(RNS) A Ugandan cleric who ministers to homosexuals has criticized the passage of a controversial law that imposes life imprisonment for homosexual acts.
Christopher Ssenyonjo, the former Anglican Bishop of West Buganda, said gay men have done nothing wrong and should not be punished.
He spoke in a telephone interview Friday (Dec. 20), hours after legislators passed the law known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2009.
Lawmakers rejected an alternative proposal for a 14-year-sentence for those convicted of homosexual acts.
“People here don’t understand what homosexuality is,” Ssenyonjo said. “If they did, I don’t think they would have allowed this law.”
Ssenyonjo was defrocked 2002 for his ministry to gay men.
According to the cleric, homosexuality is not a sin, but actions against it were being justified through Scriptures and culture.
“I think people need education on the issue,” said Ssenyonjo.
The bill was first proposed in 2009, but had been shelved due to international pressure. President Barack Obama described the bill as “odious.” It initially proposed death sentences for certain homosexual acts in cases where one of the sexual partners is a minor or is infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
“I will still continue to have dialogue over the issue with clergy and government officials,” Ssenyonjo said. “I have a lot of hope this will end one day.”
In 2012, Rebecca Kadaga, the speaker of Uganda’s parliament, promised the law to Ugandans as a Christmas gift.
Homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda under colonial-era laws.
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