Uganda’s parliament has passed anti-gay legislation that proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relationships and criminalises anyone identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ+). While more than 30 countries in Africa, including Uganda, already ban same-sex relationships, the new bill passed on Tuesday (March 21) will be the first to outlaw merely anyone identifying LGBTQ+.
The adoption of this discriminatory bill – among the worst of its kind – targeting LGBTQ+ people is devastating, deeply disturbing, archaic, and barbaric. It means anyone identifying as gay would be illegal, and the bill will obligate friends, family, and members of the community to report anyone for homosexuality, which could be abused - simply accusing them of being gay would have dire consequences.
Although the bill is hailed as an effort to protect Uganda’s traditional values and culture, it will only promote violence and discrimination against LGBTQ+ people – including those perceived to be LGBTQ+ – and in Uganda, this could lead to mass arrests and mob violence against the community. The bill also proposes the death penalty for the offense of aggravated homosexuality and life imprisonment for the ‘offence of homosexuality.’ This is a gross violation of fundamental human rights and international human rights instruments.
A local activist working for a Ugandan-based organisation to protect the rights of LGBTQ+ people explains how the bill will endanger the safety and security of transgender people. “Uganda is my motherland; Uganda is my home. The anti-gay bill that was passed by my government puts my community and me at risk of discrimination and violence. I have nowhere else to go. Now I have to live in fear for my health and security. Now I have to live in fear of being criminalised for simply being who I am. How will I be able to survive?” they added.
The bill will have severe ramifications for members of the LGBTQ+ community who are already living proudly and openly by endangering their mental health, especially LGBTQ+ youth, which could lead to targeted violence and increased suicide rates.
The bill also confuses consensual and non-consensual relations – the former should never be criminalised, whereas the latter requires evidence-based measures to end sexual violence in all its forms – including against children, regardless of the gender or sexual orientation of the perpetrator. The bill’s supporters claim that it will protect children from sexual abuse. However, Uganda already has a law protecting children from any form of sexual abuse. This bill will instead be a massive distraction from taking the necessary action to end sexual violence and AIDS as a public health threat.
To end #AIDS, every person from all walks of life and backgrounds, irrespective of who they love, needs access to HIV prevention, testing and treatment services. This anti-gay legislation, in every sense, is a discriminatory policy that will exacerbate stigma and discrimination, ultimately driving people away from accessing essential services. This bill would jeopardise Uganda’s progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS and its efforts to end AIDS by 2030.
- We, the activists and advocates, and the community of young people living with and affected by HIV stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community.
- We urge H.E. Yoweri Museveni, President of Uganda, to protect LGBTQ+ Ugandans from this pitfall and not sign this bill.
- We stand to protect the human rights of everyone to a full life free from discrimination.
- We stand for justice, equality, inclusion and diversity.
- We stand for freedom.
- We will stand and fight this with you.
We urge the Government of Uganda not to enact this law; it’s not too late to stop the bill!