Uganda’s parliament recently passed one of the strictest anti-LGBTQ bills in the world, with provisions allowing for long jail terms and even the death penalty. Despite the president’s request to tone down some parts of the legislation, the bill was mostly unchanged.
The retained provisions allow for the death penalty in cases of what the government calls “aggravated homosexuality,” including having gay sex while positive for HIV. The bill also allows for sentences of up to 20 years for those promoting homosexuality, which activists fear could criminalize any advocacy for the rights of LGBTQ citizens.
The new legislation has been sent to President Yoweri Museveni, who has the power to sign, veto, or return it to parliament for further revisions. While Museveni has signaled his intent to sign the legislation once certain changes are made, such as the addition of measures to “rehabilitate” gay people, it is unclear if the new bill satisfies his requests, and his office has not provided any comment.
The bill has been widely criticized by the United States, European Union, United Nations, and major corporations, but some activists on the ground see the first amendment regarding LGBTQ identification as “useless.” According to human rights activist Adrian Jjuuko, the police do not care whether someone has committed an LGBTQ-related act or not and often arrest individuals for simply “acting like gay” or “walking like gay.”
Same-sex relations are already illegal in Uganda under British colonial-era law, and LGBTQ individuals routinely face arrest and harassment by law enforcement. The new anti-LGBTQ bill has sparked global outrage and concerns about the safety and human rights of LGBTQ citizens in Uganda.