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Uganda races to adopt new ‘Jail the Gays Bill’, greeted by silence in U.S. and Europe

Uganda races to adopt new ‘Jail the Gays Bill’, greeted by silence in U.S. and Europe

Uganda’s latest “Jail the Gays Bill” has not yet aroused many strong protests from American and European supporters of the human rights of LGBTQ people. A decade ago, the outcry was much more powerful, when the Ugandan parliament was preparing to enact a similar bill, which was only overturned on a technicality.


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Ugandan human rights defender Frank Mugisha appeals for support from allies abroad. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)
Ugandan human rights defender Frank Mugisha appeals for support from allies abroad. (Photo courtesy of Frank Mugisha via Twitter)

 

Among those objecting to the bill is advocacy group Human Rights Watch, which reported “Uganda: New Anti-Gay Bill Further Threatens Rights”. That article noted:

“The continued criminalization of same sex conduct and crackdowns on sexual minorities in Uganda has had far reaching impacts, Human Rights Watch said. Within five months of the passing of the 2013 Anti-Homosexuality Act LGBT people faced a notable increase in arbitrary arrests, police abuse and extortion, loss of employment, evictions and homelessness, and scores fled the country.”

On Feb. 28, the U.N. Human Rights Office did publish a short appeal on Twitter: “We urge the Uganda Parliament to refrain from passing an Anti-Homosexuality bill. The State has a duty to ensure full protection of all people from violence & discrimination, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.”

“We need more than a tweet! We need intervention! Help!” replied FAOU, an international supporter of the Children of the Sun Foundation, which runs a safe house for LGBTQ youths in Uganda.

Other replies came from homophobic Uganda supporters of the anti-gay bill, plus several people who urged the U.N. Human Rights Office to focus instead on Ukraine, Nigeria, Libya, Palestine, Yemen, COVID vaccines and animal rights.

The latest Ugandan anti-homosexuality bill has had its first reading and been analyzed for any financial implications in preparation for a final vote in Parliament.  Anita Among, the Speaker of Parliament, says the bill will be passed “at whatever cost”.

The bill calls for a 10-year prison sentence for:

  • All LGBT people (Anyone who “holds out as a lesbian, gay, transgender, a queer or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female”);
  • Same-sex intercourse;
  • Anyone who “touches another person with the intention of committing the act of homosexuality”; and
  • Anyone who marries a person of the same sex.

Anyone convicted of conducting a same-sex wedding would be sentenced to two years in prison.

Conviction for “promoting homosexuality” in person, online, by telephone or in films, or by renting an office to an organization that “promotes homosexuality”, would lead to a prison sentence and a fine of 100 million Ugandan shillings (about U.S. $26,800).

Frank Mugisha, executive director of the currently banned LGBTI advocacy group Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), has appealed for support from human rights advocates abroad.

“I believe we are yet to see the worst,” Mugisha states in a tweeted video.  “But the LGBT community in Uganda is very resilient. We are very strong. We’ve been through this and I believe we will still go through this.” He added:

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Office of TranzNetwork after the attack. (Photo courtesy of Chapter Four Uganda/X (Twitter)

 

This is to let allies, partners and friends know that we need a lot of support.

 

A Google search for “uganda anti-homosexuality bill 2023” turns up several news articles about the 2023 bill, followed by advocacy statements from as many as 13 years ago. For example:

So far, similar appeals from 2023 are lacking.

For more information, see the Ugandan legal-aid group HRAPF’s analysis of the new anti-gay bill.

 

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