Uganda Anti-Homosexuality bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay – Capital Radio Malawi
21 July, 2024

Uganda Anti-Homosexuality bill: Life in prison for saying you’re gay

People who identify as gay in Uganda risk life in prison after parliament passed a new bill to crack down on homosexual activities.

It includes the death penalty for the abuse of children or vulnerable people.

A rights activist told the BBC the debate around the bill had led to fear of more attacks on gay people.

“There is a lot of blackmail. People are receiving calls that ‘if you don’t give me money, I will report that you are gay,'” they said.

The bill is one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation in Africa.

Homosexual acts are already illegal in Uganda but this bill introduces many new criminal offences.

As well as making merely identifying as gay illegal for the first time, friends, family and members of the community would have a duty to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities.

It was passed with widespread support in Uganda’s parliament on Tuesday evening.

Amnesty International has called the bill, which criminalises same-sex between consenting adults “appalling”, “ambiguous” and “vaguely worded”.

“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 International’s director for East and Southern Africa.

In the weeks before the debate, anti-homosexual sentiment was prominent in the media, an activist who wanted to remain anonymous told the BBC.

“Members of the queer community have been blackmailed, extorted for money or even lured into traps for mob attacks,” the activist said.

“In some areas even law enforcers are using the current environment to extort money from people who they accuse of being gay. Even some families are reporting their own children to the police.”

The bill will now go to President Yoweri Museveni who can choose to use his veto – and maintain good relations with Western donors and investors – or sign it into law.

He has made several anti-gay comments in recent weeks, and also criticised Western countries for putting pressure on Uganda over the issue.

Another gay rights activist accused the government of using the bill to distract the public from its failures to address some of their pressing economic concerns.

“They are trying to drum up anti-gay rhetoric to divert attention from really what is important to Ugandans in general. There is no reason why you should have a bill that criminalises individuals that are having consensual same-sex adult relationships,” Clare Byarugaba, LGBTQ+ Rights Activist, Chapter Four Uganda told the BBC.

The bill’s backers say they are trying to protect children but Ms Byarugaba said: “Whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual, the government and parliament should introduce laws, or at least implement existing laws that protect all children – boys, girls from defilement. So the issue of recruitment has been unproven, it is baseless, it is biased.”

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