The passing of a new bill in Uganda has put the lives of people who identify as gay at risk of life imprisonment, with the death penalty introduced for those who abuse children or vulnerable people.
This piece of anti-gay legislation in Africa is one of the toughest, as it introduces many new criminal offenses and makes identifying as gay illegal for the first time.
It also requires friends, family, and members of the community to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities.
Amnesty International has called the bill “appalling,” “ambiguous,” and “vaguely worded,” with the potential to institutionalize discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTI people. In the weeks leading up to the debate, anti-homosexual sentiment was prominent in the media, and members of the queer community were blackmailed and extorted for money or even lured into traps for mob attacks.
The bill’s backers argue they are trying to protect children, but critics say they should introduce laws that protect all children, regardless of sexual orientation.
The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni, who can choose to veto it or sign it into law.
Same-sex relations are banned in about 30 African countries where conservative religious and social values are upheld.
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 “aggravated homosexuality”, that is sexual abuse against 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