On Monday, May 29, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni signed the country’s extreme anti-LGBTQ+ bill into law. The new legislation, named the Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023, carries some of the harshest penalties in the world.
Under it, engaging in LGBTQ+ sexual relationships carries the risk of life in prison and counts of so-called “aggravated homosexuality”, including having sex while HIV Positive, now legally warrant the death penalty.
Not only that but according to the new law, anyone in Uganda who campaigns for LGBTQ+ rights risks a 20-year prison term. This includes any LGBTQ+ advocacy groups in the country.
The Ugandan parliament first passed the 2023 Anti-Homosexuality Bill on March 21, 2023, when all but two of the 389 legislators voted in favour of the bill.
On May 2, the Ugandan president sent the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation back to parliament to add amendments clarifying and strengthening the new law. The amendments clarify that while identifying as gay is not technically a criminal offence, “engaging in acts of homosexuality” is illegal.
— State House Uganda (@StateHouseUg) May 29, 2023
The new legislation targets the LGBTQ+ community in a country where people in same-sex relationships are already subject to discrimination and persecution under colonial-era law, and activists are concerned about the repercussions of the latest development.
LGBTQ+ people living in Uganda are experiencing a great deal of fear of anxiety related to their safety. Many worry about losing their jobs or being evicted, as many expect discrimination and violence against queer people to increase throughout the country.
Ugandan activist Clare Byarugaba said: “The Ugandan president has today legalised state-sponsored homophobia and transphobia. It’s a very dark and sad day for the LGBTIQ community, our allies and all of Uganda.”
Human rights activist Steven Kabuye added that he is deeply concerned about the consequences of the new law and vows to fight it.
“I am deeply concerned about the consequences of Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act 2023. This law violates basic human rights and sets a dangerous precedent for discrimination and persecution against the LGBTQ+ community. Let us stand together in solidarity and fight against… pic.twitter.com/WnjWwBB6xU
— Steven Kabuye (@SteveKabuye5) May 29, 2023
Over the past few months, many activist groups have expressed their solidarity with Uganda’s LGBTQ+ community, and the European Union and United Nations condemned the original Bill in March.
Despite widespread criticism across the world, the law has generally maintained public support in Uganda, and a growing number of African nations, including Kenya and Ghana, are considering strengthening their own anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.
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