Kampala Woman MP Nabilah Naggayi Sempala has told a gathering in America that she supports gay rights, contradicting her earlier backing for Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.
According to a news report in the Bay Area Reporter, an online US newspaper, Sempala told a September 4 forum for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in San Fransisco that she was now opposed to the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
The legislation was annulled by court recently because it was passed by a Parliament that lacked quorum. Although hugely popular at home, the law had been widely condemned by Western states and human rights groups. The newspaper, according to its website, serves the LGBT community in San Francisco. It quoted Human Rights Watch’s Maria Burnett questioning Sempala’s change of stance, insisting that she had been outspoken in her support of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act.
It said Burnett provided the Bay Area reporter with a video of Sempala speaking at a news conference in Uganda during an attempt by some parliamentarians to have the act returned to the House after its annulment.
“I’m very glad that this law has come back,” Sempala said in the video.
“We are going to reassert our cultural values, not only on men sleeping with fellow men, but the unnatural processes of sex. Anal sex is not a cultural thing for Uganda nor is it an African culture.”
In the video, Sempala went on to speak for what she called the “silent victims” of anal sex. She claimed that when men are prohibited from indulging in homosexuality, they “impose” anal sex on their wives. At the San Francisco meeting, Sempala attempted to explain her actions as portrayed by the video, which included signing a petition to bring back the Anti-Homosexuality Act.
“You cannot be an activist and a politician at the same time,” she said, speaking from the podium. “The anti-homosexuality people are very clever, organized, and they have a lot of resources. The media asked me if I was going to sign the petition.
So I signed it and that day I felt very bad being a politician. Many politicians have felt that they’ve had to do something political that they don’t believe in. I was not proud to be in Parliament that day.”
Julie Dorf, a senior aiser for the Council for Global Equality, an organization that seeks to promote LGBT activism worldwide, was critical of Sempala’s appearance at the LGBT centre.
“She’s a smart politician,” Dorf said. “A wolf in sheep’s clothing. I don’t think any LGBT leaders in Uganda think she’s pro-LGBT. Now she can go back to Uganda and say she was welcomed by San Francisco’s LGBT community. If anyone did their research, they wouldn’t give a platform to a leading homophobe.”
Frank Mugisha, a Ugandan gay rights activist, said Sempala was one of the drivers to bring back the anti-gay law.
“She used to be supportive,” Mugisha said via email. “Don’t know what went wrong. I guess political capital.”
Yet at the LGBT centre in San Francisco, Sempala insisted that she remained supportive of LGBT people. “Who covers my back?” she asked from the podium. “How do I protect my kids?”
She said she thought it was possible to gradually slide a pro-LGBT message into Uganda’s political discussions.
“Talk about schools first,” she suggested. “Then bring in the gay issue. People need to know who their enemies are. Someone is using the gay community as a shield. We need a media strategy.”
Asked whether what had been reported by the US newspaper was accurate, Sempala told The Observer on Monday that she was not happy that the article had portrayed her as a homophobe, which she is not. But she was quick to quote a famous saying by Nelson Mandela: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
Source : The Observer