys and about the threat that homosexuality posed to the African family. These men have also confessed to helping draft the bill and “Mr. Lively has acknowledged meeting with Ugandan lawmakers to discuss it” (2010). Furthermore, American Reverend Rick Warren added to these false teachings about homosexuality when he visited Uganda in 2008 and likened homosexuality to pedophilia (2010).
Nearly everyday that I was in Kampala there was a newspaper article addressing the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, most of which differed greatly from the American articles I read and the other international attention the bill was receiving in the media. I would like to look further into the different ways in which this bill has been presented in the media and how these representations have effected the public’s opinion of the bill.