Uganda has plans for a bill that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals, saying the legislation would curb a rise in “unnatural sex” in the east African nation.
- The bill is known colloquially as the “kill the gays” bill
- The nation’s Minister for Integrity and Ethics says the notion of gay sex being natural is a “falsehood”
- The bill was defeated five years ago on a technicality
The bill — colloquially known as “kill the gays” in Uganda — was nullified five years ago on a technicality, but the Government said it plans to resurrect it within weeks.
The African nation’s Minister for Ethics and Integrity Simon Lokodo said it was a “falsehood” to say people were born gay.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Mr Lokodo said.
“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”
Uganda is one of the hardest countries in Africa to be in a sexual minority. Under British colonial law, gay sex is currently punishable with up to life imprisonment and activists said the new bill risked unleashing attacks.
“Bringing back anti-gay legislation would invariably lead to a spike in discrimination and atrocities,” Zahra Mohamed of Toronto-based charity Stephen Lewis Foundation said.
African countries have some of the world’s most prohibitive laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.
Now Uganda wants to follow suit.
Mr Lokodo said the bill, which is supported by President Yoweri Museveni, will be reintroduced in Parliament in the coming weeks and is expected to be voted on before the end of the year.
He was optimistic it would pass with the necessary two-thirds of members present — a shortfall in numbers killed a similar bill in 2014 — as the Government had lobbied legislators ahead of its reintroduction.
“We have been talking to the MPs and we have mobilised them in big numbers,” Mr Lokodo said. “Many are supportive.”
Uganda’s constitutional court overturned the law — formerly known as the “kill the gays” bill because it includes the death penalty — on a technicality in 2014.
Uganda ‘ready’ for international condemnation
The country faced widespread international condemnation when the previous bill was signed off by Mr Museveni in 2014.
The United States reduced aid, imposed visa restrictions and cancelled military exercises. The World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands also suspended or redirected aid.
Uganda, according to Mr Lokodo, is prepared for any negative response.
“It is a concern, but we are ready,” Mr Lokodo said.
“We don’t like blackmailing. Much as we know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and governance, we can’t just bend our heads and bow before people who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us.”
Pepe Julian Onziema from Sexual Minorities Uganda, an alliance of LGBTQ organisations, said its members were fearful.
“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,” Mr Onziema said.
“Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted. It will criminalise us from even advocating for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”
Mr Onziema said three gay men and one transgender woman had been killed in homophobic attacks in Uganda this year — the latest last week when a gay man was bludgeoned to death.