The Ugandan Parliament is debating a controversial bill which, in its current form, would make homosexual acts or attempted homosexual acts punishable by up to life imprisonment. The introduction to the bill states that its purpose is “to establish a comprehensive consolidated legislation to protect the traditional family by prohibiting (i) any form of sexual relations between persons of the same sex; and (ii) the promotion or recognition of such sexual relations in public institutions and other places through or with the support of any Government entity in Uganda or any non-governmental organization inside or outside the country.
Under current law in Uganda, homosexual acts are punishable by up to fourteen years in prison. This law, as stated above, would extend imprisonment as well as permit the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” which is directed at any single participant who is a minor, HIV-positive, disabled or a “serial offender.” In addition, anyone who aids and abets someone to engage in homosexual acts, risks imprisonment of up to seven years.
The law would apply to citizens and permanent residents of Uganda, which means that an American in Uganda could be tried and imprisoned. In addition, the bill would also require neighbors who are aware of homosexual activity to notify police within twenty-four hours of learning of the activity or risk imprisonment for up to three years. Critics of the bill warn that this provision will foment paranoia and suspicion amongst Ugandans and, as such, would be detrimental to societal relations.
The United States government is urging the Ugandan government to drop this bill for fear other African countries will adopt similar legislation. The U.S. government has deemed this legislation an anathema to human rights and bad precedent for Africa and the rest of the world. Some Western governments are threatening to withdraw aid if this bill passes.
However, despite the United States’ government’s opposition to the bill, the prelude to this bill involved a visit by American Evangelical Christians to Uganda where they spoke at a conference about “curing” homosexuals. Though these individuals deny involvement with the drafting of the bill, the bill was drafted three months after their visit. It is unclear exactly what role, if any, these Americans had in drafting the bill.
To date, no vote has have taken place on the bill and there are rumors that legislators are planning to remove the provision imposing life imprisonment. Further information on this matter is expected within the next month.