(Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Reuters)
Uganda’s parliament today passed a bill that threatens anyone who commits an act of “aggravated homosexuality” with life imprisonment.
A Ugandan MP who endorsed the law, David Bahati, argued it was necessary to prevent Western homosexuals from influencing and “recruiting” children into gay lifestyles.
Bahati hailed the Anti-Homosexual Bill as a “victory” against “evil” in an interview with Agence France-Presse. He added that the proposed legislation drops the death penalty from a 2009 version of the bill that was blasted by media outlets as a “Kill the Gays” law. That version never made it to a debate in parliament.
Bahati defines “aggravated homosexuality” as having gay sex when one partner is HIV-positive, disabled, a ”serial offender” (even if the relations are consensual) or a minor.
“I am officially illegal,” gay-rights activist Frank Mugisha told AFP today. Mugisha is one of the country's most prominent LBGT rights advocates, and has been awarded numerous international awards for his work, including the 2011 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award.
The new law toughens a colonial-era Penal Code Act that labels homosexuality “a crime against the order of nature.” It would also criminalize the public promotion of homosexuality and outlaw discussion of gay issues by rights groups, according to reports.
The first proposal of the bill in 2009 drew international condemnation. BBC’s Catherine Byaruhanga, reporting from Uganda, commented today that “the introduction of this bill led Uganda to be called the worst place to be gay.”
Canada has denounced Uganda in the past for its anti-gay measures, and also condemned the murder of prominent gay-rights activist David Kato in his home in 2011. Foreign Affairs has provided $200,000 to groups in Uganda and the region to continue with gay-rights initiatives.
Other countries have threatened to cut off foreign aid to Uganda over the bill, which U.S. President Barack Obama called "odious" in 2010.
Following the passage of the bill today, Amnesty International issued a statement demanding that Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni veto it. The human-rights organization said the bill “institutionalizes discrimination against already marginalized” people in the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) community.
According to a 2007 BBC report, activists estimated the gay population in Uganda to be around 500,000 people. The population of Uganda in 2007 was around 30.7 million, according to the World Bank.
Via the BBC