Interview with David Bahati: Ugandan lawmaker defends Rolling Stone outing campaign, says bill will be considered

Last Friday (11/12), I interviewed David Bahati, the Ugandan Parliamentarian who authored the Anti-Homosexuality Bill (a bill that would lead to a death sentence for HIV positive gays, and life in prison for others). During the interview, Mr. Bahati defended the Rolling Stone’s “Hang Them” campaign. He also laid out a schedule for what he believes will be the passage of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. 

I asked Mr. Bahati if he thought the court was correct in their ruling to stop the campaign or if the paper should be allowed to continue.

Well I think if we really had passed this bill, it [the Rolling Stone campaign] would have been very helpful to law enforcement of these people; , it would have been a great source for law enforcement.

I may not agree with every word they wrote, but I think if the group of young people who are concerned about what is happening in their country, that they are concerned by the damage being done by homosexuality in this country. It has been a very underground movement and we have come now and say no, this must have a stop.

Over the past month, the Rolling Stone released photos of suspected gays until a Ugandan court stopped the practice. A Ugandan newspaper, The Observer confirmed one attack on a lesbian couple linked to the outing campaign. The first issue of the campaign carried the title, “Hang Them” referring to the homosexuals named in the paper.

Bahati also claimed that action on the Anti-Homosexuality Bill is imminent, saying that the Parliamentary committee responsible for the bill will place it on their agenda before the end of this Parliamentary session.  

“The last time I talked to the chairman,” Bahati said referring to the chairman of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee, “what he assured us is that he is going to work on this for sure.” Bahati added that the timing is unclear. “But if it will come up before recess, I am not certain.” The Parliament is slated to recess for nominations on November 25. Bahati told me that there were other bills in committee that would need action before his could be considered.

Contradicting reports that the bill had been shelved, Mr. Bahati sounded confident. “What I know for sure is that the bill will be debated in the lifetime of this Parliament.” Uganda’s Parliamentary session expires on May 20. Bahati added that the people of Uganda and the international community want to see a resolution to the matter, saying

…the people of Uganda want this to get out of the way. The international community would want to see where this is going and we need to stop the promotion of homosexuality in our country…. We need to clear this and start taking actions on some of these things that are taking place.

I asked Mr. Bahati if the gays or suspected gays outed in the Rolling Stone would be arrested when the bill passes. He replied

It depends on the provisions which pass, it depends on the activities, but they will if they are involved in homosexuality, they will. If they are involved in promotion, they will. 

Clearly, anyone who speaks about homosexuality in some other manner besides negatively might be in some difficulty if the AHB passes. One would not need to be gay, or even “involved in homosexuality” to be arrested. Foreign nations might need to open their doors for asylum.

Bahati said that he might be open to a recommendation from the committee to remove the death penalty, but did not want to speculate on other changes, saying

At the stage, before the committee starts its work, cause now the bill is the bill of the house, it is now the document of parliament, as the sponsor of the bill, I will wait for the committee to make some adjustments and then they will be consulting with me to know whether I am comfortalble with what they are suggesting. But I think there is one thing that comes out clearly, There has been an outcry on the punishment of death, that is something that one would be willing to, if there uis an amendment that one would be willing to accept that and move on.

Mr. Bahati sounded a confident tone about the AHB. He expresses strong belief that there is time to get the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs committee to have public hearings and write a favorable report. He says he has been assured of this by the committee chair. He believes then that the second reading would take place and then as is often the case in the Ugandan parliament, the third reading would take place the same day.

The election season has begun there and the Parliament recesses on November 25. Bahati was not sure when the Parliament would be called back but it is possible that a session could be convened sometime before the February 18 Polling Day. According to Bahati, the schedule is at least somewhat at the discretion of the Speaker. It does seem that there will be time to move it, either now or after the elections.

Those opposed to the bill and concerned about the safety of GLB people as well as health and mental health personnel, missionaries, NGOs, human rights workers need to carefully consider their positions and make their voices heard.

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  • http://www.medhikazemi.com/ paul canning

    Foreign nations might need to open their doors for asylum.

    US gays are far from saying this loudly enough to Obama and Clinton. Whereas Canada is already there http://madikazemi.blogspot.com/2010/11/canada-may-offer-queer-ugandans-refugee.html

  • Bob Hunter

    I fully agree that there should be generous asylum granted by America during this dangerous period in Uganda. Whether the bill dies or passes, there will be a reaction in Uganda that America must prepare for. I pray and believe the bill will die and I am working to achieve that end but, either way, we must be ready. I have already raised the asylum issue with a few friends and will be continuing to meet with friends over the next few days to ask them to join me in making this point to our nation’s leaders. I ask all of your readers, Warren, to do the same.

  • stephen

    Bob, Paul, couldn’t agree more. Doing what I can here.

    What we can learn from this here in the US is the way that this nonsensical ‘issue’ has been used as to divert attention away from government corruption, incompetence and the rest of the ills that plague the country. Just as Gayism (to use a term from my favorite humorist) is used here to divert money and votes to the GOP. It is entirely political. What distresses me is the way that intelligent people allow themselves to be used as we have seen evangelical America reduced to a wasteland of hate.

  • Richard Willmer

    Well, I thank God that here in the UK, all major political parties’ platforms make clear that hate speech against LGBT persons should be deemed a criminal offence.

    As far as asylum goes: I’m not confident that the UK is about to ‘open its doors’ if required. However, I am hopeful that efforts on this side of ‘the pond’ will at least put this matter firmly on Her Majesty’s Government’s ‘radar’. I have, in recent days, found the relevant official in the UK Foreign Ministry helpful and eager to keep abreast of developments.

  • http://gayuganda.blogspot.com gayuganda

    Oh well,

    the calm couldnt last for ever.

  • Richard Willmer

    Of course, much of this may be ‘Bahati bluster’. Thus guy is not ‘your usual (Ugandan) person’, by any means. He’s a complete fanatic.

    I can’t really see the likes of Hilary Onek, to name one senior UG politician, buying this kind of fanaticism.

  • stephen

    I was wondering this morning how it is we know he wasn’t lying to Warren.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/warrenthrockmorton Warren

    stephen – We don’t know for sure. However, he is at least consistent, telling these things to CNN, Jeff Sharlet and now me. He wants to create the impression that the bill could move which could have real consequences in UG.

  • Maazi NCO

    Well, I thank God that here in the UK, all major political parties’ platforms make clear that hate speech against LGBT persons should be deemed a criminal offence.

    As far as asylum goes: I’m not confident that the UK is about to ‘open its doors’ if required. However, I am hopeful that efforts on this side of ‘the pond’ will at least put this matter firmly on Her Majesty’s Government’s ‘radar’. I have, in recent days, found the relevant official in the UK Foreign Ministry helpful and eager to keep abreast of developments.

    Richard Willmer,

    So am I to believe from your post in the previous blog that the UK Foreign Ministry is spending valuable time and tax payer’s money monitoring this blog? If this is true then it will partly explain why UK and the rest of the West are going down while China, Brazil, Russia and India are on the rise. Let your government continue to peddle gayism and advocate for it like the Jehovah’s Witnesses do for their pamphlets. Very soon the West would not be able to see the back of the rising BRIC nations as they zoom past. Let Western governments continue to cuddle gayism while their economic infrastructures are on fire. They will still be romanticizing gayism when the Ugandan State becomes fully independent financially.

  • Maazi NCO

    I fully agree that there should be generous asylum granted by America during this dangerous period in Uganda. Whether the bill dies or passes, there will be a reaction in Uganda that America must prepare for. I pray and believe the bill will die and I am working to achieve that end but, either way, we must be ready. I have already raised the asylum issue with a few friends and will be continuing to meet with friends over the next few days to ask them to join me in making this point to our nation’s leaders. I ask all of your readers, Warren, to do the same.

    Continue praying. May I suggest that you invite Rick Warren to join in.

  • Maazi NCO

    Of course, much of this may be ‘Bahati bluster’

    Richard Willmer (or Is it Navy Commander James Bond–007?)

    Did the FCO official of Her Majesty’s Government provide you with hot intelligence on this matter? Is there are a spy satellite in the sky monitoring Bahati’s movement from his Parliamentary Office to his bedroom? Please enlighten us !! Stephen, Lynn, Timothy and Warren are quite worried about Bahati’s latest statements. Bob has not eaten all afternoon because he has been fasting and praying !!

  • Maazi NCO

    Those opposed to the bill and concerned about the safety of … health and mental health personnel, missionaries, NGOs, human rights workers need to carefully consider their positions and make their voices heard.

    This is just sheer scare-mongering. NGOs, human right workers, mental health personnel and missionaries have nothing to fear from the Ugandan people who are decent, friendly and welcoming of foreigners who show respect for local culture. The passage of an anti-gay law will not threaten any of the people I have mentioned above. Yes, I accept that those who engage in militant gay sex activism will be hit by the Ugandan law in much the same way as those people hit by the UK law that criminalizes those who disapprove of gayism.

  • Richard Willmer

    Wrong again, Maazi.

    British law does not criminalise people for ‘disapproval’ – only for hate speech and incitement. You are perfectly entitled to disapprove, and express that disapproval, as long as you do not say or do things that are intended to incite hatred or to lead to public disorder.

    To suggest that British laws on hate crimes are remotely equivalent to the ‘Hang the Gays’ Bill is completely absurd!

  • Richard Willmer

    As for the ‘Bahati bluster’: this is only a possibility, of course. Anyone who knows anything about UG knows where the real power lies.

    I am, of course, extremely concerned about the general situation – why else do you think I’ve raised it with the FCO?!

    (You clearly don’t like the fact that I’m talking to an official about all this! But you hid it quite well with your little joke!)

  • Richard Willmer

    And I’m sure the FCO would agree with Warren’s comment.

  • Richard Willmer

    Maazi, dear

    I’ve just your earlier rhetoric. As I say: it’s just rhetoric.

  • http://www.medhikazemi.com/ paul canning

    Richard

    the FCO actually can help in the same way that the French just did with Iraqi Christians by offering visas. You should ask them – nothing to lose in asking, though I would bet money they won’t do it.

    FCO has done this for lots of people but it’s normally some politician who is on our side or rich person.

  • Richard Willmer

    One more thing, Maazi@ you mentioned Brazil and India. India decriminalised consensual gay sex last year; also last year, Brazil fully legalised same-sex unions. Good for them.

    (Couldn’t resist that one!)

  • Maazi NCO

    Wrong again, Maazi.

    British law does not criminalise people for ‘disapproval’ – only for hate speech and incitement. You are perfectly entitled to disapprove, and express that disapproval, as long as you do not say or do things that are intended to incite hatred or to lead to public disorder.To suggest that British laws on hate crimes are remotely equivalent to the ‘Hang the Gays’ Bill is completely absurd!

    why else do you think I’ve raised it with the FCO?!(You clearly don’t like the fact that I’m talking to an official about all this! But you hid it quite well with your little joke!)

    Richard Willmer,

    Ah Yes—-how are the mandarins of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office coping with their round -the-clock surveillance of my humble self? I hope they have enough chocolate biscuits and coffee to pass the time. May I suggest they hire Stephen as a consultant to help search for me. May I also suggest that money spent on this project be deducted from donor aid meant for Uganda? You see we Ugandans are very generous people !!

    Anyways, moving on ….

    I strongly advise you to update your knowledge of what is happening in Uganda. The revised Bahati Bill will definitely be stripped of the absurd extremities and crudities of the original version introduced in October 2009. I am confident that the revised Bahati Bill will be a mirror image of the British law which criminalizes people such as priests/pastors who suggest that gayism is a sin. The mirror image aspect being that rather than criminalize gay disapproval, ours will punish gay advocacy.

  • Richard Willmer

    Maazi

    Let me explain: although you may be in UK (are you, by the way?), you are perfectly to ‘disapprove’ of whatever you want. The legal issue is HOW you go about expressing that disapproval.

    I disapprove of many things, including some ‘sexual’ things, but I’m not advocating unjust penal legislation against anyone.

    If any ‘revised Bahati Bill’ were to be in any way a ‘mirror image’ of British ‘hate crime’ laws, then it would nothing whatsoever to do Bahati’s real agenda.

    Incidentally, you seem very certain about what such a ‘revise Bahati Bill’ might be like. How come?

  • Richard Willmer

    (Try again! Sorry, it’s been a long day!)

    Maazi

    Let me explain: although you may be in UK (are you, by the way?), you are perfectly entitled to ‘disapprove’ of whatever you want. The legal issue is HOW you go about expressing that disapproval.

    I disapprove of many things, including some ‘sexual’ things, but I’m not advocating unjust penal legislation against anyone who does not do material harm to others.

    If any ‘revised Bahati Bill’ were to be in any way a ‘mirror image’ of British ‘hate crime’ laws, then it would have nothing whatsoever to do Bahati’s real agenda.

    Incidentally, you seem very certain about what such a ‘revised Bahati Bill’ might be like. How come?

  • Maazi NCO

    Let me explain: although you may be in UK (are you, by the way?)

    I am sure Stephen can help you with an answer to my whereabouts. Please advice Her Majesty’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office to hire Stephen to help out in this important top secret mission. Let British Intelligence and the Central Intelligence Agency get involved too !!

    you are perfectly entitled to ‘disapprove’ of whatever you want. The legal issue is HOW you go about expressing that disapproval.

    I disapprove of many things, including some ‘sexual’ things, but I’m not advocating unjust penal legislation against anyone who does not do material harm to others.

    Well from the Wikipedia extract you provided, it seems that this pro-gay British Law is so vaguely defined that just about anyone who annoys a gay sex practitioner can be arbitrarily arrested and potentially prosecuted. In Uganda, the revised Bahati Bill will not only remove absurd extremities and crudities of the original version, it will have reasonable provisions that are crystal clear. There shall be no vagueness.

  • Richard Willmer

    The British law on hate speech against gay people is very clear: there must be a proven intent to incite hatred if a conviction is to be secured.

    Noone’s going to ‘hunt you down’, Maazi. I was only asking if you were in the UK (as I have said, the hours you keep suggest that you might be). Furthermore, my earlier advice to you was an act of ‘good will’, to help you avoid any unnecessary trouble. OK?

    I am pleased that you have moderated your language. You have ceased to label innocent people as ‘criminals’, for example. Good.

  • Richard Willmer

    I would also say that my experience of Ugandans has been very good, and agree with some of the things you said earlier about their thoughful and generous approach to life. This is what give me hope that Bahatiism will be defeated.

  • Maazi NCO

    The British law on hate speech against gay people is very clear: there must be a proven intent to incite hatred if a conviction is to be secured

    Really? The law is amorphous. One can see examples of people who have been arrested based on it—preachers who think gayism is a sin. None of these people asked that gay sex practitioners be beaten up or killed, yet they were arrested.

    Noone’s going to ‘hunt you down’, Maazi. I was only asking if you were in the UK (as I have said, the hours you keep suggest that you might be). Furthermore, my earlier advice to you was an act of ‘good will’, to help you avoid any unnecessary trouble. OK?

    You desperately want me to be in the UK so that you can apply your amorphous pro-gay laws against me. Stephen desperately wants me to be a gay boy living in Georgetown, United States. If you like I can be retired ANC cadre in South Africa, a rancher in the highlands of Kenya, a scam artist in Nigeria or a retired club bouncer in Gabon. If you want I can be an unemployed lay-about in Newcastle, England.

    I am pleased that you have moderated your language. You have ceased to label innocent people as ‘criminals’, for example. Good.

    My language has always been moderate. Gayism is a sex crime in Uganda and those who engage in it are breaking the law. However, I will repeat for the umpteenth time that vigilantism (or incitement to vigilantism) is a crime on Ugandan soil.

  • Maazi NCO

    This is what give me hope that Bahatiism will be defeated.

    ” Bahatiism” very funny coinage. I will remember to tell my colleagues about this when I am done with my office shift later in the morning.

  • Richard Willmer

    Maazi

    I would prefer it if people who supported Bahatiism were NOT in the UK.

  • Richard Willmer

    Also: what you term ‘gayism’ is not a crime in this jurisdiction.

  • Richard Willmer

    You’re wrong again, Maazi – sorry!

    One of Bahati’s justifications for his barbaric bill is that so-called ‘gayism’ is not actually a crime in UG. Only so-called ‘sodomy’ is (see Penal Code Article 140).

    Are you going to show us these leaflets, by the way … you know, the health promotion ones that you claim constitute so-called ‘recruitment’?

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    Maazi NCO seems to have an over-developed sense of self-importance — why would anyone here care where he lives? Has he ever said anything truly worthy of a reply? I’m surprised Warren didn’t ban his hateful babble ages ago, unless perhaps having him around illustrates the idiotic thinking of those who support such things as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Even so, I’m not sure he’s worth it.

  • Maazi NCO

    Maazi NCO seems to have an over-developed sense of self-importance — why would anyone here care where he lives? Has he ever said anything truly worthy of a reply? I’m surprised Warren didn’t ban his hateful babble ages ago, unless perhaps having him around illustrates the idiotic thinking of those who support such things as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Even so, I’m not sure he’s worth it.

    The rantings of a frustrated man !

  • Richard Willmer

    Maazi has made some comments that verge on ‘hateful’ (for example, telling GUg that he is not welcome in his own country, labelling innocent people as ‘criminals’) and has indulged in a fair amount of cheap rhetoric (some of which has backfired: e.g. when citing India and Brazil – countries that have recently either dicriminalised consensual homosexual activity or legalsed same-sex partnerships). He has also made some factual errors, such as, for example, stating that ‘disapproval’ of homosexuality constituted a criminal offence in the UK. He has also made some very dubious claims about so-called ‘recruitment’ – claims for which he either cannot or will not provide any evidence.

    However, he has the right to his opinions, and one function of any blog is to promote ‘exchange of opinions’.

    I suspect that the fundamental mistake he makes is that cited by the Ugandan-born Archbishop John Sentamu when he (+John) condemned the Bill back in December: Maazi is confusing homosexuality with ‘aggravated sexuality’ (i.e. sexual abuse or exploitation). The dialogue on this blog has revealed that basic misconception on his (Maazi’s) part.

    As Warren has so often pointed out, there are already Ugandan laws against the sexual abuse of both boys and girls.

  • Jame

    Dr. Warren,

    I assume my contributions were not deliberately blocked because I never get to see any of my responses. It would be kind of you to let me know.

  • http://www.wthrockmorton.com Warren

    James – You were on moderation for awhile but are not now, as evidenced by this comment which went right through.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    @ Richard

    Calling those things “on the verge of hateful” is a massive understatement. As to Mazzi’s right to his opinions, that is true (alas, depending on the laws of his homeland and his own sexual orientation), but that doesn’t mean he has the right to express anything he likes on a particular blog — that is a privilege, not a right.

    For instance, if someone were to make the same statements about Jews, they would not be able to post them here for long. Most of his recent contributions here have been in rather pointless tit for tat with you. May I suggest that private email might be a more appropriate place for your exchanges with him?

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  • Maazi NCO

    @ Richard

    Calling those things “on the verge of hateful” is a massive understatement. As to Mazzi’s right to his opinions, that is true (alas, depending on the laws of his homeland and his own sexual orientation), but that doesn’t mean he has the right to express anything he likes on a particular blog — that is a privilege, not a right.

    You confirm what I have always known about westerners–rank hypocrisy. Freedom of Expression is okay provided it operates within the narrow boundaries which you define. This is the sort of hypocrisy that allows Western leaders to call for democracy in Africa while rolling out the red carpet for pro-Western dictatorships in the Middle-east who supply them with cheap crude oil. BTW, in Uganda, promoting gayism will neither be a privilege nor a right. It would be a criminal offence.

    For instance, if someone were to make the same statements about Jews, they would not be able to post them here for long.

    Please do not insult the distinguished Jewish people by comparing them to persons who engage in sex crimes.

    Most of his recent contributions here have been in rather pointless tit for tat with you. May I suggest that private email might be a more appropriate place for your exchanges with him?

    You are intolerant of dissent, but have the audacity to accuse somebody else of the same. Let me make it plain to you—- my purpose here is to merely put across the viewpoint of my people amidst the self-righteous uproar of Western ignoramuses who cannot even point out East Africa on a map not to mention Uganda. I am quite happy to hear the voices of foreigners who have a different opinion. But make no mistake about it— I am not here to receive lectures from you on how the Ugandan people should run their nation.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    I am not here to receive lectures from you on how the Ugandan people should run their nation.

    Well we are not here to listen to your petty bigotry dressed up as jurisprudence. The rest of what you say is such a mass of misinformation, there is nothing to be gained from discussion of it. That was my original claim about you in the first place, so thank you at least for proving my point.

  • http://exgaywatch.com David Roberts

    BTW, I have not desire to waste any more time doing the same back and forth with you that others have. Feel free to have the last word — I’m done.

  • Richard Willmer

    @ Maazi

    Many many Ugandans disagree with you. Bahati (and you?) want to silence them … or worse.

  • Jame

    Thank you Dr. Warren. I’ve confirmed it.

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  • Keith

    Bahati is an embarrassment to Uganda. His bill is going to hurt Ugandan’s a whole far more than just the gays and lesbians. Imagine going to jail just because your brother or sister is gay?

  • David Blakeslee

    An encouraging development:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11666789

    Judge Bans Rolling Stone

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