Ugandan lawmakers have passed a new version of an anti-gay bill that removes penalties for those who identify as LGBTQ.
The country’s national assembly previously passed a sweeping bill criminalizing those who identify as LGBTQ, engage in homosexual acts, disseminate information about homosexuality, or advocate on behalf of LGBTQ causes.
But Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sent the bill back, demanding changes to the bill.
Among those changes were a distinction between those who identify as LGBTQ and those who advocate on behalf of LGBTQ rights or present homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle.
Another change suggested by Museveni was clemency for those convicted of homosexuality but who pursue “rehabilitation.”
Homosexuality is already criminalized in the heavily Christian country under a colonial-era law dealing with acts “against the order of nature,” with the penalty being life imprisonment.
The new law prescribes the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which includes cases where an LGBTQ person who has HIV has sex with someone who is HIV-negative, or cases in which one of the parties cannot legally consent or has been coerced into engaging in same-sex acts.
Under the law, those convicted of “attempted aggravated homosexuality” can be jailed for up to 14 years, while those convicted of “attempted homosexuality” can be jailed for up to 10 years, reports The Associated Press.
The revised bill no longer criminalizes those who merely identify as LGBTQ, although neighbors, co-workers, and family members are still encouraged to inform police about individuals they believe are engaging in same-sex actions.
Additionally, the bill imposes jail terms of up to 20 years for anyone who advocates for or promotes the rights of LGBTQ people, presents homosexuality as a normal sexual orientation — including members of media organizations — or provides physical space where such advocacy can take place.
The bill now heads to Museveni, a fierce anti-LGBTQ opponent who has sought to cast homosexuality as a Western-imposed cultural occurrence. He is expected to sign it into law.
However, Museveni is facing pressure from the West to veto the legislation, including the potential threat of economic consequences.
Western governments previously suspended foreign aid, imposed visa restrictions and other sanctions in response to a similar anti-LGBTQ law Museveni signed in 2014. That law — known as the “Kill the Gays” law — was overturned by a court on procedural grounds, reports Reuters.
A group of experts from the United Nations has described the previous version of the bill as “an egregious violation of human rights.”
The pro-LGBTQ organization Outright International condemned the bill and warned of its far-reaching implications.
“This bill is an undisguised assault on the fundamental human rights of LGBTQ people, their friends, family members, and other allies. It even criminalizes journalists, publishers, and human rights defenders who recognize LGBTQ people’s rights, landlords who rent premises to them, and development partners and donors who support their advocacy in pursuit of full equality,” Neela Ghoshal, the senior director of law and policy at Outright International, said in a statement.
“Far beyond simply banning same-sex acts, the law turns nearly everyone in Uganda into a potential criminal,” the organization said in a subsequent write-up of the bill.
“Development partners who support the Ugandan government in nearly any sector — governance, health, education, housing, livelihoods — should be aware of the heightened risk that their funds will be used to discriminate against and persecute LGBTQ people, including under Article 12, which implicates social and welfare officers in subjecting persons convicted under the law to forced conversion therapy practices, which cause incalculable harm.
“Humanitarian organizations, development partners, and multinational corporations should not fall into the trap of believing that this odious law does not affect them, or that they will be able to conduct ‘business as usual’ if the law is passed. They should vociferously oppose the law, which, if enacted, will compel their complicity in gross and unprecedented human rights violations.”
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