Uganda MPs propose tough penalties for same-sex affairs

Friday March 10 2023
Ugandan men hold a rainbow flag

Ugandan men hold a rainbow flag during a campaign to end LGBT. Ugandan lawmakers on March 9, 2023 introduced legislation to parliament that proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relations in a country. PHOTO | ISAAC KASAMANI | AFP



Ugandan lawmakers on Thursday introduced legislation to parliament that proposes tough new penalties for same-sex relations in a country where homosexuality is already illegal, defying criticism from human rights groups.

Annet Anita Among, the speaker of parliament, referred the bill to a house committee for scrutiny, the first step in an accelerated process to pass the proposal into law. 

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There would be "a public hearing" in which sexual minorities would be allowed to participate, she said in an address before parliament laced with homophobic language. 

"Let the public come express their views — including the homos — allow them to come," she said.


Conspiracy theories

The bill comes as conspiracy theories accusing shadowy international forces of promoting homosexuality gain traction on social media in conservative Uganda.

Under the proposed law, anyone who engages in same-sex activity or who "holds out" as LGBTQ could face up to 10 years' imprisonment.

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It is unclear how long the parliamentary process could take.  

Among said when the time comes, legislators will vote on the bill one-by-one in front of their peers.

"This is the time you are going to show us if you are a homo or not," she said.

Notorious intolerance

Uganda is notorious for intolerance of homosexuality — which is criminalised under colonial-era laws — and strict Christian views on sexuality in general.

But since independence from Britain in 1962, there has never been a conviction for consensual same-sex activity.

Rights groups say the law would result in further persecution of a vulnerable minority group.

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In 2014, Ugandan lawmakers passed a bill that called for life in prison for people caught having gay sex, although a court later struck down the law.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Thursday said the new legislation is "a revised and more egregious version" of the 2014 bill.

"Ugandan politicians should focus on passing laws that protect vulnerable minorities and affirm fundamental rights and stop targeting LGBT people for political capital," said Oryem Nyeko, Uganda researcher at HRW.