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Anti-gay Uganda today (3): A goof that won't go away

This blog’s reports about Uganda on June 18:

As Uganda continues its campaign against the local LGBTI community, many people continue to misunderstand one key aspect of the country’s new Anti-Homosexuality Act:

The PBS NewsHour report by Martin Seemangal  on the problems of LGBT people in Uganda and Kenya contains incorrectly describes Uganda's new anti-gay law. (Click image for the video.)
The PBS NewsHour report by Martin Seemungal on the problems of LGBT people in Uganda and Kenya incorrectly describes Uganda’s new anti-gay law. (Click image for the video.)

Ugandan people don’t have to report gays to police
In an earlier version of the bill that became Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, people would have been required to report suspected homosexuals to police. That would have required parents to turn in gay children, teachers to turn in gay students, and even priests to turn in gay members of their congregations.
Simon Lokodo, Ugandan ethics minister, describes his treatment of LGBTI people during a PBS NewsHour interview.
Simon Lokodo, Ugandan ethics minister, describes his treatment of LGBTI people during a PBS NewsHour interview.

Like the death penalty, that provision was dropped from the bill before it was passed, but it lives on in popular consciousness.  The latest example came in this week’s PBS NewsHour report “Uganda gays face life in prison under law.”  That report quoted a Ugandan refugee who stated:

“In the bill it says clearly if you know someone or suspect someone that is gay, you have to go and report him to the officers. So everyone is unsafe.”

That is false.
Yet the belief remains popular. The same claim was included in the Wikipedia article about the Anti-Homosexuality Law, at least as of the June 18 publication date of this blog post:

“Not reporting gay people is also made a crime punishable with imprisonment.”

The Wikipedia article cited as its source an incorrect BBC article from when the bill had just been passed in December 2013. The article incorrectly stated:

“The anti-homosexuality bill also makes it a crime punishable by a prison sentence not to report gay people.”

 

Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014. (Click image for PDF version of the law.)
Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014. (Click image for PDF version of the law.)

 
The full text of the Anti-Homosexuality Act does not contain any requirement for reporting homosexuals.
It contains much that is objectionable, however:

  • 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.”

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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