In Uganda, a new bill targeting homosexual activities has been passed by parliament, posing a risk of life imprisonment to individuals who identify as gay.
The bill also includes the possibility of the death penalty in some cases. The passing of the bill has led to fears of increased attacks on the gay community, according to a rights activist who spoke to the BBC.
Blackmail has reportedly become more prevalent, with some individuals threatening to report others as gay if they do not pay them money. The new legislation is one of the strictest anti-gay laws in Africa, criminalizing not only homosexual acts but also the mere identification as gay.
Friends, family members, and community members would be required to report same-sex relationships to authorities. The bill received widespread support in Uganda’s parliament and was passed on Tuesday evening (21st March, 2023).
The bill criminalizing same-sex between consenting adults has been criticized by Amnesty International, the UK’s Africa Minister, and the US Secretary of State. Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa stated that the legislation will institutionalize discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI people and block the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, and community leaders.
The anti-homosexual sentiment in the media before the debate has reportedly led to increased blackmail and mob attacks on members of the queer community. The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni, who has made anti-gay comments in recent weeks and criticized Western countries for pressuring Uganda on the issue.
A gay rights activist accused the government of using the bill to divert attention from its economic failures. The president has the option to veto the bill or sign it into law.
“They are trying to drum up anti-gay rhetoric to divert attention from really what is important to Ugandans in general. There is no reason why you should have a bill that criminalises individuals that are having consensual same-sex adult relationships,” Clare Byarugaba, LGBTQ+ Rights Activist, Chapter Four Uganda told the BBC.
The bill’s backers say they are trying to protect children but Ms Byarugaba said: “Whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual, the government and parliament should introduce laws, or at least implement existing laws that protect all children – boys, girls from defilement. So the issue of recruitment has been unproven, it is baseless, it is biased.”
What does the bill say?
The final version has yet to be officially published but elements discussed in parliament include:
- A person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for purposes of engaging them in homosexual activities faces life in prison
- Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBT rights’ activities or organisations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, also face prosecution and imprisonment
- Media groups, journalists and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, distribution of any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”
- Death penalty for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality”, that is sexual abuse of a child, a person with disability or vulnerable people, or in cases where a victim of homosexual assault is infected with a life-long illness
- Property owners also face risk of being jailed if their premises are used as a “brothel” for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities rights’ activities
Source: BBC News