Uganda has announced plans to re-introduce the colloquially known ‘Kill the gays’ bill to curb a rise in “unnatural sex”. The castigatory bill which has the full support of current President Yoweri Museveni, will be reintroduced in parliament in the coming weeks and is expected to be voted on before the end of the year.
Country ethics and Integrity Minister, Simon Lokodo, told Reuters that, “Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that.”
“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.” he added.
The Minister said he is confident the bill will be passed this time round with the necessary two-thirds of members present as the government had lobbied legislators ahead of its reintroduction.
The bill was previously overturned by the constitutional court in 2014, which ruled it invalid as it was not passed with the required quorum. Although there were intentions to appeal the decision, the Ugandan Attorney General dropped all plans to appeal, per a directive from President Museveni who was concerned about foreign reaction.
If the act remains similar to the one thwarted in 2014 it will broaden the criminalisation of same-sex relations in Uganda but also include provisions about persons outside of Uganda who when charged with violating the act may be extradited to Uganda for punishment, there.
The act would also include penalties for individuals, companies, and non-governmental organisations that aid or abet same-sex sexual acts, including conducting a gay marriage. Additionally, it will allow the Ugandan government to rescind international and regional commitments that it deems outside of the interest of the act’s provisions.
President Museveni’s concern was warranted as the international fallout from the bill was quite extensive. The United States reduced aid, imposed visa restrictions and cancelled military exercises, while the World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands all suspended or redirected aid.
Lokodo added that although international backlash is a concern the government was prepared.
“But we are ready. We don’t like blackmailing. Much as we know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and governance, we can’t just bend our heads and bow before people who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us.”
Uganda has always held a hard line against LGBTQI+ rights and the community has therefore suffered unspeakable atrocities because of it. Activists are no worried the re-introduction above having the potential to pass will instigate a surge violence and mistreatment to the minority group and persons perceived to belong to it.
“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,” Pepe Julian Onziema from Sexual Minorities Uganda, an alliance of LGBT+ organisations told the Independent.
“Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted. It will criminalise us from even advocated for LGBT+ rights, let alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities.”