While Uganda's members of Parliament, prime minister, and president are halfway through a 10-day retreat, LGBT activists around the world raised their voices in opposition to the country's Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which is currently awaiting the president's signature.
Hundreds of people shared photos, tweets, and status updates Monday to stand in solidarity with LGBT Ugandans rallying against the bill. A Facebook group organized encouraged participants to use the hashtags #StopAHB and #AHBGlobalDayofAction.
"If we remain silent, we shall suffer at the hands of Ugandan leaders that have no respect for Human Rights," reads the group's description. "Silence will not protect us!! We need to speak out against Injustice; We need to speak out FOR Human Rights! We need to speak out against the Anti Homosexuality Bill. We need you to Let Uganda know, through this Day of Action, that the world is watching. We Must demand Justice and respect for Human Rights for all Ugandans."
Ugandan LGBT activists have been organizing against the bill since its first introduction in Parliament in 2009, but their plight has taken on a new urgency since the bill was passed by Parliament December 20 — reportedly without enough members to establish a quorum, putting its legality into question. President Yoweri Museveni has thus far refused to sign the legislation, which in some cases would impose lifetime prison sentences for gay sex and prescribes three-year prison terms for straight Ugandans who do not report a "known homosexual" to authorities.
President Museveni, who has turned down repeated requests to meet with LGBT Ugandans, told the antigay speaker of Parliament that he would not sign the bill unless he's presented with scientific evidence that being gay is a choice, not an innate orientation. Less than a week after the president announced this stipulation, lawmakers in Uganda's ruling party who had "medical backgrounds" said they had prepared a report with scientific proof that homosexuality was "socially acquired" and curable.
Although the president has refused to meet with LGBT activists, Ugandan prime minister Amama Mbabazi did acknowledge the viral campaign in opposition to the law, tweeting Monday, "To all those who sent me msgs about the Bill on homosexuality, I want to assure u that it will be fully debated and democratically resolved."
LGBT advocates in Uganda are concerned about local and international media reports that claim without Museveni's signature, the bill is effectively dead — in fact, the bill could still become law, even without the president's signature, if a majority of parliamentarians vote in favor of it. In the Facebook group organizing the Global Day of Action Against the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, LGBT activists report, "This bill is still a huge threat ... to the majority of Ugandans. It is also worth to note that the power of ascension of a bill doesn’t lay primarily with the President of Uganda. The Parliament of Uganda can also pass the bill into law!"
Take a look at the images that were submitted from around the world standing with Uganda's embattled LGBT people against oppression and violence. For more information on how you can support LGBT Ugandans, visit the country's Civil Society on Human Rights and Constitutional Law.
Activists protest the Anti-Homosexuality Bill outside the Ugandan embassy in Washington, D.C.