Uganda’s parliament on Tuesday passed a sweeping new anti-gay legislation which proposes tough new penalties for people in homosexual relationships and people who even identify as LGTBQ+, including life in prison and the death penalty.
Legislators amended significant portions of the original proposed law with all but one speaking against the bill, which will next go to President Yoweri Museveni, who can choose to veto or sign it into law.
Homosexuality is already illegal in the conservative East African nation and it was not immediately clear what new penalties had been agreed upon.
“This House will not shy to restrict any right to the extent the House recognises, protects and safeguards the sovereignty of this country and the morals of this country,” said parliamentary speaker Annet Anita Among.
The bill, if passed, could include:
- A person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for purpose 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, or distributing any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”.
- 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.
‘To protect the children’
MPs who defend the bill say it is to protect children from abuse, but rights activists say parliament should introduce laws that protect all children, indifferent of their identity or sexual orientation, and that the government is using the bill to distract the public from its failures to address some of their pressing economic concerns.
Rights activists also said they fear the bill will lead to more attacks on gay people, who are already facing blackmail and threats of turning them into the police if they do not pay up.
The international community has condemned the bill and President Musevini will have to take this into consideration if he is to maintain tight ties with western donors and investors.
Same-sex relations are banned in about 30 African countries, but this is one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation in the continent.