A new piece of legislation has been proposed in Uganda, which could make identifying as LGBTQ+ a criminal offence. Parliament member Asuman Basalirwa introduced the bill on Thursday, March 9, in an apparent bid to further suppress queer rights in the country.
According to reports, the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill says that anyone who “holds out as a lesbian, gay, trans, a queer, or any other sexual or gender identity that is contrary to the binary categories of male and female” could face up to 10 years in prison. Additionally, should the proposed legislation be adopted, the “promotion of homosexuality” could result in up to five years of incarceration, and all same-sex activity would be considered non-consensual.
Reacting to the news, Oryem Nyeko of Human Rights Watch said: “One of the most extreme features of this new bill is that it criminalizes people simply for being who they are as well as further infringing on the rights to privacy, and freedoms of expression and association that are already compromised in Uganda.”
They added: “Ugandan politicians should focus on passing laws that protect vulnerable minorities and affirm fundamental rights and stop targeting LGBT people for political capital.”
The new #AntiHomosexualityBill was introduced in Uganda’s Parliament today. If it's adopted it will violate fundamental rights to freedom of expression and association privacy, equality, and nondiscrimination. https://t.co/BncEsLTXTM pic.twitter.com/JZo4M8wQYa
— Oryem Nyeko (@oryembley) March 9, 2023
Same-sex relations are already criminalised in the country under a colonial-era penal code that was retained after Uganda achieved independence in 1962. In 2014, an act harshening punishment for those found guilty of homosexual crimes was introduced but later struck down in the same year. The new bill is said to be a revised and more egregious version of its short-lived predecessor.
Legislation similar to the Uganda 2023 Anti-Homosexulity Bill is also expected to be proposed in Kenya, where anti-homosexuality laws were first introduced by British colonisers in 1897. Reportedly, it aims to further criminalise people who engage in or promote same-sex relations, with convicted offenders facing life imprisonment, a rise from the current maximum sentence of 14 years.
Elsewhere in Africa, Tanzania, which also has anti-homosexuality laws as a result of colonial rule, appears to similarly be cracking down on its LGBTQ+ community. The country’s government has recently banned a selection of children’s books containing queer-specific content from schools, namely Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney and Sex Education: A Guide to Life. Furthermore, President Samia Suluhu has described LGBTQ+ rights as “imported cultures” and cautioned university students against it.
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