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Canada kick starts funding for gay rights initiatives in Uganda

Friday, March 8, 2013
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OTTAWA, Ontario, Canada — A Canadian foreign affairs official acknowledged Friday that there are ongoing efforts to fund grassroots Ugandan LGBTQ advocacy organizations who are battling efforts by the Ugandan Parliament to pass that country’s proposed anti-homosexuality bill.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an official with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade told LGBTQ Nation that the ministry has spent approximately $200,000 since November to counter the legislation — commonly referred to as the “Kill the Gays Bill.”

Earlier this week, a report in Canada’s National Post indicated that financing agreements between local organizations and the Department of Foreign Affairs were signed in January, and carried out in late February, with most ongoing until the end of March. The money was divided between Uganda, neighboring Kenya — where Canada’s high commissioner for Uganda is based — and on region-wide projects.

Rick Roth, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, said that Canadian officials have expressed concerns with the bill to Uganda’s Foreign Ministry, and confirmed that Canada is “working closely with Ugandan civil society.”

One project based in Kenya was created to prepare for emergency scenarios – such as the passage of the bill – where LGBTQ people would need protection or assistance fleeing the country.

Another project focuses on training activists to raise public awareness of LGBT rights.

The anti-homosexuality bill, first introduced in 2009 by MP David Bahati, includes a clause which calls for the death penalty against people found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality” — defined as when one of the participants is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender.”

It also imposes harsher jail terms for homosexual acts, including a life sentence in certain circumstances.

The bill has languished in Uganda’s Parliament, moving up and down the list of legislative order but has yet to come before the legislature for a vote.

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