The widely discussed Anti-Homosexuality Bill has officially appeared on the Ugandan Parliamentary Agenda. The legislation originally punished certain gay sex acts with the death penalty; the maximum punishment has since been mitigated to life in prison thanks to outrage and activism in the international community.
Perhaps more frightening, the legislation would also criminalize the promotion of homosexuality, which includes discussions by human rights groups, with up to seven years in prison. This would essentially shut down any opposition to the legislation and force several human rights groups to go underground.
It remains to be seen whether the Ugandan parliament will choose to mitigate the legislation when faced with increased pressure from the international community. However, the parliamentary speaker, Rebecca Kadaga, has stated that she hopes the Anti-Homosexuality Bill will be passed “as a Christmas gift” for Ugandans, implying that it will be voted on before the parliament goes on recess for Christmas. It seems unlikely that the parliament will compromise further after already eliminating the death penalty from the bill.
This legislation, combined with the fact that homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, has prompted most gay men in Uganda to either seek asylum in other more LGBT-friendly countries or to go into hiding. It would codify in law the homophobia that is prevalent in Uganda and in much of Africa. This hatred was manifested in the murder of David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights activist, in January of 2011. Rising homophobia in Ugandan society has in part been driven by American evangelical preacher Scott Lively, who has spoken at conferences in support of ex-gay therapy and in opposition to the normalization of homosexuality within Ugandan society.
The legislation has been condemned by the intentional community, including the United Nations and independent human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. President Obama referred to the bill as being “odious,” and Secretary of State Clinton has also expressed strong concern about the legislation. Petitions posted on Change.org relating to the bill have consistently collected over 5000 signatures.
Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill caught Americans’ attention this past summer thanks to protests both for and against Chick-fil-A’s CEO’s position on homosexuality. Profits from Chick-fil-A have regularly been donated to the Family Research Council, an organization which opposed US congressional efforts to formally condemn Uganda’s anti-gay legislation. Organizations like the FRC engage in this political advocacy in spite of the serious consequences which their actions often have. Even yesterday, Tony Perkins, the head of the FRC, tweeted his support for Uganda’s bill.
It is clear that the Anti-Homosexuality Bill flies in the face of democratic principles such as freedom of speech by penalizing even those who discuss homosexuality. Additionally it is redundant, since homosexuality is already illegal in Uganda, and it imposes unfair and severe penalties on LGBT individuals who choose to remain in Uganda. For this reason, many are urging Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, to veto the legislation even if the parliament passes it.
You can sign a petition created by LGBT advocacy organization AllOut.org asking President Museveni to veto Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill here.