On the 18th December, Ugandan civil society groups will appear in constitutional court to finalise their appeal against Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill, after completing a pretrial appeal. Ugandan Parliament passed this legislation on 2nd May 2023, and is considered one of the most extreme anti-LGBTQ+ laws in the world.
Committing homosexuality, as stipulated in the Ugandan constitution, would induce life imprisonment, and for what the constitution calls “aggravated homosexuality” – same-sex relations with children, people with disabilities and mental illness, and people of “advanced age” – the death penalty. The “promotion” of homosexuality is given up to 20 years in prison. This promotion is defined by the published advocacy of LGBTQ+ rights in human rights organisations, anyone who allows their premises to be used for “purposes of homosexuality”, and charities that provide financial support to activities that encourage homosexuality amongst others.
Ugandan activists have proclaimed that the law violates fundamental human rights declared under the Ugandan constitution, which include governing based on “principles of unity, peace, equality, democracy, freedom, social justice and progress”, as well as guaranteeing that it will strive to bring together all communities of Ugandan society and appreciating the existence of ideological, cultural, religious, political and ethnic differences. They have also argued that the act defies Uganda’s allegiance to various human rights laws, including in the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the Convention Against Torture.
The Convening for Equality coalition (CFE) recorded 306 human rights violations committed by state and non-state personnel against the victim’s sexuality and gender identity between January and the end of August, which were not addressed by the authorities. It was reported that the violations included 180 house evictions and 176 torture incidents.
John Musira, Ugandan MP, wearing an anti-homophobia gown during the debate of the Anti-Homosexuality bill in Kampala, Uganda, on 21st March 2023 [Abubaker Lubowa/Reuters]
President Joe Biden stated in May that the legislation was a “tragic violation of universal human rights”, in a bid to encourage Uganda to retract the bill. The president also stated that the US government was discussing further action, involving “the application of sanctions and restriction of entry into the United States against anyone involved in serious human rights abuses or corruption”. Last week, the US enacted visa restrictions on various Ugandan lawmakers and their relatives who were involved in issuing the bill, and imposed sanctions on Uganda’s prison commissioner, Johnson Byabashaija, who allegedly led human rights abuse against LGBTQ+ persons in Uganda's correctional facilities.
The president of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni, stated at State House on the 8th December: “If there’s someone who doesn’t want to respect our sovereignty, we pray for them, they can go. We have the capacity, we don’t lack anything, the economy is growing so we shall be able to sustain ourselves”. Anita Annet Among, the speaker for Ugandan Parliament, further defended the act, declaring to MPs and legislators: “You have all that you need in this country, Uganda, so long as your kids are not being sodomised”. Uganda’s minister for information and national guidance, Chris Baryomunsi, condemned the involvement of other countries in the issue, stating: “We pass laws in the interests of Ugandans, not foreigners. Therefore, nobody is going to coerce parliament or the government to start making laws in the interest of foreigners".
Several advocates for the overturning of the bill have expressed their contempt towards anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and the need to revoke it to protect the civil liberties of Ugandans and uphold the right of democracy as stipulated in their constitution. The Executive Director and Founder of ‘Children of the Sun Foundation’ – an organisation that promotes health and economic support services for marginalised groups in Uganda – Henry Mukiibi, said: “The Anti Homosexuality Act of 2023 has significantly impacted the lives of LGBTQIA+ individuals in numerous ways, creating a multitude of challenges”. Likewise, the co-executive director of Truth to LGBTQ, Steven Kabuye, urged: “It’s now up to the constitutional court judges to show their commitment to protecting the rights of all Ugandans".
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