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The Ugandan government has announced it plans to reintroduce a bill that would impose the death penalty upon anyone found guilty of homosexuality.
“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 the Thomson Reuters Foundation Oct. 10.
Uganda is among the countries in which consensual same-sex sexual relations are criminalized. Lokodo nevertheless said Uganda’s “current penal law is limited.”
“It only criminalizes the act,” he told Thomson Reuters. “We want it made clear that anyone who is even involved in promotion and recruitment has to be criminalized. Those that do grave acts will be given the death sentence.”
Lokodo told Thomson Reuters the bill will be introduced in the Ugandan Parliament in the coming weeks. Lokodo said President Yoweri Museveni supports it.
OutRight Action International in a press release cited Ugandan LGBTI activists who said the bill will be “tabled” on Oct. 28.
‘All LGBTIQ people want is equal opportunity’
Museveni in 2014 signed Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act, which imposed a life sentence upon anyone found guilty of repeated same-sex sexual act. The law was known as the “Kill the Gays” bill because it once contained a death penalty provision.
The Obama administration after Museveni signed the law cut U.S. aid to Uganda and imposed a travel ban against officials who carried out human rights abuses. Uganda’s Constitutional Court later struck down the Anti-Homosexuality Act on a technicality.
“All LGBTIQ people want is equal opportunity,” tweeted Sexual Minorities Uganda, a Ugandan LGBTI advocacy group, on Oct. 10.
Kasha Jacquelin, founder of the Uganda LGBT Community, another Ugandan advocacy group, in the OutRight Action International press release said, “the timing of the resurrection of the bill is callous — LGBTIQ people are being used as a scapegoat” ahead of elections.
Brian Wasswa, a Ugandan LGBTI activist, died on Oct. 5 after he was attacked with a garden hoe at his home in Jinja, a city on Lake Victoria that is roughly two hours east of the country’s capital of Kampala.
“Violence against us has escalated in recent months, countless community members have fled, and I fear it will only get worse,” said Jacquelin. “We urgently need support from the international community if we are to stand up against the witch hunt being launched against us.”
OutRight Action International Executive Director Jessica Stern in the press release noted Uganda already criminalizes consensual same-sex sexual relations “with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.”
“Efforts to impose a death penalty constitute legal overkill, and only serve to increase hate and stigma against LGBTIQ people, putting them at risk not only of government persecution but also vigilante violence,” said Stern. “More concerning still are Minister Lokodo’s remarks that ‘promotion’ of LGBTIQ issues should also be criminalized to the same extent.”
“This is an extremely dangerous addition to the resurfacing anti-homosexuality bill, which would, in essence, put activists in grave danger not only for being LGBTIQ, but also for engaging in any community support, awareness raising or service provision activities,” added Stern.
The Trump administration earlier this year announced an initiative that urges countries to decriminalize consensual same-sex sexual relations.
A State Department spokesperson on Thursday told the Los Angeles Blade the “U.S. government firmly opposes criminalization of LGBTI individuals.” The spokesperson added the State Department stands “with Uganda’s LGBTI community and Ugandans of all backgrounds and beliefs to defend the dignity of all citizens.”
“At this point, there has been no credible information that the government of Uganda is seriously considering introducing this bill,” said the spokesperson.