BY DANIELA COSTA – Uganda's homophobic laws are a “blot” on its reputation, according to a South African delegate to the Pan-African Parliament.
Santosh Vinita Kalyan, an opposition member of South Africa's National Assembly, made the comment on Oct 10. Her statement came during the discussion of a motion celebrating Uganda’s 50 years as an independent nation, the Daily Nation reports.
“Uganda has a blot in terms of its stand and attitude towards homosexuals,” Kalyan said. “Regrettably, they want to criminalize homosexuality.”
Male and female homosexuality is illegal in Uganda. Catholic bishops in the country are calling for the revival of the anti-homosexuality bill, which calls for the execution of gays.
Kalyan, the Democratic Alliance's party whip, initially praised Uganda for placing health “on top of its agenda” and fighting HIV/AIDS.
However, her comments on Uganda’s hostility toward homosexuality sparked a heated debate.
Kalyan said the issue is about human rights and not about "whether one supports homosexuality or not.'' She praised South Africa’s constitution, saying it allows gays and lesbians their rights.
Ugandan MP Cecilia-Atim Ogwal countered, saying she is proud of her country's rejection of “the promotion” of homosexuality. Ogwal was the leader of Uganda's delegation to the gathering of African politicians.
"We want to tell Africa that Uganda has decided to uphold our values and culture and we are not stepping on anybody's values,” Ogwal said. “We cannot be allowed to practice polygamy in foreign countries and yet they come here and try to make us accept what is not natural.”
“We abhor homosexuality and value our God, culture and there is no way we shall allow a man to step on top of another man or a woman to lie on top of another,” said Ogwal.
Ogwal’s comments earned her a round of applause. She followed up by urging members of the Pan-African Parliament to pass a resolution upholding the “value of God and values of Africa.”
Ogwal received support from Botswana MP Walter Masisi.
Masisi said that while homosexuality is not a major issue in Botswana, leaders in the country are prepared to reject its recognition.
“We believe in our own values and we want to start denouncing it in parliament, in meetings and in other forums even in the countdown to our elections,” said Masisi in reference to Botswana’s 2014 elections.
Kenyan MP Gideon Mung'aro also supported the resolution. He suggested that African countries "be specific'' in their constitutions as to the rejection of homosexuality.
For more on Uganda, see Xtra’s series of articles from Uganda:
Confronting homophobia in the Pearl of Africa
Finding Kampala's gay bar
Young activist tells tale of beating, prison & defiance
Gay Ugandans gather to pray, plan
Hundreds rally against homosexuality
'I would kill a gay son,' says MP
Gay leader urges queers to stay in the closet
Activists present 450,000 names to Parliament
Uganda's anti-gay bill would lead to 'super-criminalization' of HIV
Obama administration meets with gay leaders in Uganda
Elderly bishop rocks Uganda's gay rights movement
Xtra’s Uganda correspondent weighs in