Uganda parliament passes former 'Kill the Gays' bill

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni

The Ugandan parliament today passed the notorious anti-gay bill formerly known as the “Kill the Gays Bill,” but without its original 2009 provision that called for the death penalty for those convicted of “aggravated homosexuality.”

Instead, it would provide a life sentence for repeat offenders.

The bill next goes to President Yoweri Museveni for his signature.  He has not given a clear indication of whether he will sign it.

The 2009 bill was widely condemned by world leaders, including President Barack Obama, who called it as “odious.”

Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the parliament in Uganda
Rebecca Kadaga, speaker of the parliament in Uganda

Today’s vote came as surprise, because the bill had not been in the news in recent weeks. Action on it had been repeatedly deferred in previous parliaments, despite a strong push by parliamentary Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to have it approved a year ago as a “Christmas present.”

The bill was introduced in 2009 by member of parliament David Bahati, who claimed that Uganda’s existing law against homosexual activity was inadequate. The bill would make “promotion” of homosexuality a crime.

The parliament’s action came two days after the Nigerian Senate passed and sent to the Nigerian president a bill that would prohibit same-sex marriage and impose prison sentences of up to 10 years for anyone who supports LGBT-friendly organizations.

An updated version of the Ugandan bill, as passed, was not yet available.  The Ugandan LGBT rights group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) described the potential impact of the bill a year ago:

Any person alleged to be homosexual would be at risk of life imprisonment …

Any parent who does not denounce their lesbian daughter or gay son to the authorities would face fines of $2,650 or three years in prison.

Any teacher who does not report a lesbian or gay pupil to the authorities within 24 hours would face the same penalties.

And any landlord or landlady who happens to give housing to a suspected homosexual would risk 7 years of imprisonment.

Similarly, the Bill threatens to punish or ruin the reputation of anyone who works with the gay or lesbian population, such as medical doctors working on HIV/AIDS, Civil Society leaders active in the fields of sexual and reproductive health; or even religious leaders providing guidance and counseling to people who are unsure of their sexuality or any other consultations.

SMUG leader Frank Mugisha told Gay Star News today:

Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)
Frank Mugisha, executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (Photo courtesy of Rafto Foundation)

‘I am just shocked. I don’t know what to do.

‘I didn’t expect it to come today. I thought there was still more time. I’m really shocked. All of our allies were caught unaware. All of us were unaware.

‘We are going to oppose the bill because it is very unconstitutional. We will do everything we can to oppose it.

‘We need the international community to draw attention to the bill being passed. We need a lot of attention right now. I am very disappointed. All of my colleagues are panicking. They believe there is going to be a hunt. They think it is already law. And they believe they will die.

‘For me, I am very strong. I am very sure we can find a solution and challenge it in any way possible.

Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi asked that parliament not vote on the bill because a quorum was not present, the BBC reported. Mbabazi “might follow up on his complaints about a lack of quorum,” BBC said.

(Correction: This article was changed Dec. 24 to eliminate a description of the bill as including a provision for imprisonment of people who did not report suspected homosexuals to police. Although an official version of the bill has not been released, that provision reportedly has been removed.)

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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