A U-turn? Uganda government reportedly rejects new gay death bill


Uganda Ethics and Integrity Minister, Simon Lokodo

A spokesperson for the government of Uganda says it does not support the introduction of the death penalty for homosexuality.

Last week, it was reported that Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo had announced that a new version of Uganda’s reviled Anti-Homosexuality Act would be introduced in parliament in the coming weeks.

“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act,” he was quoted as saying by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”

Lokodo further claimed that President Yoweri Museveni was in support of the bill. The news was met with international outrage and condemnation, with activists and organisations demanding that the planned legislation be scrapped.

On Saturday, however, Ofwono Opondo P’Odel, Executive Director of the Uganda Media Centre – the government of Uganda’s official centre for public communications – denied that a new anti-gay bill was being planned.

He tweeted: “Government hereby clarifies that it does not intend to introduce any new law with regards to the regulation of #LGBT activities in Uganda because the current provisions in the #PenalCode are sufficient.”

Colonial-era legislation criminalising gay sex remains in force in Uganda, allowing the state to punish anyone found guilty of the “offence” with life in prison.

Uganda’s original Anti-Homosexuality Act was signed into law by President Museveni in February 2014. Later that year, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the act invalid on procedural grounds because not enough MPs were present when it was voted on.

It’s not clear if the government’s position will dissuade homophobic lawmakers from trying to introduce new legislation as a private member’s bill.

Lokodo, a former Catholic priest, is known for his anti-gay vitriol and attacks against the LGBTQ community. In September, he was forced to make an embarrassing turnaround after he imposed a ban on an international music festival because he claimed it would “promote homosexuality.”

Lokodo soon after reversed his position and said the event would be allowed to go ahead, reportedly after the Minister of Internal Affairs, Jeje Odongo, intervened in the matter.

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