A member of the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda (Photo: Iain Statham / Shutterstock)
The founders and representatives of Parents, Friends and Families of South African Queers (PFSAQ), Lerato la Basadi and Isikhala Women’s Group said in an open letter below that Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act violates the rights of not only the LGBTIQ+ community but also those who love and support them.
Following news of Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, signing into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, we, as a collective of South African NGOs dedicated to fighting gender-based violence and the challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ persons, write to you today with deep concern and urgency.
We implore the Ugandan government to immediately repeal this law that so flagrantly violates the rights of not only the LGBTIQ+ community, but also those who, like us, love and support them.
It is of great concern that this is the second law of its nature in just 10 years. The equally discriminatory and draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill was signed into law by the president in February 2014, and later annulled by the Constitutional court, six months later on a technicality. This continued and deliberate affront from the Ugandan government’s legislative arm is dangerous and unacceptable in a truly democratic country.
Let us take a moment to imagine a world where expressing love to our partners could lead to a sentence of death. A world where our self-expression as human beings is criminally punishable. A world where anyone who accepts us for who we are and supports our self-expression and celebrates our love is considered a criminal. This is a world none of us should tolerate.
The Act now also criminalises consenting same-sex adult relationships with life imprisonment, and the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ clause would mean that any NGO, civil society organisation, human rights activist or medical practitioner providing services to LGBTIQ+ individuals would be liable to 20 years’ imprisonment, heavy fines and revocation of their permits.
We, not only as NGOs within the LGBTIQ+ community, but as human beings and fellow Africans, fervently plead for the complete withdrawal of this new law. We must recognize that legislation of this nature is not only an affront to the fundamental principles of human rights and equality, but it also perpetuates stigma, discrimination, and violence against a marginalised community that deserves our love, acceptance, and protection.
“As a parent of someone who is queer, all I can say is our children deserve to live like everyone else.”
To the leaders of Africa, especially those in South Africa and Uganda, we urge you to take a stand for justice and compassion. The progress we have made in advancing human rights and equality in our respective nations cannot be undermined by such regressive legislation. Let us be the beacons of hope, guiding our societies towards inclusivity, understanding, and respect for all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
To the citizens of Uganda and Africa more broadly, we call upon you to reject prejudice and embrace diversity. Our continent is rich in cultures, traditions, and histories that celebrate the uniqueness of its people. Our strength lies in our unity, in recognizing the value of every individual, and in fostering a society that is just, inclusive, and equitable. Together, we can build a future where love is not a crime and where every person can live authentically, without fear of persecution.
On 28 March this year, shortly after the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was first tabled, a group of Ugandan mothers penned an open letter to the country’s president and its people. The group’s impassioned plea that “all our children, no matter their age, sexual orientation and gender identity, need and deserve our love” is something we wish to echo.
“My child is a gift from God. My child is my child, irrespective of her sexual orientation,” says 68-year-old Thabisile Msezane, the founder of Lerato la Basadai, a group of Christian women who actively educate parents and communities on the need to respect the rights of LGBTIQ+ persons.
Nandipha Jovula, 48, the founder of the anti-gender-based violence organisation, Isikhala Women’s Group, says: “As a parent of someone who is queer, all I can say is our children deserve to live like everyone else. To criminalise them won’t stop people from being gay. It will just force queer people to hide and suffer and will, without a doubt, increase suicide rates.
“The Ugandan government taking away queer people’s rights will not make them go away, but only cement the image of it as a tyrannical government that does not care about its citizens’ well-being.”
As parents, let us create a world where our children don’t have to hide who they are from us. Let us protect our children. They are gifts from God and we can’t change what has been created by Him. Our children deserve love and acceptance.
In conclusion, we stand in solidarity with the LGBTIQ+ community in Uganda and across Africa, demanding the immediate termination of this unjust law. Let us be guided by the principles of humanity, compassion and respect for the rights of all individuals. We believe in the power of unity and dialogue to bring about positive change and create a brighter future for Uganda, Africa, and the world.
Signed by the founders and representatives of Parents, Friends and Families of South African Queers (PFSAQ), Lerato la Basadi and Isikhala Women’s Group.