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Please use an online translator for help, such as ___________________________________________________________________ Homosexuality is illegal in Uganda under an archaic, colonial-era law. Last year, the country enacted an anti-gay bill, an early draft of which called for the death penalty for homosexuality. The final version made it punishable by life in prison, although this was later overturned. The main sponsor of the bill, MP David Bahati, said lawmakers are planning to bring it back to parliament in a new form. "We hope that the Pope will be able to stand and (…) confirm what is written in the Bible to Uganda and to the world" Bahati told CNN. ___________________________________________________________________ In 2013, Pope Francis surprised many when he seemed to take a softer tone on conservative Catholic views on homosexuality. "If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge?" he told reporters on a flight out of Brazil. This raised hope that he would condemn the persecution, jailing and murdering of LGBTI people in Uganda. Persecuted Ugandan gays called for help from Pope Francis on visit believing that a message of compassion from Francis might challenge local church leaders to be less hostile toward those who are openly gay. "We want a position that is very clear from the Vatican that says, 'Do not discriminate, do not harm homosexuals,' a message of tolerance," he said. Catholic leaders, however, pray he will avoid the issue. "His stand is simply hypocritical" says Pastor Solomon Male. "Homosexuality is dangerous." The so called "anti-gay bill" was drafted by Ugandan politicians with significant input from local pastors and American evangelists. "We are not just the pearl of Africa," says Pastor Ssebuguzi, "we are God's choice." "The spiritual leaders in Uganda have actually incited the Ugandan society against gay people," said Anthony Musaala, a Catholic priest who was suspended in 2013 after a paper he wrote exposing alleged transgressions by Ugandan priests was leaked Simon Lokodo, a Ugandan ethics minister who publicly condemns homosexuals, said any statement on tolerance for homosexuals would be unpalatable to most Ugandans. "We have always condemned this style of life, especially in the line of exhibitionism. It is bad enough that homosexuals are there, but let them not go ahead and expose themselves." Museveni told CNN that homosexuality is "unnatural" and not a human right. "They're disgusting. What sort of people are they?" he said. "I never knew what they were doing. I've been told recently that what they do is terrible. Disgusting. But I was ready to ignore that if there was proof that that's how [a man] is born, abnormal. But now the proof is not there." LGBT activist in Uganda has accused the Vatican of running away from the issue of homosexuality and LGBT rights. Members of the Ugandan LGBT community have received no response after petitioning the Vatican to allow them to meet with the Pope and discuss the issue. “Nothing, no reply, no response, no ‘No’, no ‘Yes’. Despite the hopes of LGBT activists and supporters, the pope made no mention of the persecution of gay people. For them, the doors of the church have long been closed. Frank Mugisha is one of Uganda's most prominent LGBTI activists and the executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda. A practising Catholic, he tells Al Jazeera's Priyanka Gupta that the pope's visit has brought both hope and disappointment. Al Jazeera: Have you ever felt discriminated against by the Church? Frank Mugisha: I go to a city church and it is less hostile because there are many people. The priest will not even notice who is in church or not, but local churches in my neighbourhood, those I avoid. If the priest knows me he will teach against homosexuality. It happened a year ago, when I went to the local church and he started preaching against gay people. It made me very insecure because even though he didn't take my name, people know who I am. Al Jazeera: The anti-homosexuality bill was annulled last year, but being gay is still illegal in Uganda. Is it dangerous to be a gay Ugandan? Frank Mugisha: Yes, there is still a colonial [era] law in Uganda on homosexuality, so it makes every known or perceived LGBTI person at risk of hate crimes, arrest, blackmail and extortion, public humiliation. The media can out them. The risk at the moment is mostly from the public. According to Sexual Minorities Uganda, a non-governmental umbrella organisation that defends the rights of Uganda's LGBTI community, 96 percent of Ugandans believe homosexuality is unacceptable. Homophobia is deeply entrenched and widely accepted within the country. The bill helped to fan hatred against LGBT Ugandans, and attacks against gays have forced many to flee abroad or lead secret lives. For those who stayed, the situation only grew worse. For Jackson Mukasa and Kim Mukisa, the trouble started with a knock on the door. The knocks turned to banging and then shouting. Mukasa knew then that a mob was outside. "We heard people screaming 'the gays are here! The gays are here!' We expected to be killed," recalls Mukasa. As the mob grew and was joined by local media, Mukisa pleaded with Mukasa to save some of their belongings. But in the chaos they were separated. Mukisa got away for a time, but the crowd severely beat Mukasa and then marched them to the local police station. Their alleged crime: engaging in sex acts "against the order of nature." "We never knew we were suspected," Mukasa said. "We couldn't stop expressing what we are. We are proud of what we are." After the mob attack, they were put on trial at a magistrate's court. They spent months in prison before their case was eventually thrown out for lack of evidence. But the damage was already done. Now Mukasa and Mukisa are too afraid to travel together on public transport, their families have abandoned them, and they can't go back home. "It's so hurtful that people hate us so much when they realize that we are gays. You know how you feel when you are not loved by people? You feel so bad," says Mukasa. SOURCES

Roberto Solone Boccardi
6 years ago