Parliament Tables Anti-Gay Bill with New Tough Penalties
Uganda’s parliament is set to consider a bill that criminalises anyone identifying as LGBTQ+, and threatens them with 10 years in jail.
The bill also threatens landlords who rent premises to gay people with a prison sentence.
Speaker Annet Anita Among used homophobic language as she addressed lawmakers after the bill was tabled.
It is the latest sign of rising homophobia in a country where homosexual acts are already illegal.
Campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it believed that if the law was passed, Uganda would be the only African country to criminalise those who simply identify as LGBTQ+.
The proposed law would also ban the funding or promotion of LGBTQ+ activities.
It also prescribes a 10-year jail term for anyone who engages in a same sex relationship or marriage. Consent will not be a defence.
Anyone convicted of gay sex with a minor would also be jailed for 10 years.
The bill was tabled by opposition MP Asuman Basalirwa, and it is unclear whether President Yoweri Museveni and his National Resistance Movement (NRM) – which has a majority in parliament – will back the bill.
However, Mr Museveni has been speaking out against homosexuality recently, and the speaker is a member of the NRM.
She used a derogatory word to describe gay people, while saying they would be allowed to express their views in “public hearings” on the proposed legislation.
“Let the public come express their views — including the homos — allow them to come,” she said.
Politicians and others behind the bill have accused gay rights groups of recruiting and grooming children, and luring some with money or scholarships. But they have not presented any evidence to back up the claims.
LGBTQ+ activist Frank Mugisha, who lives in Uganda, said people were being “indoctrinated” into believing that gay rights were a threat to African values, and was “some big monster” that was “coming from the West”.
“We’ve registered so many cases of violations [against the LGBTQ+ community]. We’ve seen so many cases of arrest, blackmail and extortion so this is going to increase,” the activist said.
In 2014, Uganda’s constitutional court nullified the Anti-Homosexuality Act, which had toughened laws against the LGBTQ+ community.
It included making it illegal to promote and fund LGBTQ+ groups and activities, as well as reiterating that homosexual acts should be punished by life imprisonment.
The court ruled that the legislation be revoked because it had been passed by parliament without the required quorum. The law had been widely condemned by Western countries.
The punishment of life imprisonment for same-sex relations already exists in the country’s penal code. It is not clear if the proposed new legislation would override this.
Same-sex relations are banned in about 30 African countries, where many people uphold conservative religious and social values.