Uganda this week opened debate on new legislation to ban homosexuality in the East African nation. The proposal comes 10 years after a proposed death penalty for same-sex acts (known as the “Kill the Gays” bill) was defeated amid international condemnation.
“You are either with us or you’re with the Western world,” Parliament Speaker Anita Among said, announcing the legislation. “We should be counted, and we are going to vote by show of hands on this matter.”
Uganda’s new “Anti-Homosexuality Bill,” introduced by legislator Asuman Basalirwa, would imprison for 10 years anyone who identifies with “lesbianism, gay, transgender, queer or any other sexual or gender identity contrary to the binary categories of male and female.”
A majority of lawmakers in the parliamentary chamber stood up in support of the measure.
The bill would punish anyone found guilty of “promoting homosexuality” with up to 5 years in prison, up to $27,000 in fines, or both. The bill’s definition of “promoting” is so broad that it would include anyone who mentions LGBTQ+ issues online or otherwise supports or fundraises for an LGBTQ+ individual or cause.
The bill would also punish anyone who provides a house, “a brothel,” or any other place in which LGBTQ+-specific activities take place with up to seven years in prison, one outlet reported. This means that even just housing a known LGBTQ+ person could get someone thrown in jail. Any business or organization that hosts LGBTQ+ activities or same-sex weddings could have their business licenses revoked and their managers thrown in prison for up to two years.
Uganda’s House Speaker Among later posted to Twitter, ” We shall Jealously protect our cherished values and culture.”
Basalirwa characterized homosexuality as a “cancer” on Uganda. Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment is on the rise in the country, fueled in part by evangelicals outraged over the Anglican Church’s recent decision to bless same-sex unions. Uganda was an African protectorate of Great Britain from 1894 to 1962.
Same-sex relations in Uganda are already criminalized under colonial-era penal codes.
“In this country, or in this world, we talk about human rights,” Basalirwa said while introducing the bill. “But it is also true that there are human wrongs. I want to submit… that homosexuality is a human wrong.”
Audio obtained by Agence France-Presse revealed Speaker Among holding forth on the legislation the day before it was introduced.
“Tomorrow, we are going to bring a bill for anti-homosexuality,” she’s heard saying. “We want to appreciate our promoters of homosexuality for the socio-economic development they have brought to the country… but we do not appreciate the morals they are killing.”
Homosexuality is criminalized in more than 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.
Executive director of Sexual Minorities Uganda, Frank Mugisha, told AFP the LGBTQ+ community is “living in fear” in Uganda.
“A new law would mean more harassment and discrimination against people who are already vulnerable,” Mugisha said.
The Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2013, known colloquially around the world as the “Kill the Gays bill,” would have broadened Uganda’s anti-gay statutes, and included a provision punishing same-sex acts with death before it was removed prior to final passage. In 2014, the Constitutional Court of Uganda ruled the law invalid.
Soon after that legislation was first introduced in 2009, a national magazine in Uganda published a cover story titled “100 Pictures of Uganda’s Top Homos Leak,” which listed the names, addresses, and photographs of 100 LGBTQ+ Ugandans, alongside a headline that read “Hang Them.” Several gay Ugandans were attacked in the aftermath, including activist David Kato, who was murdered in 2011.
The U.S., then under President Barack Obama (D), led an international coalition that diplomatically pressured Uganda to abandon the bill under the threat of pulling financial assistance. However, the U.S. Department of State under President Donald Trump in 2018 said that the U.S. would no longer pressure anti-LGBTQ African countries to stop imprisoning or killing queer people because anti-LGBTQ+ violence is a form of “religious freedom.”