Uganda has announced a resurrection of the bill which imposed sentences ranging from seven years in prison to death for homosexuals in the country.
The bill is known in Uganda as the “Kill the Gays” bill. With the full support of President Yoweri Museveni, the bill is expected to be introduced and voted on in the Ugandan Parliament within weeks.
The resurrection of the bill on Thursday comes five years after it was nullified on technicalities by the Ugandan Constitutional Court.
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David Bahati, a member of Uganda’s parliament, on October 14, 2009, introduced the “Kill the Gays” bill. Museveni signed it into law on February 24, 2014.
However, on August 1, 2014, the Constitutional Court declared it “null and void”, ruling that the bill should never have been voted on in the first place due to a lack of quorum — the minimum number of required members for a vote.
As plans are being made to revive the bill, Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo observed that homosexuality is unnatural to Ugandans and the resuscitation of the bill was to crush any attempt to promote it in Uganda.
“Our current penal law is limited. It only criminalizes the act. We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalized. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence,” he said.
In 2015, Museveni held that throwing of the “Kill the Gays” bill by the Constitutional Court of Uganda in 2014, over a technicality, was “not necessary” because British penal codes outlawing homosexuality are already on the country’s books.
Uganda is among several African countries with a hardline approach to homosexuality. The bill, Lokodo told Reuters, will be re-introduced in parliament in the coming weeks and is expected to be voted on before the end of the year.
The government, according to reports, had lobbied legislators ahead of the introduction of the bill after a shortfall that killed a similar one in 2014.
“We have been talking to the MPs and we have mobilized them in big numbers,” said Lokodo. “Many are supportive.”
Amnesty International says allowing the bill pass could have global ripple effects for LGBT activists all over the world.
“Even Ugandans living abroad, under the proposed bill, could face extradition and imprisonment if charged with being homosexual or in aiding homosexuals in Uganda.
“If past harassment of the Ugandan LGBT community is any indicator, the proposed bill would likely lead to witch hunts, more harassments, violence, and even extrajudicial executions. The bill’s “nullification” of international treaties that would offer a form of protection or recourse for Uganda’s LGBT people and LGBT activists further limits the role of international bodies and governments,” it warned.
Zahra Mohamed of the Toronto-based charity Stephen Lewis Foundation also warned: “Bringing back anti-gay legislation would invariably lead to a spike in discrimination and atrocities.”
Amnesty International further warned that the passage of the anti-homosexuality bill “could ultimately take the country backwards to a time when individuals were singled out for political and social reasons for random arrest and execution.”
“The proposal of the bill, therefore, offers an opportunity to LGBT and human rights activists to fight for not only the repeal of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill, but also the abolishing of existing anti-gay laws that have seen an escalation of violent attacks against and, harassment of, LGBT people in Uganda.
“The basic human rights to freedom, dignity, and freedom from discrimination must be protected for all Ugandans, at home and abroad,” it said.