By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com April 01 2014 1:17 PM ET
Hundreds of Ugandans gathered in Kampala for a massive, five-hour-long rally on Monday celebrating the passage of the nation's draconian Anti-Homosexuality Act, commonly known as the "Jail the Gays" law, since it prescribes life imprisonment for many instances of homosexuality.
Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni was the guest of honor at National Thanksgiving Service Celebrating the Passing of the Anti-Homosexuality Act and readily soaked up praise heaped upon him for signing the bill into law in February, according to a comprehensive report from BuzzFeed's correspondent in Uganda, Lester Feder.
Participants carried signs through the capital city with messages reading "Museveni, thank you for saving the future of Uganda," "Homosexuality + AIDS = 100%," and "Obama, we want trade not homosexuality." In a none-too-subtle attempt to counter the pro-LGBT Pride parades held in Uganda for the first time last year, participants at the antigay rally carried professionally produced banners touting "Uganda Pride."
Member of Parliament David Bahati, author of the original bill, which called for the death penalty in instances of "aggravated homosexuality," lauded Museveni as a courageous independent leader for signing the law despite intense international opposition.
"Today, we come here again [to celebrate] sovereignty and freedom … [and] to take charge of our destiny," Bahati said, according to BuzzFeed's report. "The citizens of Uganda are with you, Mr. President. The religious and cultural leaders are with you, Mr. President. The members of Parliament and the nation is behind you."
Antigay religious leaders were out in force at the rally, and several took to the podium to address the crowd — often directly referencing the millions in cuts to foreign aid provided to Uganda by European nations and the U.S.
Last month, U.S. officials announced that more than $6.4 million in aid would be redirected away from the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda due to that agency's support of the antigay law. Although the council will still receive more than $2 million in funding to support ongoing treatment for those with HIV or AIDS, one of its leading members called on average Ugandans to contribute their own funds to make up the deficit.
"As Ugandans and Africans we have existed for generations without compromising our values, especially where marriage between a man and a woman is concerned," said Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje, the Mufti of Uganda, according to BuzzFeed. Mubaje reportedly earned applause when he suggested creating a citizen-supported fund to provide antiretroviral treatments to the estimated 1.5 million Ugandans with HIV or AIDS.
President Museveni, who signed the law after saying he was convinced by a "scientific" report that gay people are "made, not born," was the star of the half-day rally, earning laughs when he graphically described the "unnatural" characteristics of same-sex sexual activity.
"The sexual organs of human beings are highly specialized," Museveni said according to BuzzFeed. "Because that part is not for that purpose, it creates very unhealthy repercussions … the intestines come out — this is terrible!"
Then Museveni went on to warn about the "other terrible things" involved in the so-called homosexual lifestyle, including this gem: "Oral sex is an idiocy," he said. "The mouth is for eating."
While Museveni pledged to continue "to fight this war" against homosexuality, at least one pro-LGBT Ugandan was beaten by uniformed police officers, according to reports provided to The Advocate. Although the woman is not a lesbian, the professional attorney and human rights activist reported that a uniformed officer punched her in the face as she attempted to take photos at the rally to document the event.
Watch a video of the antigay march below.