Ugandan Anglicans continue to dither on anti-gay bill

By staff writers
15 Nov 2009

The Anglican Church in Uganda say that it “does not yet have an official position” on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill currently being proposed in the country's Parliament.

The bill would introduce the death penalty for certain homosexual acts between consenting adults and create new offences aimed at imprisoning those who fail to report any homosexuality of which they are aware.

In a statement last week, the Church of the Province of Uganda repeated its assertion that “homosexual behaviour is immoral and should not be promoted, supported or condoned in any way” but said that it did not have a stance on the bill itself.

However, the secretary of the Church, Mwesigye Kafundizeki, said that the death penalty clause should be removed from the bill, proposing “another punishment instead of death”. He appears to support the bill overall.

The Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi, is well-known for his anti-gay views. He has backed allegations about “homosexual recruiting in our schools”, suggesting that young people were being bribed “to become gay”. He did not explain how a bribe could enable a person to alter his or her sexual orientation.

The allegations, regarded by many as absurd, have also been endorsed by the Ugandan Minister for Ethics, James Nsaba Buturo, himself an Anglican. He has described the legislation as “an opportunity for Uganda to provide leadership where it matters most”.

Supporters of the legislation are attempting to portray homosexuality as a Western import, but the bill's most vocal opponents are themselves African. They include Sexual Minorities Uganda, the gay Nigerian Christian activist Davis Mac-Iyalla and a number of Christians from South Africa.

Many of them suggest that homosexuality was accepted in Africa until the arrival of European colonisers and that it is thus not homosexuality, but homophobia, that was brought in from the West.

The proposed legislation has been condemned by a large number of NGOs, including Human Rights Watch, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) and Changing Attitude.

However, the Archbishop of York's office said on Friday (13 November) that he would not be commenting on the issue. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is under increasing pressure to condemn the bill, but has yet to make a statement.

Colin Coward of the Anglican group Changing Attitude has spoken of the “devastating silence” of many Anglicans, while LGCM has expressed “great sadness” that there has been so little comment from Anglican leaders in Britain.

LGCM's Sharon Ferguson said that she was “dismayed and shocked at this silence from the Archbishops”.

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