Why You Need to Care About This Anti-LGBTQ Law in Uganda
By Judy Bokao
Over the past few weeks, Uganda has been in the limelight for passing a brutal new anti-LGBTQ law. The Ugandan Parliament on March 21st passed the draconian bill that criminalises the act of identifying as queer and obliges fellow citizens to report any queer person to the authorities. The bill was then passed to the President for final approval.
President Museveni is known to be anti-LGBTQ and has shared this sentiment on the issue several times. Just recently in April, he publicly backed the draconian anti-LGBTQ+ law and congratulated the members of parliament who pushed for the bill.
According to President Museveni, LGBTQ+ matters are brought about by Western influence, so he won’t bow down to the heavy pressure from the international community.
“It is good that you rejected the pressure from the imperialists. And this is what I told them. Whenever they come to me, I say, ‘You, please shut up.’” said the President in one of his public meetings in April.
However, last week, President Museveni failed to sign the bill into law and sent it back to the parliament for further discussion. No! Don’t get your hopes up! He didn’t sign it because he wants what he termed as “minor changes” drafted into the bill.
The President has no qualms with the punishments mentioned in the bill which include the death penalty and long-term imprisonment for promoting homosexuality.
He only wants the parliament to offer a clarification between individuals who profess a homosexual lifestyle and one who actually commits homosexual acts.
In his letter to the parliament, President Museveni stated, “the bill should be reviewed and include a provision that clearly states … a person who is believed or alleged or suspected of being a homosexual who has not committed a sexual act with another person of the same sex does not commit an offence.” In other words, he simply wants the law to be precise on what broad range of homosexual activity they will deem punishable and which one they can choose to overlook.
In the letter, he also asked the parliament to review the bill and remove the clause that seeks to compel citizens to report gay people. According to the President, the provision would create “constitutional challenges” and also be a source of conflict in society.
Lastly, the President wants the lawmakers to add a provision that allows for the rehabilitation of queer individuals who voluntarily renounce the practice. I am shell-shocked that they want to perform conversion therapy treatments which have long been established to be harmful and simply another form of torture. It is basically jumping from the frying pot into the fire. The choices for the queer community in Uganda are either to voluntarily report themselves and undergo conversion therapy or hide, get arrested and face the death penalty.
At the time of this writing, it is unclear if the death penalty will be removed from the bill as the Deputy Attorney General advised the parliament to take it out. The worst part is the President also wants amendments to the bill in order to avert a successful court challenge. This means that when a queer Ugandan person is brought before the court, there is no way they get fair justice. They are already considered guilty and legally their hands are tied.
Think about it: they are being judged and executed for having a consensual relationship with another adult of the same gender. It is sad that being gay in Uganda is considered such an atrocious crime that it invokes a death sentence. I don’t think we truly grasp the cruelty of this law that will undoubtedly be passed sooner or later in Uganda.
The President will sign it once the provisions he wants to be reviewed are done. We can’t find comfort in the fact that it has been delayed. It is only a matter of time before we start seeing gay people in Uganda getting the death penalty. Innocent blood spilt simply because they choose a love that has been deemed “against human nature.” However, where is the human in us for crucifying our brothers and sister because they are LGBTQ?
As much as the international community is doing its best to fight this law being passed, one can’t help but wonder what happens next. Will Uganda buckle from the pressure and drop the bill? Will Uganda, push forward to prove a point and in the end, persecute many of its own in this war against Western influence?
However, the most haunting question is, what will happen to the queer community in Uganda who have now become prey?
Their own country is hunting them, literally baying for their blood. Unfortunately, this is the sad impending reality for our brothers and sisters in Uganda. We can only hope and pray that Uganda calls off the persecution even though we know the chances of this is slim. All we have left now, is that slim ray of hope and we are clutching to it!
About the Author:
Judy Bokao was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.