Kampala - Gay rights activists in Uganda vowed on Monday
a "fight to the end" to stop a draconian anti-homosexuality bill
passed by parliament from becoming law in the African nation.
The bill passed last week stipulates that repeat
offenders should be jailed for anywhere between two years and life. The text
sailed through Uganda's parliament after a death penalty clause was dropped.
"We shall fight this bill up to the end. We are
going to challenge the act in front of the court of law and we are also calling
up to the president not to sign the law," prominent gay rights activist
Frank Mugisha told reporters.
"Members of parliament have shamed and embarrassed
Uganda because they have shown their ignorance in passing this bill. They
showed how ignorant Uganda is," he said.
However, Mugisha said he feared Ugandan President Yoweri
Museveni, a devout evangelical Christian, was likely to sign off on the bill
despite an international outcry - saying the legislation did have widespread
support in the fiercely homophobic nation.
"There is a lot of pressure coming from the churches
and the community, so Museveni is most likely to sign the bill," he said,
but added the gay and lesbian community would be lobbying hard for support over
the coming weeks.
"We are going to do a lot of campaigning in the
media, in the press, with our allies, human rights organisations. When coming
back from Christmas, we shall have a lot of support. We are also working with
our legal team," he said.
"We are expecting support from the US, the UK and
from most of the EU countries."
Anti-gay moves by Ugandan lawmakers have been widely
condemned, with US President Barack Obama describing the bill before it was
passed as "odious" and Nobel Peace laureate Desmond Tutu comparing it
Homophobia is widespread in Uganda, where American-style
evangelical Christianity is on the rise. Gay men and women in the country face
frequent harassment and threats of violence, and rights activists have also
reported cases of lesbians being subjected to "corrective" rapes.
In 2011, prominent Ugandan gay rights activist David Kato
was bludgeoned to death at his home after a newspaper splashed photos, names
and addresses of gays in Uganda on its front page along with a yellow banner
reading "Hang Them".
The lawmaker behind the bill, David Bahati, has described
the legislation as "a victory for Uganda" and a "vote against
evil" - with some supporters of the text calling it a "Christmas
gift" for the country.
"I was really shocked," Mugisha said. "I
am not afraid because I have been fighting this battle for many years but I am
worried for my colleagues."
Aids activists say the law will prevent gays from having
access to essential public health information, such as how to protect
themselves from HIV and how to access life saving treatment and support
A statement from the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and
Transgender Community group in Uganda said it viewed the bill as
unconstitutional and a major setback in the fight against HIV and AIDS, which affects
7.2% of Ugandans.
"The grounds on which we have always contested this
bill are that it is blatantly unconstitutional, is against international human
rights standards, is redundant for the most part, and would wreak havoc on the
fight against HIV/Aids and other public health priorities in Uganda," it
said in a statement.
"Freedom of knowledge, speech, association,
assembly, expression will be all curtailed as result," it added. "The
law will be misused for blackmail, extortion, political malice, career ruining,
and general rivalry."