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Uganda Passes the Anti Homosexuality Bill

By Bruce Knotts



On Friday, December 20, 2013, the Ugandan Parliament passed the long-dreaded kill-the-gays bill otherwise known as the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.

The bill, as passed, does not call for the death penalty; instead, it mandates life imprisonment for "aggravated homosexuality." However, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has not yet signed the bill and much remains unclear about what has transpired today, and more importantly, what will happen in the days to come.

Followers of this story, which began in 2009, will remember that the Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament had promised to pass the bill as a Christmas present last year; though delayed, it seems the Speaker made good on his promise, to the dismay of LGBTQ activists all around the world.

There remains much that we don’t know. We have yet to get a copy of the bill to know exactly what it says. There have also been questions as to whether the Ugandan Parliament actually had a quorum today, which is necessary to pass any legislation.

President Museveni has long been against the passage of this bill, knowing the international consequences and stating that Uganda already has sufficient anti-homosexuality legislation to fully criminalize homosexuality in Uganda. However, on his visit to Nigeria two weeks ago, Museveni's tune began to change; he called on Nigeria to support his stand against Western governments, imploring the nation to follow his lead to "preserve African culture." During this same visit, Museveni was quoted as wondering why the west is "not concerned about the development of my country, they are only concerned about gays."

Nigeria also passed an anti-same sex marriage bill this week. Both the Ugandan and Nigerian bills call for lengthy prison terms (life imprisonment in the former and 15 years in the latter). Groups combating HIV/AIDS are urging both nations not to sign into effect their respective anti-homosexual policies as doing so compromises efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in both countries.

Our partners at Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) have issued the following statement on the passage of the bill:

SMUG has learnt that the Bill as passed by Parliament maintains the prohibition of consensual same sex acts between adults and prescribes a penalty of life imprisonment for so-called repeat offenders. It also requires "persons in authority, including persons exercising religious or social authority to report offences under the Act within twenty four hours or else face imprisonment for three years or a fine.” Furthermore, the Bill maintains the offence of "Promotion of Homosexuality" against anyone who acts as an accomplice or in any way abets homosexuality and "related practices."

“I’m outraged and disappointed that the Uganda parliament has acted in a very ignorant and irrational way” said Frank Mugisha the Executive Director, SMUG. “We shall fight this legislation TO THE END.” he asserts.

Read the full statement here.

A UU-UNO former intern Russell Hathaway, now a student at the University of Chicago, has prepared a detailed history of LGBTI issues in Uganda. To read this, please click here: LGBT Rights Uganda.

The UU United Nations Office is in touch with all of our partners in Uganda, seeking to better understand what the bill says, how that will manifest, and if it has even legally passed. We'll be following up with actions UU's can take to stand in solidarity with the Ugandan LGBTQ community once our partners advise us on how best to support them at this difficult time.

In the meantime, your support in our ongoing efforts to combat global homophobia is needed now more than ever: Please donate to the UU-UNO today.

About the Author

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts is the Director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations. He was born and raised in Southern California. He got his Bachelor’s Degree in History from Pepperdine University and his Master’s Degree in International Education from the Monterey Institute of...


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