Uganda: LGBTQ Activists Oppose Death Penalty Bill For Gay

Uganda: LGBTQ Activists Oppose Death Penalty Bill For Gay

The  Government of Uganda’s plan to reintroduce a bill that could impose the death penalty for homosexuality is being met with defiance from the LGBTQ community in the East African nation, activists told CNN.

Ugandan Ethics Minister Simon Lokodo, in an interview with local media Thursday, said present laws criminalizing gay sex – which in theory can come with a life sentence – were not tough enough.
When asked by a presenter on local NTV why the bill is being introduced now, Lokodo said, “The penal code only criminalizes the act [gay sex]. …Now we’re saying anything, like recruitment, promotion, exhibition…amounts to committing a crime against that law.”

‘Legalized homophobia’

Uganda made headlines in 2009 when it introduced the anti-homosexuality bill that included a death sentence for gay sex. The country’s lawmakers passed a bill in 2014, but they replaced the death penalty clause with a proposal of life in prison.
President Yoweri Museveni signed the bill but it was later annulled by the country’s constitutional court on a technicality.
Museveni told CNN in an exclusive interview in 2014 that sexual behavior is a matter of choice and gay people are “disgusting.”
But members of Uganda’s LGBTQ community have vowed to fight this bid to reintroduce the bill.
Local activism played a major role in resisting the 2014 Bill.
“The bill was meant to make us go underground, but instead the community organized to fight,” Clare Byarugaba, an LGBTQ activist at the human rights organization Chapter Four, told CNN.
This involved petitioning the courts to repeal the law, lobbying MPs and encouraging international partners to impose economic sanctions, Byarugaba said.
Byarugaba added that the community will resist “legalized homophobia” this time around, too.
The activist, who headed a coalition that successfully fought the last anti-gay law and now works with the parents of LGBTQ people in Uganda, said the government is “underestimating the resilience and strength that exists within the Ugandan LGBTQ community.”

‘Preach love, not hate’

In a Friday statement, Amnesty International called on Ugandan MPs to “resoundingly reject any plan to legalize this kind of bigotry and witch-hunting of anyone who is perceived as being different.”
Transgender activist Javan (officially named Ronald Mugisha) told CNN she was not surprised by the move and has also vowed to challenge the homophobic legislation.
“As Ugandans, we have the right to be who we are,” she said. “And Ugandans (need to) start respecting LGBT people. These are your children, they are sisters, they are mothers, they are brothers. … Let’s not preach hate but preach love. Together we stand as the LGBT community in Uganda.”
Joan Nyanyuki, Amnesty International’s director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes, described the move as “outrageous” and warned that it will ” fire-up more hatred in an already homophobic environment.”


Moral breakdown

Uganda is a socially conservative country, and in 2014 it introduced the Anti-Pornography Act which included a “mini-skirt ban.” In recent years the law has resulted in the arrest of revenge porn victims.
In May, Uganda’s “ex-gay” community petitioned Uganda’s parliament to bring back the 2014 Anti-Homosexuality Bill to “create awareness on sexual orientation,” according to a statement on the parliament website.

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