Uganda announced plans on Thursday for a bill that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals, saying the legislation would curb a rise in unnatural sex. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)
Uganda announced plans on Thursday for a bill that would impose the death penalty on homosexuals, saying the legislation would curb a rise in unnatural sex. Picture: Brendan Magaar/African News Agency (ANA)

'Kill the Gays' bill in Uganda to impose death penalty on homosexuality

By Nita Bhalla Time of article published Oct 11, 2019

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NAIROBI - Uganda

announced plans on Thursday for a bill that would impose the

death penalty on homosexuals, saying the legislation would curb

a rise in unnatural sex in the east African nation.

The bill - colloquially known as "Kill the Gays" in Uganda -

was nullified five years ago on a technicality and the

government said it plans to resurrect it within weeks.

"Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has

been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and

especially among the youth, where they are promoting the

falsehood that people are born like that," Ethics and Integrity

Minister Simon Lokodo told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalises the

act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in

promotion and recruitment has to be criminalised. Those that do

grave acts will be given the death sentence."

African countries have some of the world's most prohibitive

laws governing homosexuality. Same-sex relationships are

considered taboo and gay sex is a crime across most of the

continent, with punishments ranging from imprisonment to death.

Earlier this year, Brunei sparked international outcry over

plans to impose the death penalty for gay sex, backtracking only

after intense criticism.

Uganda is considering the reintroduction of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill which proposes a death penalty. Video: Zodidi Dano/ African News Agency

Now Uganda wants to follow suit.

Lokodo said the bill, which is supported by President Yoweri

Museveni, will be re-introduced in parliament in the coming

weeks and is expected to be voted on before the end of the year.

He was optimistic it would pass with the necessary

two-thirds of members present - a shortfall in numbers killed a

similar bill in 2014 - as the government had lobbied legislators

ahead of its re-introduction, Lokodo added.

"We have been talking to the MPs and we have mobilised them

in big numbers," said Lokodo. "Many are supportive."

Uganda's constitutional court overturned the law - formerly

known as the "Kill the Gays" bill because it includes the death

penalty - on a technicality in 2014.

Even without it, Uganda is one of the hardest countries in

Africa to be a sexual minority. Under British colonial law, gay

sex is punishable with up to life imprisonment and activists

said the new bill risked unleashing attacks.

"Bringing back anti-gay legislation would invariably lead to

a spike in discrimination and atrocities," said Zahra Mohamed of

the Toronto-based charity Stephen Lewis Foundation.

FEARFUL

Moves to restrict LGBT+ rights and criminalise gay sex in

other countries have sparked protests and sanctions.

In May, Brunei was forced to extend a moratorium on the

death penalty for gay sex after celebrities such as actor George

Clooney condemned a law allowing whipping and stoning to death.

Last November, anti-gay remarks by a senior official in

Tanzania led to the east African nation's second biggest donor,

Denmark, withholding $10 million in aid.

Uganda faced widespread international condemnation when the

previous bill was signed off by Museveni in 2014.

The United States reduced aid, imposed visa restrictions and

cancelled military exercises. The World Bank, Sweden, Norway,

Denmark and the Netherlands also suspended or redirected aid.

Lokodo said Uganda was prepared for any negative response.

"It is a concern," he said.

"But we are ready. We don't like blackmailing. Much as we

know that this is going to irritate our supporters in budget and

governance, we can't just bend our heads and bow before people

who want to impose a culture which is foreign to us."

Pepe Julian Onziema from Sexual Minorities Uganda, an

alliance of LGBT+ organisations, said its members were fearful.

"When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up

homophobic sentiment and hate crimes," said Onziema.

"Hundreds of LGBT+ people have been forced to leave the

country as refugees and more will follow if this law is enacted.

It will criminalise us from even advocated for LGBT+ rights, let

alone supporting and protecting sexual minorities."

Onziema said three gay men and one transgender woman had

been killed in homophobic attacks in Uganda this year - the

latest last week when a gay man was bludgeoned to death.

Reuters

* Thomson Reuters Foundation is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change.

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