By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com March 07 2013 5:39 PM ET
The Canadian government has quietly spent more than $200,000 fighting Uganda's so-called "Kill The Gays" bill since the nation's parliament renewed its efforts to pass the Anti-Homosexuality Bill last November, according to Canada's National Post.
A senior Department of Foreign Affairs official told the Post that "Canadian officials have conveyed Canada's concerns with the bill to Uganda's Foreign Ministry," and confirmed that Canada is "working closely with Ugandan civil society."
Financial agreements divvying up the $200,000 among Ugandan LGBT initiatives and Kenya — where Canada's high commissioner for Uganda is based — were signed in January, and continue through the end of March, reports the Post.
Canadian funding is directly involved with several regional LGBT projects in Uganda, but is not being widely advertised, according to the Post. These projects reportedly include training sessions for activists in Uganda and other African nations facing similar antigay legislation, emergency kits for those who fear for their safety, and the establishment of an emergency hotline to help those LGBT Africans wishing to escape homophobic countries. Most of these programs are run by local African LGBT groups, and directly funded by Canada's Department of Foreign Affairs, reports the Post.
Canadian government officials — including the High Commissioner to Uganda and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird — are directly involved in these initiatives, according to the Post. Baird came out harshly against the "Kill the Gays" bill at an Inter-Parliamentary Union conference in 2012 in Quebec City, which prompted Ugandan Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga's promise that she would pass the legislation as "a Christmas gift" to Ugandans who are "demanding it."
The bill did not pass before Parliament took its winter vacation, but the Anti-Homosexuality Bill continues to linger on the parliament's orders papers under "Business to Follow," meaning it could come up for debate at any time. Opposition to the bill within the Ugandan parliament is almost non-existent, and Ugandan LGBT activists predict that if the body votes on the bill, it will likely pass. President Yoweri Museveni has made conflicting statements about whether or not he would support the legislation.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, but the bill, which has languished in Parliament since it was first introduced in 2009, calls for the death penalty for LGBT people convicted of "aggravated homosexuality," a broadly defined category that includes sex with a minor, sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or having sex with anyone while being HIV-positive.