AllOut, an organization defending LGBT rights, launched an online appeal to the Ugandan government. Within 30 hours, more than 300,000 people from every country in the world signed the petition with more than 200,000 shares on Facebook and other social media channels.
As of Wednesday morning, the number of signatures totaled more than 450,000. Much of that reach can be attributed to the speed of an engaged social media community: “At last count, we’ve had 1,072,441 pageviews on the campaign and almost 60% of that has come through Facebook and Twitter,” said AllOut co-founder Andre Banks. “What we’re seeing is not an entirely new phenomenon — people have always activated their networks in times of crisis and called them to action. What’s different is the speed and ease that platforms like Facebook and Twitter allow. The AllOut petition was bolstered by Avaaz, a political activism website. The Avaaz petition has received more than 1.25 million online signatures at time of writing.
While the Ugandan Parliament has not issued a direct response to the tremendous international outcry, theAnti-Homosexuality bill appeared to be dropped from the debate agenda, MSNBC reported on Wednesday.
The bill’s author, David Bahati, has said a new version would not contain the death penalty, although no amended version has been publicly released.
A similar anti-homosexuality bill was raised last year but was dropped in part because of tremendous online opposition from the international community. Even though the current bill has been removed from the agenda, homosexuality is a contentious issue for Uganda. In the past year, LGBT Ugandans have been targeted, attacked or sometimes even murdered, with local tabloids running headlines like “Uganda’s Top Homos: Hang Them.”
“Personally, it means a lot to me to know that my brothers and sisters in the USA and Europe and other countries in Africa are in solidarity with us in opposing this bill,” said Ugandan Bishop Christopher Senyonjo. “Uganda has become the toxic dump for homophobia and it is also their experiment to see how far they can get away with this before the international community becomes concerned. So we need support to counter their lies and misinformation and to stop the madness that has resulted in this proposed bill.”
What do you make of social media’s ability to spur political action? Are these kinds of petitions crucial for galvanizing the social good community? Sound off in the comments.