Vancouver equality activists plan West End vigil in support of LGBT rights in Uganda

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      Despite 2013 being a landmark year for gay marriage in America, it was a challenging time for LGBT communities in many other countries around the world.

      Russia received a huge number of negative headlines for passing antigay legislation ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. India also attracted attention for overturning a 2009 decision that decriminalized homosexuality. More recently, a new law in Nigeria has been nicknamed the "Jail the Gays" bill, and authorities have reportedly embarked on an alarming witch-hunt, torturing people suspected of being gay in an effort to elicit the names of other LGBT groups and individuals.

      Uganda has also drafted new legislation that’s discriminatory towards gay people. That's prompted Vancouver equality activists to schedule a vigil for 5 p.m. this Saturday (January 18) at the Davie Village Community Garden at Davie and Burrard streets.

      While homosexuality has long been illegal in Uganda, a new law awaiting presidential assent would extend a maximum penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” to life imprisonment.

      “We want to do something in response to Uganda right away,” said Imtiaz Popat, coordinator for Salaam Vancouver, a group for queer Muslims. “President [Yoweri] Museveni is humming and hawing about whether or not to sign this law, so we want to get the word out to people.”

      In a telephone interview, Popat told the Straight that the vigil is scheduled for the weekend following the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15) because he hopes the American holiday celebrating the life of the civil rights leader will help draw attention to discrimination in Uganda.

      “There’s a lot of raucous around Russia, whereas it seems Uganda is not as important because this is Africa,” he said.

      Popat is also helping organize an event protesting antigay laws that will happen on February 22, the Saturday before the end of the Olympics. The event, titled “Holding Hands for Queer Equality Around the World”, is scheduled to begin at Davie and Burrard streets at 4 p.m.

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