The Ugandan government announced its plan to reintroduce a bill that would criminalize homosexuality with the death penalty.
Known as “Kill the Gays” in Uganda, the bill was declined by the constitutional court in 2014 on a technicality, but the government has recently announced its plans to resurrect the bill within weeks.
“Homosexuality is not natural to Ugandans, but there has been a massive recruitment by gay people in schools, and especially among the youth, where they are promoting the falsehood that people are born like that,” Ethics and Integrity Minister Simon Lokodo told Reuters. He went on to inform that the current penal law is “limited,” making it clear that anyone involved in “promotion or recruitment” will be harshly criminalized.
“Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence,” he said.
Lokodo also reported that the bill is supported by President Yoweri Museveni, and it will be re-introduced into parliament in the upcoming weeks. A vote is expected to take place before the close of the year.
Uganda faced widespread international criticism when Museveni signed off on the previous bill in 2014. Brian Wasswa, a Ugandan LGBTQ activist, died on October 5 after being brutally attacked at his home in Jinja – a city on Lake Victoria, roughly two hours east of the capital of Kampala. Pepe Julian Onziema of Sexual Minorities Uganda, an alliance of LGBTQ organisations, said its members were extremely afraid for their safety.
“When the law was introduced last time, it whipped up homophobic sentiment and hate crimes,” said Onziema. Onziema said that, just this year, three gay men and one transgender woman had been killed in homophobic attacks in Uganda.
“Violence against us has escalated in recent months, countless community members have fled, and I fear it will only get worse,” said Kasha Jacquelin Nabagesera, founder of the Uganda LGBT Community, an advocacy group. “We urgently need support from the international community if we are to stand up against the witch hunt being launched against us.”
In 2014, the United States reduced aid to Uganda in response to the first “Kill the Gays” bill, and imposed visa restrictions and cancelled military exercises. The World Bank, Sweden, Norway, Denmark and the Netherlands also suspended or redirected aid in response to the bill being introduced over 5 years ago.
Last November, anti-gay remarks by a senior official in Tanzania led to Uganda’s second biggest donor, Denmark, withholding $10 million in aid. Lokodo remarked that foreign opinion is a concern, but Uganda is prepared for any negative response.