Ugandan lawmakers approved new legislation Tuesday that criminalizes same-sex conduct and effectively curtails any activism on LGBT issues. The 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill reinforces the already existing punishment of life imprisonment for same-sex conduct while also increasing the prison sentence for an attempt at same-sex conduct to 10 years. The most alarming provision calls for the death penalty in certain circumstances, including for “serial offenders” and for anyone having same-sex relations with a person with a disability, effectively denying persons with disabilities the capacity to consent to sex.
The bill also outlaws the “promotion of homosexuality,” instituting a system of complete censorship on LGBT issues. Anyone advocating for the rights of LGBT people or providing financial support to organizations that do so could face up to 20 years of imprisonment. LGBT rights groups could also be deemed unable to operate legally. The bill criminalizes any person who fails to report someone they suspect of participating in same-sex acts to the police, effectively imprisoning supportive family members or friends of LGBT people.
If the law comes into force, it will violate the rights to freedom of expression and association, liberty, privacy, equality, freedom from discrimination, inhuman and degrading treatment, and a fair hearing – all guaranteed under Ugandan and international law – for all Ugandans. Uganda President Yoweri Museveni has 30 days to sign or veto the bill.
The bill has drawn criticism from human rights groups worldwide, with many calling for its rejection. Amnesty International has described the bill as “an affront to human rights” and called on President Museveni to reject it. LGBT rights groups have also condemned the legislation, with Sexual Minorities Uganda describing it as a “gross violation” of the rights of LGBT people in Uganda.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk denounced the law, saying that if signed, it would “render lesbian, gay and bisexual people in Uganda criminals simply for existing, for being who they are.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday urged Uganda to”reconsider the implementation” of the bill, saying it would “undermine fundamental human rights of all Ugandans and could reverse gains in the fight against HIV/AIDS.”
Despite these calls for its rejection, some Ugandans have expressed support for the bill. Proponents of the legislation argue that it is necessary to protect Ugandan culture and morality and to prevent the spread of homosexuality in the country.