Ugandan Parliament Passes Harsh Anti-LGBTQ Bill

A protester holds up a sign at a rally against Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill in November 2009 at the Uganda High Commission in New York (file photo).

Kampala, Uganda — Ugandan lawmakers have passed a harsh anti-LGBTQ bill after minor changes. If signed into law by President Yoweri Museveni, as expected, some same-sex acts could be punishable by the death penalty. Anyone found guilty of promoting homosexuality could face up to 20 years in prison.

The bill, which passed Tuesday with the support of 301 legislators and only a single dissenting vote, was a modified version of the Anti- Homosexuality Bill of 2023 .

An earlier version of the bill passed in March was sent back to Parliament by President Yoweri Museveni, who suggested three amendments.

This included distinguishing between being a homosexual and actually engaging in same-sex acts. Museveni argued that the law needed to be clear so that what is being criminalized is not how the person identifies but rather their actions and any promotion of homosexuality. The legislation mandates a life sentence for someone convicted of homosexuality.

The president also argued against a clause penalizing property owners whose premises are used by gay or lesbian people, saying it presented constitutional challenges and would be problematic to enforce.

Museveni's third recommendation was that mandating the public to report any same-sex acts should be restricted to cases involving children and vulnerable people. Failure to comply would fetch a jail sentence of five years. To ensure there was a quorum, Speaker Anita Among took a roll call for members and closed the doors of Parliament to ensure no one could leave.

Among asked legislators to remain steadfast in opposing homosexuality.

"Let's protect Ugandans. Let's protect our values, our virtues," she said. "We have a culture to protect. The Western world will not come and rule Uganda. We may disagree, but we disagree respectfully."

Western medical and psychiatric associations regard sexual orientation as innate and part of normal human diversity. LGBTQ rights defenders say the proportion of sexual minorities remains constant from country to country -- including those with punitive laws.

Frank Mugisha, a gay rights lawyer and founder of a banned LGBTQ rights organization, Sexual Minorities Uganda, said Museveni's amendments make a bad bill worse.

"This bill increases the penalty for reporting from three years to five years," he said. "And, also, this bill, yes, it doesn't criminalize the identity or identifying as an LGBTQ person, but in promotion it's vague. If then someone identifies as LGBTQ person, won't that be seen as promotion?"

Fox Odoi Oywelowo, the sole lawmaker voting against the bill, said, even with modifications, it will lead to abuse of the LGBTQ community.

The bill awaits being signed by Museveni, something he promised to do once Parliament considered his recommendations.

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