Ugandan Anti-Gay Meeting a Resounding Flop

by Steve Weinstein

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday January 25, 2010

The headline in the local newspaper, the Daily Monitor, put it best: "Anti-gay meeting flops."

For the past several months, the news out of Uganda has been dominated by a furor caused by a piece of legislation introduced into the African nation's parliament that would not only outlaw homosexual acts (this is already true throughout Africa) but would impose the death penalty on people who do same.

The bill has sparked outrage from members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, religious leaders from around the world, and even Ugandan Catholic bishops (admittedly, a more pallid response from the latter).

Reporters have exposed the heavy influence of U.S. homophobic evangelical preachers and the Ugandan legislators and religious leaders behind the bill. The bill was reportedly prompted in part by claims made by American anti-gay evangelicals who visited Uganda nearly a year ago.

In March of 2009, several American evangelicals traveled to Uganda and presented what they called the "Seminar on Exposing the Homosexuals' Agenda." Their talks contained assorted claims about gays and the "dangers" that gays pose to society.

But now one of the local leaders of the initiative appears to have overplayed his hand. As the Daily Monitor reported, Pastor Martin Ssempa "plumbed the depths of notoriety when he offered graphic images of gay sex as proof of the need for tough penalties against homosexuals."

Most of the audience walked out, with some in tears. Ssempa didn't express regret for the presentation, but asked, "Why should I be traumatized?" The clerics two young sons were present when the porn was shown.

Ssempa also introduced a man and a woman who claimed they had been "cured" of their homosexuality. "I am Paul Kagaba, and I am a former homosexual," a man declared. The woman, Sandrah Baggotte, 19, offered her baby "as proof of her new life, while Kagaba says he is now happily married to a woman," the paper reported.

The New York Times reported that Ssempa is planning a "million-man march" in February to support the bill, whose support has appeared shaky since President Yoweri Museveni has appeared to be backing down from support.

Minister of State for Investment Aston Kajara has asked that the bill be rescinded. He cited fears of foreign investors shunning the country because of the bad publicity and international protests.

Thus far, there have been no reports of any national leaders showing graphic heterosexual pornography in an attempt to stamp out such practices.

Steve Weinstein has been a regular correspondent for the International Herald Tribune, the Advocate, the Village Voice and Out. He has been covering the AIDS crisis since the early '80s, when he began his career. He is the author of "The Q Guide to Fire Island" (Alyson, 2007).