This Bill is an affront to the principle of equality enshrined in the Constitution of Uganda, as it doubles down on the criminalisation of some of its own citizens. Moreover, it ignores the country’s duty to “reinforce mutual respect and tolerance” – an obligation under the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights, which Uganda ratified almost forty years ago.
The Bill – an iteration of a similar provision that was struck down in 2014 on procedural grounds – goes directly against the principles of “mutual respect and tolerance”. It proposes the death penalty for the offence of ‘aggravated homosexuality’, life imprisonment for the ‘offence of homosexuality’, and up to 20 years in jail for ‘promoting’ homosexuality. It even includes a duty to report people who are suspected of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual acts, with failure to do so punishable by up to 6 months in prison.
Uganda is already among the 32 UN member States in Africa that criminalise consensual same-sex sexual relations between adults. This bill seeks to make these provisions even harsher. As Pan Africa ILGA points out, “the increasing criminalisation of LGBT people in Africa is disturbing”, particularly when countries from all regions of the world, from the Caribbean to Asia, have gone in the opposite direction in recent years and repealed such oppressive colonial-era laws.
If this Bill were to become law, its consequences would be horrific – and not just for LGBT people, but for every citizen of Uganda. By punishing those who fail to report others who may be suspected of engaging in consensual same-sex sexual acts, this Bill would completely undermine every citizen’s right to privacy, potentially exposing anyone - whether LGBT or not - to blackmail or threats. It would deny people access to basic social services like shelter, healthcare, or education, because every service provider would have a legal duty to report gender and sexual minorities.
Moreover, this Bill would severely impact the progress that Uganda has made in its response to HIV and AIDS. There is insurmountable evidence that criminalising laws drive communities away from life-saving services. Under this Bill, efforts to reach key populations would become illegal, undermining the effectiveness of health workers’ interventions for the population at large. As UNAIDS pointed out, “By undermining public health, this law will be bad for everyone.”
From the United Nations and countries and international institutions worldwide, this harmful Bill has been unequivocally condemned. Politicians in Uganda have long tried to present ‘homosexuality’ as contrary to African values. But African values include equality, non-discrimination, mutual respect, and tolerance: all values that the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ would blatantly reject, despite them being enshrined in the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights and in the daily lives of Ugandan citizens.
This Bill would have catastrophic consequences: we call on President Yoweri Museveni NOT to endorse this bill, and we call on politicians in Uganda to refrain from fuelling hate against sexual and gender minorities. We will continue to remain in solidarity with our LGBT communities in the country and across the world.