1st Gay Pride Celebrated in Ultra-Homophobic Uganda

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday August 14, 2012

Last week Uganda's LGBT community held the country's first Gay Pride Parade, which took place in Entebbe, a major city in the center of the East African country, Global Voices reported.

Gay men and women from the central north African nation participated in a party, a beach parade and a film festival. Maurice Tomlinson, a LGBT activist from Jamaica, was the weeklong event's honorary grand marshal.

Uganda has some of most anti-gay legislation in Africa. It does not recognize gay marriage and has outlawed same-sex activity. Additionally, under the influence of U.S. evangelical leaders, the country's parliament has been debating a bill that would give the death penalty to anyone who participated in some homosexual acts, such as gay people with AIDS, Associated Press reported.

Legislator David Bahati reintroduced the bill earlier this year. Officials from Uganda's government are backing away from the measure after important donor states such as the United Kingdom and the United States condemned it. Bahati first introduced the bill in 2009 and claimed that it would "protect" children from Western gay men and women who "lure them with money and other promises," EDGE reported.

European and American politicians may not like a bill that many have compared to the Nazis' anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws. But some Westerners support -- and are very likely responsible for -- it. Scott Lively, an American who has been involved in the "ex-gay" movement," has been widely accused of actively courting legislators to pass the bill.

Sexual Minorities Uganda, a gay rights group, filed a federal lawsuit against Lively for violating international law, EDGE noted. Additionally, AP points out that conservative U.S. Christians, including evangelical leaders Pat Robertson and Rick Warren, have also been attempting to promote the legislation.

"Definitely there is a link between conservative Christians in America and conservative Christian leaders in Uganda," Joseph Okia, nephew of the president of Uganda, said.

In June, EDGE reported that Uganda officials announced that 38 non-governmental organizations would be cut because they claim the groups were promoting homosexuality and recruiting children.

"The NGOs are channels through which monies are channeled to (homosexuals) to recruit," Simon Lokodo, Uganda's ethics minister, told Reuters.

According to the New Yorker, however, nearly a hundred people came out to celebrate Uganda's first Gay Pride. Attendees were covered in glitter, paint and waved rainbow flags as they marched through the streets of Entebbe.

But the publication also reports that police showed up hours after the parade ended because they got wind that a gay wedding was taking place. Authorities arrested three participants, a photographer and requested statements from others. The individuals arrested were later released.

Participation was especially brave considering that a Ugandan national newspaper published the names and many photographs of LGBT citizens and advocated that mobs go after them and kill them.

Liberia is another country that offers very little protection for its LGBT citizens. The country's former first lady who is now a senator, Jewel Howard Taylor, introduced a bill that would also subject homosexuals to the death penalty.

"No two persons of the same sex shall have sexual relations. A violation of this prohibition will be considered a first degree felony," the measure reads.

In July, the Liberian senate voted unanimously a measure that prohibited gay marriage.

The prevailing sentiment in the West African nation is unusual insofar as Liberia has close historical ties to the United States. it was founded as a place for the repatriation of freed black slaves. The capital, Monrovia, is named after an American president, James Monroe.

Their descendants traditionally constituted the country's elite until a devastating civil war engulfed the small coastal country in the 1980s -- leading, among other things, to Naomi Campbell's dramatic spat with actress Mia Farrow at a Hague War Crimes tribunal after the supermodel accepted a gift of uncut diamonds from notorious warlord Charles Taylor.