Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni today signed into law the harsh, long-disputed Anti-Homosexuality Bill, which provides for imprisonment for five to seven years for anyone convicted of “promoting homosexuality” or who “in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”
The official text of the Anti-Homosexuality Act (PDF) was only released after it was signed. It provides for:
- Life imprisonment for same-sex intimacy involving penetration — the same punishment currently provided under existing Ugandan law.
- Life imprisonment for anyone who “touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality.”
- Forced medical examinations for anyone accused of being HIV-positive and of committing homosexual acts, which is termed “aggravated homosexuality,” also punishable by life imprisonment.
- Seven years in prison for attempts at committing “the offense of homosexuality.”
- Life imprisonment for HIV-positive people who attempt to commit “the offense of homosexuality.”
- Seven years in prison for anyone who “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality.” LGBT rights activists fear that this provision and the next one will be used against them.
- Life imprisonment for same-sex marriage. (The Ugandan constitution already prohibits same-sex marriage.)
- Up to seven years in prison for conducting a same-sex wedding ceremony.
- Imprisonment for seven years for the “director or proprietor or promoter” of a company or association that is convicted of “promoting homosexuality.” In addition, the organization’s certificate of registration would be canceled.
The law also provides for five to seven years in prison for:
- Anyone who “attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices.”
- Publishing “pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality.”
- Anyone who “funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities.”
- Anyone who “offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality.” Landlords who rent to LGBT rights groups are liable to imprisonment too.
- Anyone who “uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality.”
Ugandan law already called for life imprisonment for homosexual activity, but that law had been rarely used. The parliament’s adoption of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in December led to increased harassment and brief detentions of LGBT people in Uganda, and many fear that its enactment will of set the stage for widespread arrests. Human rights activists plan to challenge the constitutionality of the new law, so it might not take effect immediately.
Before Museveni signed the law, U.S. President Barack Obama said he was “deeply disappointed” with Museveni’s decision to do so. The new law “will complicate our valued relationship with Uganda,” Obama said.
Health workers fear that AID/HIV will flourish in Uganda, even more than its recent rebound there, because many LGBT people are again afraid to go to health clinics, because sexual minorities are treated as criminals.
Museveni’s speech as he signed the bill claimed not only that homosexuality is a choice, but even that there’s no dispute about the issue:
“No study has shown you can be homosexual by nature. That’s why I have agreed to sign the bill,” Museveni said.
He repeated the belief — widespread among homophobic Africans — that homosexuals are economically motivated, although, in fact, LGBT people in Uganda are at a great economic disadvantage because of social stigma.
Museveni said, “Homosexuals are actually mercenaries. They are heterosexual people but because of money they say they are homosexuals. These are prostitutes because of money.”
Pro-gay “mercenaries” recruit young people into gay activities to get money, he said.
“That is why those mercenaries must be punished and those recruiting them. I have failed to understand that you can fail to be attracted to all these beautiful women and be attracted to a man,” Museveni said. “That is a really serious matter. There is something really wrong with you.”
He maintained an antagonistic attitude toward anyone in the West who believes that LGBT rights are an issue of human rights.
“Outsiders cannot dictate to us. This is our country. I advise friends from the West not to make this an issue, because if they make it an issue the more they will lose. If the West does not want to work with us because of homosexuals, then we have enough space to ourselves here,” he said.
Western donors provide about $2 billion a year in aid to Uganda.
The Canadian government is considering cutting diplomatic ties with Uganda over the law.
A group of LGBT rights supporters in the United Kingdom urged the withdrawal of the country’s high commissioner to Uganda to protest the new law. “This is a huge blow for anyone who values basic human rights,” said Jonathan Cooper, chief executive of the Human Dignity Trust, which is a member of the group pushing for strong response from the U.K. “This bleak situation will have an immediate effect on countries like the UK, the rest of the EU, Canada and US, as people flee and seek sanctuary,” said Jonathan Cooper, chief executive of the Human Dignity Trust.
LGBT rights advocate and blogger Melanie Nathan is raising money to support Ugandan asylum seekers. But only a few people could be helped in that way. If only one percent of Uganda’s population were homosexual, that would still be 350,00o people. The Rescue Fund to Help LGBT People Escape Africa has so far collected $3,333.
At Amnesty International, Michelle Kagari, deputy director for Africa, said:
“This deeply offensive piece of legislation is an affront to the human rights of all Ugandans. …
“This legislation will institutionalize hatred and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people in Uganda. Its passage into law signals a very grave episode in the nation’s history.”
- Ugandan spokespeople: President will sign anti-gay bill (Feb. 14, 2014, 76crimes.com)
- Uganda’s anti-gay law will make AIDS harder to fight (Feb. 14, 2013, 76crimes.com)
- Uganda parliament passes former ‘Kill the Gays’ bill (December 2013, 76crimes.com)
- Ugandan anti-gay bill — a self-contradictory mess (January 2014, 76crimes.com)
- Ugandan activists’ advice on threats to cut aid (76crimes.com)
- Uganda’s gays fear mounting violence (edition.cnn.com)
- Activist: Most Ugandans support anti-gay bill but the government is worried about losing aid (pinknews.co.uk)
- Dispute over LGBTI clinics in Uganda (76crimes.com)
- Sexual Minorities Fight for Health Services In Uganda (ipsnews.net)
- Ugandan LGBT Activists: ‘We Have to Stay and Fight’ (advocate.com)
- US condemns Uganda’s anti-homosexuality Bill (nation.co.ke)