Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni has given his approval to a highly debated anti-homosexuality bill, disregarding the outcry from Western nations and human rights advocates. Despite facing opposition, the bill was passed by MPs in March and subsequently sent back to parliament for amendments.
Under the new law, the focus is on criminalizing gay sexual acts rather than identifying as a sexual minority. Those found guilty of such acts could now face life imprisonment. Additionally, aggravated offenses involving sexual abuse of minors, disabled individuals, or victims infected with life-long illnesses may be punishable by the death penalty.
The legislation also places a responsibility on the public to report any instances of homosexual abuse against children or other vulnerable individuals to the authorities. This provision aims to address concerns regarding the protection of vulnerable populations.
Initially, the bill sought to criminalize the mere identification as a sexual minority. However, President Museveni expressed reservations, arguing that such a provision could lead to the unjust arrest and prosecution of individuals based solely on their physical appearance. As a result, this particular clause was removed when the bill was returned to parliament.
International organizations, including the Global Fund, the US government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and UNAIDS, have issued a joint statement expressing deep concern about the detrimental effects of the new law. They emphasize that it will impede crucial health education and outreach efforts related to HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, the LGBTQ+ community faces heightened fears for their safety and security, with more individuals discouraged from seeking essential health services.
Legal challenges to the law are expected, as a similar anti-gay legislation was overturned by the Ugandan constitutional court in 2014. The fight for the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in Uganda continues amid this setback, raising important discussions about human rights, equality, and the freedom to express one’s identity.