Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill is now law after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the act on live television early this week. Unfortunately the text of the law is even worse than we feared. Here are seven things the Uganda bill now makes illegal and their associated penalties. It’s also worth remembering homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda. The new law only serves to further criminalize the LGBT community.
1. Just Touching Someone of the Same Sex Could Earn You Life in Prison
We’ll start off with perhaps the most shocking aspect to the bill. Under the law’s definition of homosexual offenses, it states that touching someone with the intent to commit homosexual acts should be deemed a criminal offense. This is a provision so vast and open to abuse that it could make almost anyone — whatever their sexuality — guilty of violating the law. Nevertheless, the potential sentence is a life term in prison.
2. Got HIV? It’s Now Criminal For You to Have Sex
The “aggravated homosexuality” clause of the bill previously housed the “kill the gays” provision. While that was stripped from the legislation, the act still makes it a criminal offense to have a sexual relationship with someone living with HIV, even if both parties have HIV and consent. The consequence for violating this provision is, again, a life sentence.
3. Have a Disability? You Get a Life Jail Term Too
The “aggravated homosexuality” clause also provides harsher penalties for those who have same-sex sexual contact with someone with a physical or mental disability (though the bill doesn’t technically define “disability” so, again, this provision has wide application). Technically, even if both parties have a disability they would still violate this aspect of the law and could earn an extra seven years in jail, for their so-called offense.
4. Know Someone who is Gay? You’re Guilty Too!
The law makes it an offense if an individual “aids, abets, counsels or procures another to engage in acts of homosexuality,” going beyond just a mandate against forced prostitution and making it a crime not to inform the police about a family member or loved one who is gay. Seven years is your punishment for shielding a homosexual.
5. Married Abroad? Go to Jail
If a Ugandan national has married someone of the same-sex abroad and attempts to reenter Uganda (whether voluntarily or because of extradition), the law appears to make them a criminal liable to life in prison. If a same-sex couple attempts to marry while on Ugandan soil, they are also now criminals. The bill also condemns those who have provided for the wedding of a same-sex couple, making them liable for imprisonment for a term of up to seven years.
6. Made a Film with a Gay Storyline? Lending a Book with a Gay Character? Just Go to Jail!
Here is the “promotion of homosexuality” clause in all its dubious glory:
A person who—
(a) participates in production, procuring, marketing, broadcasting, disseminating, publishing of pornographic materials for purposes of promoting homosexuality;
(b) funds or sponsors homosexuality or other related activities;
(c) offers premises and other related fixed or movable assets for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality;
(d) uses electronic devices which include internet, films, mobile phones for purposes of homosexuality or promoting homosexuality; or
(e) who acts as an accomplice or attempts to promote or in any way abets homosexuality and related practices; commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of five thousand currency points or imprisonment of a minimum of five years and a maximum of seven years or both fine and imprisonment.
There is also another clause to this that makes it criminal to be an organization that attempts to do any of the above and doles out harsher penalties.
In practice, the above provision effectively makes it a crime to offer sexual health information to LGBT people, makes it almost impossible to reach out to the MSM (men who have sex with men) community, and puts male sex workers in even more danger than they currently are. It also makes foreign NGOs which advocate for LGBT rights essentially illegal and will prevent Pride parades, solidarity meetings or youth advocacy groups.
7. Trying to Leave Uganda to Escape the Anti-Homosexuality Law? Not so Fast
As feared, the bill also has a section on “Extradition” wherein Uganda makes clear that it will attempt to bring people home who have sought asylum abroad for the purpose of trying them under the Anti-Homosexuality Bill.
So let’s get this clear: Ugandans can’t even leave the country to get away from this heinous law.
The reaction to the Anti-Homosexuality Bill among major Western powers has been been swift and damning. Canada is already said to be nixing aid to the country, while the United States’ own John Kerry has condemned the law and has said the United States will now reconsider its relations with Uganda.
International human rights campaign group Amnesty International is quoted as saying, “It is a dangerous and draconian piece of legislation and an affront to the human rights of all Ugandans. This legislation will institutionalise hatred and discrimination against LGBTI people in Uganda. Its passage into law signals a very grave episode in the nation’s history.”
Meanwhile, Museveni has reacted defiantly, essentially telling the West to keep its nose out of Ugandan affairs. Unfortunately for Museveni, that’s not something the West or anyone who cares about the human rights of Uganda’s population is going to do. While this battle has been lost, the war is not over.
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