David Bahatai, the Ugandan Member of Parliament behind the country’s controversial anti-gay legislation, told CNN International today that he is “confident” that the law will move forward, dispersing hopes that that the bill was shelved in response to wide-spread international pressure and condemnation. The Ugandan bill, which was introduced last year, would impose the death penalty or life imprisonment for some homosexual acts (which are already illegal), require people to report every LGBT individual they know, and criminalize so-called LGBT advocacy.
BAHATAI: Every single day of my life now I am still pushing that it passes…Lord has given us different freedoms, our democracies given us different freedoms, but I don’t think anybody has a freedom to commit a crime and we think homosexuality in our country is a crime. It’s criminal. [...]
We are very confident, because this is a piece of legislation that is needed in this country to protect the traditional family here in Africa, and also protect the future of our children.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni “has encouraged his ruling National Resistance Movement Party to overturn the death sentence provision” and the Ugandan Cabinet is reportedly making changes to the legislation. Earlier this month, however, Jeff Sharlet, author of the bestseller The Family, reported that Bahati “is now being promised a second reading,” noting that the bill has started moving again just as the Ugandan tabloid Rolling Stone published photographs of what it called Uganda’s “top” 100 gays, alongside yellow banner that read “Hang Them.” The CNN International report noted that four gay people have been attacked since. “I think this new step in the press is a very alarming one, because it shows it moving right back to the forefront of Ugandan society,” Sharlet remarked.
Some on the religious far right — most prominently the secretive group The Family, also known as the Fellowship — initially promoted the Ugandan measure, but backed away from the bill in the wake of the international controversy. At least that’s what they’re saying publicly. According to Bahati, “The many friends that we have, especially the evangelicals, in America, when we speak to them privately, they do support us. They encourage us. But they are in a society that is very hostile, and we appreciate that.”
Bahati himself first began his political career in the United States where he “studied at the Leadership Institute, the conservative grassroots political organizing institute,” developed a close relationship with Mitch McConnell and John Ensign “and then they put him in touch with the Family, and he started making those connections.”
In April, Republican senators Tom Coburn (OK) and Susan Collins (ME) co-sponsored a Senate resolution condemning the bill and “five Republican representatives -– Chris Smith, Frank Wolf, Joe Pitts, Trent Franks and Anh “Joseph” Cao — wrote a letter to the Ugandan President urging him to do everything within his constitutional authority to stop the legislation. (H/T: Pink News)