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Anti-gay laws get even harsher for homosexual people in Uganda. Image from Flickr.
Travis Lupick
Citizenship

Being Homosexual in Uganda Could Soon Be Punishable by Death


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Criminalisation of homosexuality is a violation of human rights and goes against the UN’s Global Global Goal 10, which aims to reduce inequalities, regardless of race, sexuality, ethnicity, disability, or any other status. You can take action here to join the movement and speak up in support of the international LGBTQ+ community.

Uganda has announced plans to implement a death penalty for homosexuality, saying it would help curb the rise of “unnatural sex” in the country. 

According to the Independent, the bill — informally known as “Kill the Gays” — was nullified five years ago, but it could now be resurrected within weeks.

“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,” the country’s ethics and integrity minister, Simon Lokodo, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

While homosexuality is already a crime in the East African country, Lokodo says the government wants to make it clear that involvement in the “promotion or recruitment”of homosexuality also should be criminalised by introducing a harsher punishment on the act of homosexuality.

“Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence,” the minister said.

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Lokodo says the bill has the support of the country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, to be reintroduced in parliament in the coming weeks, with the intention that it will be voted on before the end of the year.

The minister is confident that the bill will pass, despite the fact that it was previously overturned by the constitutional court in 2014.

Uganda faced widespread international condemnation in 2014 following the announcement of its intentions, resulting in reduced aid from the World Bank and countries like the US, as well as imposed visa restrictions and cancelled military exercises.

There are still 33 African countries where homosexuality is outlawed, according to Amnesty International, and it seems that little to no progress has been made to normalise same-sex relations in much of the continent.

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Lokodo admitted that the Ugandan government is concerned about any negative response, but he said they are prepared. He also added that they stand by the bill regardless of any backlash that might occur. 

“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,” he said.

The Independent says activists have warned that the new bill risked an increase in violence aimed at the LGBTQ+ community.

One such activist is Pepe Julian Onziema from Sexual Minorities Uganda, an alliance of LGBTQ+ organisations, who shared the fear currently felt among the organisation’s members.

“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,” said Onziema.

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Onziema said homophobic attacks in Uganda have resulting in the killing of three gay men and one transgender woman this year alone. 

He went on to share the horrific impact that anti-gay laws have had on members of the queer community in the country.

“Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted,” he said. “It will criminalise us from even advocating for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”

If the bill is brought in, Uganda would join Mauritania, Sudan, Northern Nigeria, and Southern Somalia on the list of African countries where homosexuality is punishable by death.