Metro Weekly

Uganda Pushes Hateful Bill Targeting LGBTQ Citizens and Supporters

A new bill introduced in Uganda seeks harsher penalties for homosexuality, and criminalizes those who "promote" LGBTQ visibility.

uganda, gay news, metro weekly
A 2018 protest against Uganda’s anti-LGBTQ oppression — Photo: Alisdare Hickson.

A Ugandan lawmaker has reintroduced an anti-LGBTQ bill that seeks harsher punishments for those who engage in same-sex relations and those who “promote” homosexuality or same-sex relations as “normal.”

Asuman Basalirwa, a member of Parliament for the opposition political party Justice Forum, has introduced the draft law, claiming it’s necessary to protect Ugandan society by ensuring family stability and preventing children from being exposed to what he sees as “harmful” ideas about gender and sexuality.

He even compared homosexuality as a “cancer” eating up the world as he urged his fellow lawmakers to back the proposed law, reports The Guardian.

“In this country, or in this world, we talk about human rights,” Basalirwa said when introducing the bill. “But it is also true that there are human wrongs. I want to submit … that homosexuality is a human wrong that offends the laws of Uganda and threatens the sanctity of the family, the safety of our children and the continuation of humanity through reproduction.”

Fellow lawmakers applauded and indicated their support for the measure.

At a prayer service held in parliament and attended by several religious leaders, Anita Among, the speaker of the parliament, denounced homosexuality and LGBTQ visibility as harmful to Ugandan culture.

“We want to appreciate our promoters of homosexuality for the social economic development they have brought to the country,” she said, referring to western countries and donors. “But we do not appreciate the fact that they are killing morals. We do not need their money, we need our culture.”

In 2014, Uganda’s constitutional court declared the widely condemned anti-gay bill “null and void” due to a lack of a quorum. But Among said that when the bill finally comes to a vote, legislators would show support by raising their hands, so that the bill cannot be overturned on procedural grounds.

“We shall not allow that aspect of saying there was no quorum. We are going to vote by show of hands,” Among said. “You are either for homosexuality or you are against it. We want to see the kind of leaders we have in this country.”

Uganda is a largely conservative country and homosexual relations are already punishable by life imprisonment under the country’s Western-imposed, colonial-era penal code, similar to 29 other countries in Africa.

The original version of the 2014 bill that was overturned called for the death penalty for same-sex conduct, prompting critics to dub it the “Kill the Gays” bill.

Hostility to homosexuality is a constant in Ugandan society, and politicians frequently embrace fear-mongering about homosexuality for their own political gain as a way to appeal to socially conservative constituents.

President Yoweri Museveni had frequently railed against Western nations that he sees as attempting to “normalize” homosexuality. As speaker of parliament, Among has directed the parliamentary education committee to investigate schools suspected of “encouraging” or “promoting” LGBTQ rights.

Under the proposed bill, those convicted of homosexual acts or expressing a gender contrary to one’s assigned sex at birth could earn a prison sentence of up to 10 years. Consent of one’s sexual partner will not be considered a defense against any such charges. 

Similar penalties are proposed for “aggravated homosexuality,” such as instances where an HIV-positive person has sex with a negative person, where a person is considered a “serial offender” by having committed repeat acts of homosexuality, or where a person’s sexual partner was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs that could have impaired their judgment or ability to consent.

The law would also require anyone charged with engaging in homosexual acts to submit to an HIV test. 

The law goes further, attacking those who disseminate pornographic materials depicting homosexuality, funds or sponsors LGBTQ-related organizations or activities, offers their premises for use by LGBTQ groups, spreads information — even that which is facially neutral — about homosexuality or LGBTQ culture, or assists people who regularly engage in same-sex conduct.

Those convicted of such offenses will be fined and imprisoned, and even businesses or nonprofits found to have “promoted” homosexuality or LGBTQ visibility will have their certificate of registration canceled and those within the organization who were responsible for the violation will be imprisoned for up to 2 years.

LGBTQ advocates have condemned the proposed law as “hate legislation.”

“This new law is the culmination of what is clearly a deliberate increase in hostile rhetoric against sexual and gender minorities by public figures over the last few months, and it’s disappointing that Ugandan politicians are once again using homophobia for political capital,” Oryem Nyeko, a researcher in the Africa division at Human Rights Watch, told The Guardian.

“Some think they can wish or legislate away a section of our society for who they love. It is hate-based legislation that serves no public purpose,” added human rights lawyer Nicholas Opiyo. “But one thing is for sure: there are Ugandan LGBTQ+ individuals who are here to stay — they are an undeniable part of our society. They are someone’s child, brother or sister.”

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