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Persons who identify as gay in Uganda risk life imprisonment after its parliament passed a new bill that makes it a criminal offense to identify as a homosexual.
This is a major step for the Ugandan government which is seeking to crackdown on homosexual activities in the country which could mean the death penalty for certain offenses.
‘Homosexual acts’ are already illegal in Uganda, however, the new bill introduces many new criminal offenses, making it one of the toughest pieces of anti-gay legislation on the African continent.
Among the new additions, and perhaps the most poignant includes; merely identifying as gay is illegal and an imprisonable offense in the State.
For the first time, friends, family, and members of the community are bounded to report individuals in same-sex relationships to the authorities, BBC reports.
The bill is said to have been passed with overwhelming support in Uganda’s parliament on Tuesday evening.
It will now go to President Yoweri Museveni, who may choose to use his veto – and preserve good relations with Western donors and investors – or sign it into law.
An individual behind the bill said; “Whether you’re heterosexual or homosexual, the government and parliament should introduce laws, or at least implement existing laws that protect all children – boys, girls from defilement. So, the issue of recruitment has been unproven, it is baseless, it is biased.”
What does the Bill say?
The final version has yet to be officially published but elements discussed in parliament include:
A person who is convicted of grooming or trafficking children for the purposes of engaging them in homosexual activities faces life in prison
Individuals or institutions which support or fund LGBTQIA2S+ rights activities or organizations or publish, broadcast, and distribute pro-gay media material and literature also face prosecution and imprisonment.
The media has not escaped potential sanctions from the new bill;
Media groups, journalists, and publishers face prosecution and imprisonment for publishing, broadcasting, or distributing of any content that advocates for gay rights or “promotes homosexuality”
The death penalty has also been included in the bill, for what is described as “aggravated homosexuality”.
Sexual abuse of a child, a person with a disability, or vulnerable people, or in cases where a victim of homosexual assault is infected with a life-long illness will now be open to facing death.
Property owners also face the risk of being jailed if their premises are used as a “brothel” for homosexual acts or any other sexual minorities rights activities
The Bill has attracted much criticism from human rights groups such as Amnesty International.
The organization has called the Bill, which criminalizes same-sex between consenting adults “appalling”, “ambiguous” and “vaguely worded”, BBC reports.
“This deeply repressive legislation will institutionalize discrimination, hatred, and prejudice against LGBTQIA2S+ people – including those who are perceived to be LGBTQIA2S+ – and block the legitimate work of civil society, public health professionals, and community leaders,” said Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa.
Same sex relations are prohibited in approximately 30 African countries, where conservative religious and social values remain strongly preserved.