News / Africa

Activists Say Ugandan Homophobia Fueled by American Religious Right

From left, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, filmmaker Roger Ross Williams and Rev. Kapya Kaoma from the film "God Loves Uganda" pose for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2013 in Park City, Utah.From left, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, filmmaker Roger Ross Williams and Rev. Kapya Kaoma from the film "God Loves Uganda" pose for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
x
From left, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, filmmaker Roger Ross Williams and Rev. Kapya Kaoma from the film "God Loves Uganda" pose for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
From left, Bishop Christopher Senyonjo, filmmaker Roger Ross Williams and Rev. Kapya Kaoma from the film "God Loves Uganda" pose for a portrait during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival on January 20, 2013 in Park City, Utah.
A new movie called "God Loves Uganda" has been stirring controversy at the Sundance Film Festival.  The documentary accuses the American religious right of exporting homophobia to Uganda, and examines its impact on Ugandan politics.

The Sundance Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend, but one film is still making waves.  “God Loves Uganda” is a documentary that charges that conservative religious groups in the United States have been working to demonize gays in Africa, and specifically, in Uganda.

Bishop Christopher Senyonjo says that Westerners have been encouraging anti-gay sentiment in Uganda since colonial times.  Senyonjo, who makes an appearance in the film, is one of the few Ugandan religious leaders who accepts homosexuality.

“Even the laws which were brought here by the British, the sodomy laws," said Senyonjo. "People have been keeping these laws, even making them worse, after we had become independent.  And in Britain they are dismantling these laws, because they are coming to understand better.”

The plight of Uganda’s gay community has come to the world’s attention in recent years thanks to a bill currently before parliament, informally known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, which originally included the death penalty for certain homosexual acts.  Senyonjo links the bill to a visit by American evangelical preacher, Scott Lively.

“When Scott Lively came over here, I attended what he was talking about at the Triangle Hotel, and after that he met a number of politicians," said Senyonjo. "After all these meetings, then the bill was drafted, which was really anti-homosexuality.  And this has caused a lot of violence in some communities.”

The Ugandan member of parliament who proposed the bill, David Bahati, says it is “insulting” to suggest that Ugandans’ attitudes toward homosexuality are imported, and denies that the bill has anything to do with American influence.

“The bill before parliament is a Ugandan bill meant to address the current problems in Uganda, problems of promotion of homosexuality and other related issues," said Bahati. "It has always been an insult to say that we cannot identify the problems facing our nation and address them, we have got to be told by people from outside.”

But Ugandan gay activist Frank Mugisha says the language of the bill is suspiciously similar to that used by Lively himself.

“The preamble of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill [from] 2009 -- these are talking points from Scott Lively’s teachings when he was here in Uganda in 2009," said Mugisha. "Most of the words that are used, these are not Ugandan words.  You can see that this language is borrowed.  Words like ‘recruiting’, words like ‘promotion of homosexuality’, these are things that, in Uganda, are not referred to when you’re talking about sexuality.”

Part of what makes them so powerful, says Mugisha, is that American preachers do more than just preach.  They also support the poor.  He points to one American-led Pentecostal church in Uganda, which boasts tens of thousands of followers.

“Watoto Church - they support hundreds of orphans," said Mugisha. "So there is no way a gay activist like myself is going to compete with Gary Skinner, who is the owner of the church, in saying, ‘Ugandans, you should listen to me, you should not discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation’, when someone who is feeding the orphans is telling them homosexuality is an abomination.”

But at the end of the day, says Bishop Senyonjo, it is not just a question of money.  Americans have grown less tolerant of the homophobic messages of their own right-wing preachers, he says, while Uganda’s conservative, religious society has been much more receptive.

“These people, I think they have a gospel they want to preach," said Senyonjo. "They think they are planting a seed here, where the ground is still able to have seeds germinate.  So [they] plant more churches.  And they’re excited to see that many people seem to be going to them.  They think they are doing the right thing.”

Nor, he says, are they likely to stop at Uganda.

“From what I understand, Uganda is just a testing ground," said Senyonjo. "They are trying to go everywhere in Africa.  They think Africa is still fertile for this kind of preaching.”

The anti-homosexuality bill could be debated as early as February, when Uganda’s parliament reconvenes.

You May Like

New England Bears Brunt of US Blizzard

Boston, surrounding region grapple with as much as 3 feet of snow, coastal flooding; leaders in New York, spared most severe weather, criticized for being overly cautious More

China Lifts Lid on Sale of Fake Goods Online

A recent survey found nearly 60 percent of a random sample of items bought from Taobao were fake More

Upward Aims to Create Old-girls Network in Silicon Valley

Lisa Lambert, an executive with Intel Corp.'s venture-capital unit, responds to the gender-disparity debate by creating a new social organization More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid