People Identifying As Gay Risk Life In Prison In Uganda - New Bill
With the adoption of a new law by parliament to crack down on homosexual activity, people who identify as gay now run the risk of serving life in prison in Uganda.
The new legislation also includes the death penalty in certain cases.
A rights activist told the BBC the debate around the bill had led to fear of more attacks on gay people. Said the activist:
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.
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. 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 “appalling”, “ambiguous” and “vaguely worded”. Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa said:
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.
It has also been condemned by both the UK’s Africa Minister Andrew Mitchell and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The White House has warned Uganda of possible economic repercussions if the new law comes into force. In the weeks before the debate, the anti-homosexual sentiment was prominent in the media, an activist who wanted to remain anonymous told the BBC.
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. The bill’s backers say they are trying to protect children.
The final version of the bill has yet to be officially published but elements discussed in parliament include:
1). A person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for purposes of engaging them in homosexual activities faces life in prison.
2). Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBT groups’ activities or organisations, or publish, broadcast and distribute pro-gay media material and literature, also face prosecution and imprisonment.
3). Media groups, journalists and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, distribution of any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”.
4). Death penalty for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality”, that is sexual abuse of 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.
5). Property owners also face the risk of being jailed if their premises are used as a “brothel” for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities’ rights activities.
In 2014, Uganda’s constitutional court nullified another act which had toughened laws against the LGBT community.
Same-sex relations are banned in about 30 African countries, where many people uphold conservative religious and social values.