A draft “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” was introduced October 14 in Uganda. The East African nation already has laws on the books which criminalize homosexuality. Under the proposed bill, a person who has gay sex is “liable on conviction to imprisonment for life,” and, if that person commits “aggravated homosexuality”—which includes being HIV-positive, having sex with a minor or with someone who under law suffers from a disability—the penalty is death.
The law, introduced to the Ugandan Parliament by lawmaker and member of the ruling National Resistance Movement party David Bahati, criminalizes not only gay sex, but also “attempts to homosexuality,” which carry a prison sentence of seven years to life, and complicity, under which anyone who does not report a known or suspected gay citizen of Uganda within 24 hours from the moment of discovery can serve up to three years in prison. Attempts from any individual or organization to fund or sponsor programs that can be seen as encouraging homosexuality would also be illegal and punishable by up to seven years behind bars.
The bill’s author told Reuters South Africa that this legislation is about promoting family values. “Homosexuality is not part of the human rights we believe in,” Bahati said.
The bill has caused international alarm, particularly because its passing would mean that HIV/AIDS education and relief programs would no longer be available to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender Ugandans. During a press conference on the eve of International AIDS Day, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said, “Our efforts are hampered whenever discrimination or marginalization of certain populations results in less effective outreach and treatment. So we will work not only to ensure access for all who need it but also to combat discrimination more broadly.” Clinton, who has in the past praised Uganda for its economic growth and successful reforms, added, “We have to stand against any efforts to marginalize and criminalize and penalize members of the LGBT community worldwide.”
Both United Kingdom Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper have spoken out against the proposed legislation. Think Progress reported that Sweden’s Development Assistance Minister Gunilla Carlsson has added her voice to the critics, hinting that Sweden may stop giving Uganda its annual $50 million in development aid if the legislation passes. “My number two at the ministry, who has direct contact with the Ugandan government, has brought it up,” Carlsson reportedly told Swedish Radio News. “We’ve talked about it in Uganda, and I’ve also tried to speak to the kind of organizations in Uganda that are the target of the legislation.”
The bill has drawn mixed reactions within Uganda, with many Ugandan politicians supporting it and some remaining silent. Canon Gideon Byamugisha, a prominent member of the Ugandan Anglican church, told the Guardian that the bill would breed violence and intolerance throughout Ugandan society. “I believe that this bill will be state-legislated genocide against a specific community of Ugandans, however few they may be,” Byamugisha said. Some individual Ugandans and Ugandan human rights groups have come out against the proposed legislation at considerable peril to themselves, and Ugandan expatriates have rallied against the bill in locales as far away as London.
While some nations outside of Uganda have formally expressed their opposition to the legislation, many official representatives from countries on all continents have remained noticeably quiet in the face of some of the most literally murderous and vehemently anti-gay legislation to be proposed in any country this century. The bill, which Reuters says is expected to pass, has also garnered ideological and financial support from anti-homosexual activists outside of Uganda including, according to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, an elusive U.S.-based anti-gay Evangelical Christian organization called The Family to which several conservative and Republican U.S. politicians openly belong.