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Africa

Uganda passes tough new law against homosexuality

Friday, December 20, 2013

KAMPALA, Uganda — Ugandan lawmakers on Friday passed an anti-gay bill that calls for life imprisonment for certain homosexual acts, drawing criticism from rights campaigners who called it “the worst in the world.”

When the bill was first introduced in 2009, it was widely condemned for including the death penalty, but that was removed from the revised version passed by parliament.

Instead it sets life imprisonment as the penalty for a homosexual act where one of the partners is infected with HIV, sex with minors and the disabled, as well as repeated sexual offenses among consenting adults, according to the office of a spokeswoman for Uganda’s parliament.

The bill also prescribes a seven-year jail term for a person who “conducts a marriage ceremony” for same-sex couples.

The bill was passed unanimously by the parliament, with no one voicing an objection.

President Yoweri Museveni must sign the bill within 30 days for it to bec ome law. Although in the past he spoke disparagingly of gays, in recent times Museveni has softened his position on the matter, saying he is only opposed to gays who appear to “promote” themselves.

“In our society there were a few homosexuals,” Museveni said in March. “There was no persecution, no killings and no marginalization of these people but they were regarded as deviants. Sex among Africans including heterosexuals is confidential. If I am to kiss my wife in public, I would lose an election in Uganda.”

The passage of the bill makes it “a truly terrifying day for human rights in Uganda,” said Frank Mugisha, a prominent Ugandan gay activist, who called the legislation “the worst anti-gay law in the world.” He urged the country’s president not to sign the legislation into law.

“It will open a new era of fear and persecution,” he said. “If this law is signed by President Museveni, I’d be thrown in jail for life and in all likelihood killed.”

Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalized sexual acts “against the order of nature,” but the Ugandan lawmaker who wrote the new legislation argued that tougher legislation was needed because homosexuals from the West threatened to destroy Ugandan families and were allegedly “recruiting” Ugandan children into gay lifestyles.

Ugandan gays disputed this account, saying that Ugandan political and religious leaders had come under the influence of American evangelicals who wanted to spread their anti-gay campaign in Africa. Ugandan gays singled out Scott Lively, a Massachusetts evangelical, and sued him in March 2012 under the Alien Tort Statute that allows non-citizens to file suit in the United States if there is an alleged violation of international law.

Lively denied he wanted severe punishment for gays, and has previously told The Associated Press he never advocated violence against gays but advised therapy for them.

Ugandan gays had believed progress was being made to strengthen their rights in a country where prejudice against homosexuals is rampant. In 2012 they held their first gay pride parade and have sometimes joined street marches in support of all human rights.

Despite criticism of the anti-gay legislation abroad, it is highly popular among Ugandans who say the country has the right to pass laws that protect its children.

Amid international criticism, the bill was repeatedly shelved despite the protests of Ugandan lawmakers. Days before Christmas last year, the speaker of Uganda’s parliament, Rebecca Kadaga, said the anti-gay legislation would be passed as a “Christmas gift” to all Ugandans. She presided over the session Friday that passed the bill despite opposition from Ugandan Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi, who wanted the vote delayed.

David Bahati, the lawmaker who wrote the bill, said in a Facebook update Friday that the legislation was necessary “to defend our culture and to defend the future of our children.”

When the bill was first proposed, United States President Barack Obama called it “odious.”

Maria Burnett, a senior Africa researcher with Human Rights Watch, said the bill passed Friday is “still appalling” despite some amendments.

Homosexuality remains a taboo subject across many parts of Africa. Some 38 African countries – about 70 percent of the continent – criminalize homosexual activity, Amnesty International said in a report released earlier this year.

The rights group said of the new Ugandan law that it “would significantly hamper the work of human rights defenders and others who find themselves in conflict with the law merely by carrying out their legitimate activities.”

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82 more reader comments:

  1. NOOOOOOO

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:08pm
  2. OMG

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:10pm
  3. Disappointing

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:10pm
  4. What are they doing to Africa?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:10pm
  5. Sad. But if I got upset every time I heard something like this id have a heart attack! It sucks, but be glad you live somewhere where you cannot be persecuted for your sexual orientation. I am a proud Canadian/Montrealer!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:11pm
  6. Yeah! Canada is the shit, man! I will return someday to Toronto!

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:37pm
  7. vive Montréal.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 5:43pm
  8. And I'm a proud Finn.

    Replied on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12:23am
  9. What is wrong with people????

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:12pm
  10. Wow….this is really sad and infuriating.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:12pm
  11. Wow

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:12pm
  12. Screw Africa in general.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:12pm
  13. Illegal? What, are we running a business here?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:12pm
  14. That’s bullshit

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:14pm
  15. Shame on the American religious groups that went over there and help to have this come about. They swayed a country that had no problem with gays prior.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:15pm
  16. homosexuality was illegal before the American Evangelists went there... but it was getting better. They just made it worse.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:25pm
  17. oh.. i thought it was tolerated..

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:32pm
  18. They are afraid gay people will spread disease and destroy he traditional family. Wait!! The are one on the highest HIV amongst straight people. I think they are finishing themselves off without a gay help!!!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:16pm
  19. Smh

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:18pm
  20. …shame, shame, shame…

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:18pm
  21. The sad thing is the people making these laws can’t see that they are on the wrong side of history. These people are adults! Let them live the way they want to!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:19pm
  22. There goes their UN funding. Enjoy your (increased) poverty, Uganda.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:21pm
  23. Only a matter of time till they push it too far that we hit the wall and then turn around fighting, just like it’s happened to every injustice from ignorance.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:21pm
  24. my words.i wonder why we still want approvement from those straight people.....they should get butt-kicked!

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:52pm
  25. Thank God, eh?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:23pm
  26. another idiot leader thinking and going backwards… Uganda’s SHAME..the world is watching you.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:26pm
  27. Leave it to the religious fanatics to meddle & shame on Uganda!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:31pm
  28. Wow, Uganda! Glad we live in the US…not perfect, but better than this.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:32pm
  29. i dont think you can call 33 homophobe states "not perfect"....

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:51pm
  30. I agree, but at least we are not sending people to prison like Uganda is.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:59pm
  31. What a backwards country. Why does everyone always assume if you are gay you are trying to make kids gay? Are you fucking kidding me? Oh but its ok for soldiers in Uganda to kidnap kids or kill them or recruit them into war to kill people yeah thats ok sure no problem. And saying homosexuality goes against nature is also wrong because there is homosexuality in nature among animals.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:32pm
  32. Ignorant and backward but aren’t they also burning mosques and getting rid of that cult in their Country? They don’t recognise it as a religion. But don’t say too loud or I’ll get accused of being racist.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:33pm
  33. What can we expect from a place called Uganda anyway?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:33pm
  34. :/

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:34pm
  35. Mr. Likely’s handy work i fear. Hate monger roaming the world spread fear and hate.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:37pm
  36. You can thank American missionaries for this kind of thing.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:38pm
  37. I believe the US Evangelists are more prominent in the Anti Homosexual issues through Africa. A great concern that "any" Christian acts in such a manner.

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:06pm
  38. Inhumane. What are they afraid of?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:41pm
  39. When you see the executions in Russia and hate crimes world wide you really begin to question if it has anything at all to do with religion because of the whole not suppose to judge thing.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:44pm
  40. Does basic human decency just not exist there?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:45pm
  41. Sounds like to me they r going to start rounding up the gays like Hitler did! Its exactly what he did!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 2:53pm
  42. “tough new law” is an understatement…

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:02pm
  43. GET OUT OF UGANDA AND LET IT ROT!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:06pm
  44. Please let us know when demonstations are taking place in NYC

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:07pm
  45. nice.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:12pm
  46. Some kind of sanctions by the world community? Russia would veto that at UN.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:24pm
  47. Individual countries can impose sanctions and decline aid. Uganda can be put on a no travel list, like the US and Cuba. NO MONEY TO UGANDA FROM CIVILISED COUNTRIES!

    Replied on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:55pm
  48. I CANT FUCKING BELIEVE HOW PEOPLE CAN BE SO NARROW MINDED

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:30pm
  49. Disgusting.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:33pm
  50. I guess the lawmakers just hate what they can’t have: love.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:45pm
  51. i guess fucking africa doesnt need any money from us rich countries anymore.im so fed up with these bastards!they can all starve for all i care!im done with it!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:49pm
  52. Boo!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:50pm
  53. or maybe we should go back to racism and slavery-obviously africa forgot how it feels!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:50pm
  54. Shameful! They need to at least make an attempt toward first world realities.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:51pm
  55. ”aggravated homosexuality”? IS THIS WORLD BRAIN-DEAD!?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 3:53pm
  56. How is this really any different from the rest of the world? I swear if the masses thought they could: Gay men would be shot, imprisoned or “treated”. Lesbians would be raped into submission. Transsexuals… I dread to think. And bisexuals would form the resistance, aka moan on facebook.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:10pm
  57. Shame on Uganda!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:29pm
  58. This is really sad what the catholic church can do.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 4:34pm
  59. World aids institute, Timothy ray brown foundation saddleback church theft the pot company they run in Washinton d.c ,Colorado Las Vegas .the have the greedy hands in …they run this company’s …BLAME THEM ..they make big money off the blood money here…

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:06pm
  60. Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:17pm
  61. ‘Sanctions!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:23pm
  62. God now every gay man in Uganda will be asking for political asylum from the US just what we need

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:28pm
  63. Bigoted rulers!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:45pm
  64. that is so wrong

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:45pm
  65. “And They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” is just a song.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:51pm
  66. what happened to humanity? what happened to love?

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 6:55pm
  67. Sounds like Hitler has been reincarnated…

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:15pm
  68. Terrible!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:27pm
  69. FFS.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:32pm
  70. No tax dollars to these hateful countries.
    Let the churches take care of them from now that on.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 7:44pm
  71. We can thank the filth of fundamentalist christianity for this abomination of a law. Christians are despicable.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:20pm
  72. Slaughtered in the name of Christ.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:32pm
  73. Uganda,the horror,the horror!!

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:43pm
  74. Well congrats ugonda. Now take down your ad on the website seeking aid and food. You don’t deserve any form of compassion from others if your incapable of feeling it towards yourself

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 8:50pm
  75. Just don’t spend any money there

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 9:13pm
  76. Africa sertainly needs enlightening.

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:10pm
  77. Sad…..very sad..

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 10:13pm
  78. Which country has open its doors for Asylum to the GLBTIQ community??

    Posted on Friday, December 20, 2013 at 11:21pm
  79. Shame…

    Posted on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12:15am
  80. very sad :(

    Posted on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12:16am
  81. Shame on Uganda indeed

    Posted on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12:19am
  82. Shame on Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria, and all African nations (except for South Africa, thanks to Mandela) who do the same.

    Posted on Saturday, December 21, 2013 at 12:22am