The crackdown on homosexuality is intensifying in Uganda. In a turbulent session, Parliament voted on Tuesday to pass a law that would impose heavy penalties on people who engage in homosexual relations. Heavy penalties against homosexuals in Uganda:
“Need to punish a wider range of LGBTQ activities”
Heavy penalties against homosexuals in Uganda. “The yes vote won,” announced Speaker Annet Anita Among after the final vote, noting that “the law was passed in record time. “This House will not hesitate to restrict any right as long as it recognizes, protects and safeguards the sovereignty of this country and its morals,” she said.
More than 30 African countries, including Uganda, already ban same-sex relations. The new law appears to be the first to ban simple identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ), according to the rights group Human Rights Watch.
Supporters of the new law say there is a need to punish a broader range of LGBTQ activities, which they say threaten the traditional values of the conservative and religious East African nation.
In addition to same-sex relationships, the law prohibits promoting and encouraging homosexuality as well as conspiring to engage in homosexuality.
Violations of the law carry severe penalties, including death for aggravated homosexuality and life in prison for homosexual sex. Aggravated homosexuality involves homosexual relations with persons under the age of 18 or when the perpetrator is HIV-positive, among other categories, according to the law.
The law now in the hands of the president
“Our creator God is pleased [about] what is happening… I support the bill to protect the future of our children,” said legislator David Bahati during the debate on the bill.
“This is about the sovereignty of our nation, no one should blackmail us, no one should intimidate us.”
The deputies significantly amended the original text, which provided for penalties of up to ten years in prison for anyone engaging in homosexual acts or claiming to be LGBT+, in a country where homosexuality is already illegal. The extent of the new penalties under the law was not immediately known. The law must now be submitted to President Yoweri Museveni, who can either sign it into law or veto it.
Museveni has not commented on the current proposal, but he has long opposed LGBTQ rights and signed an anti-LGBTQ law in 2013 that Western countries condemned before a national court struck it down on procedural grounds.
In recent weeks, Ugandan authorities have cracked down on LGBTQ people after religious leaders and politicians alleged that students were being recruited for homosexuality in schools.
This month, authorities arrested a secondary school teacher in the Jinja district of eastern Uganda on charges of “grooming young girls for unnatural sexual practices.”
The UN is reportedly concerned about this legislation
Already in 2021, the UN had condemned the criminalization of LGBT people, prostitutes and HIV-positive. The reason is that a sexual offences law includes provisions that further target entire groups of people in Uganda: the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, sex workers and HIV-positive people.
“Although the penalty for consensual same-sex relations has been reduced to 10 years’ imprisonment instead of life imprisonment, they are still criminalized,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), during a press briefing in Geneva.
In 2014, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) had “strongly condemned the promulgation yesterday, by President Museveni, of the “anti-homosexuality” law in that it constitutes a serious violation of a large number of human rights and risks fuelling hatred against a part of the Ugandan population.
“The entry into force of the anti-homosexuality law is unacceptable,” said Dan Van Raemdonck, Secretary General of the FIDH. “In addition to institutionalizing discrimination and encouraging acts of harassment and violence against LGBTI people, this law marks a real regression in terms of protection of the rights and fundamental freedoms of the entire Ugandan population”, FIDH added.
“The Anti-Homosexuality Act passed by the Ugandan Parliament yesterday would undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans”, (Antony Blinken on twitter). US Secretary of State adds “We urge the Ugandan Government to strongly reconsider the implementation of this legislation”.