Local politicians and preachers had framed opposition to the bill as a case of outsiders threatening Uganda’s sovereignty and values.
‘No [trading] of cows’
In January 2011, teacher and gay-rights activist David Kato was bludgeoned to death with a hammer under murky circumstances. Months earlier, his name and picture appeared with those of 100 other Ugandans accused of being gay in a local tabloid under the headline “Hang Them.”
Fervor subsided amid a lack of presidential support for the legislation and legal troubles for two of the anti-gay movement’s most prominent pastors. Martin Ssempa and Solomon Male were charged in January with conspiring to defame a megachurch pastor, Robert Kayanja, by accusing him of sodomizing boys.
Kato’s close friend Pepe Onziema, program director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, said activists’ attempts to dispel fears about homosexuals among parliamentarians and the general public have helped. “We don’t recruit or receive money for recruitment,” she said.
Ms. Onziema said most of society was against gays several years ago, but now “2 out of 5 people are saying, ‘Let them be.’ “
Gay-rights activists also have moved to hold accountable those who violate their constitutional rights to association and assembly. They are suing Mr. Lokodo for breaking up a workshop they held in February. Police raided a similar workshop on June 18.
“Let us amend the law [in that direction],” Mr. Mirundi said. “This would be a fair compromise.”
Allowing gay marriage is out of the question because a bride is traded by her parents for cows, he said. “If a man marries a man, there is no [trading] of cows.”
Mr. Mirundi said the ethics minister’s move to ban NGOs is not an attempt to silence criticism of the government. “They don’t pose a threat to the government on the ground. They get European money. … They are a problem of the Europeans.”
By Elaine Donnelly
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