MPs in Uganda overwhelmingly passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill on Tuesday
Lawmakers in Uganda have voted to criminalise LGBTIQ+ people’s very existence under a bill that is one of the most oppressive anti-LGBTIQ+ legislations in the world.
- The new bill punishes “aggravated homosexuality” with the death penalty
- Even children could be jailed if they engage in same-sex acts
- People who provide accommodation to LGBTIQ+ also face jail time
- There are calls for President Museveni to veto the bill
On Tuesday, the Ugandan Parliament overwhelmingly passed the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, 2023. If signed by President Yoweri Museveni, the bill will add to the already existing colonial-era ban on homosexuality.
The bill’s provisions are shockingly broad and infringe on almost every aspect of LGBTIQ+ existence.
“These acts include promotion of homosexuality and the recruitment of children into homosexuality which have been blamed for the rising incidents of homosexuality in Uganda,” said the Chairperson of the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee, Robina Rwakoojo.
The bill imposes the following penalties:
- Engaging in a homosexual sexual act: life in prison
- Attempting a homosexual sexual act: 10 years in prison
- Aggravated homosexuality (e.g. serial offender): death penalty
- Children under 18 engaging in a homosexual act: up to 3 years in prison
- Providing accommodation to an LGBTIQ+ person: 10 years in prison
- Taking part in or organising a same-sex marriage: 10 years in prison
- “Promotion” of homosexuality: 20 years in prison
- Not reporting an LGBTIQ+ person: a fine or 6 months in jail
During the debate on the bill, MP Sarah Opendi mirrored the widespread ignorance about human sexuality in Ugandan society and equated gay people with paedophiles. She told the speaker that “even life imprisonment is not adequate” and asserted that “these people should be castrated!”
“This deeply repressive legislation will institutionalise discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI people…”
MP Fox Odoi Oywelowo presented a minority report saying that the bill is misconceived and duplicates provisions that exist in other laws. “It is therefore, the position of the minority that the provisions of the bill, if passed into law will infringe on the rights of Ugandans specifically freedom of expression, association and liberty…” Oywelowo said.
The legislation will be sent to President Museveni who recently described gay people as “deviants”. He has the option of vetoing the bill or signing it into law. If it is signed, Museveni and his country will face considerable international backlash.
News of the bill’s passage was met with alarm from human rights activists and groups. Pan Africa ILGA said the bill “is another way of using the law to punish people who cause no harm but for being who they are”.
It called on the international community, including UN agencies and bodies, diplomatic missions and donor agencies to Uganda, to condemn the bill. “They should boycott every attempt by Uganda to discriminate against sexual and gender minorities who cause no harm for being human,” said the group.
Amnesty International called for President Museveni to urgently veto the legislation. “This deeply repressive legislation will institutionalise discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI people, including those who are perceived to be LGBTI and block the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, and community leaders,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.
Ugandan LGBTIQ+ activist Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera defiantly tweeted in response to the bill: “I am a lesbian daughter of the soil. Deal with it. Will jail stop me from my feelings towards beautiful women? Your fundamentalism can’t work on me.”